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What no sugar does to your face?

Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?

a person looking at themselves in the mirror

Did you know that skin is your body’s largest organ? It’s part of something known as the integumentary system, including hair, nails, sweat, and oil glands. Since it protects your body from various factors, including bacteria and chemicals, ensuring healthy skin is pretty important.

There are many lifestyle and dietary factors that can influence skin health. Excessive UV light exposure, dehydration, alcohol, and cigarette use can all cause skin damage and premature aging.

Proper nutrition is just one of the ways you can proactively focus on skincare and reduce your risk of certain skin conditions. On the flip side, poor nutrition can lead to flare-ups of certain skin conditions such as dermatitis as well as skin aging. And one of the biggest offenders here is sugary foods!

As great as sugar tastes, including too much of it in your diet can cause blood glucose levels to rise very quickly and lead to many preventable health problems. Read on to learn more about the role sugar plays in keeping your skin healthy.

Glucose and Skin Health

Two people looking at the camera

For those at risk of diabetes (or already living with it), how your skin looks and feels can be one of the prominent signs that your blood sugar levels are too high. Things like skin patches, hardened skin, blisters, or bumps can all be indicators of diabetes.

High glucose levels have also been linked to other skin conditions such as acne breakouts, wrinkles, and premature signs of aging and can even increase symptoms of inflammation.

Luckily, making a few changes to your diet can make it easier to prevent negative side effects of excessive sugar intake, including weight gain and risk of obesity. Reducing your consumption of added sugars may also help you protect your skin and prevent other conditions caused by excess sugar consumption.

Sugar Increases Your Chances of Getting Wrinkles

Many factors can contribute to wrinkles as your skin ages. While, for most people, wrinkles are an inevitable part of life, taking preventative measures from an early age can significantly reduce your chances of developing them.

Glycation, which can lead to wrinkles in the skin, is caused by too much glucose in the skin’s fibers, causing advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) to develop.

These AGEs cause our skin’s collagen to become less elastic and is what gradually causes our skin to droop as we get older. Because there’s also less elastin production, your skin becomes thinner and more fragile.

People who consume excess amounts of sugar may see more AGEs formed in the skin and develop more wrinkles.

Unfortunately, the risks surrounding the presence of too many AGEs in the skin go beyond wrinkles. Studies have also linked AGEs to pathologies related to diabetes and cardiovascular conditions like heart disease.

If you’re concerned about wrinkles as you age, monitoring your sugar consumption (along with other preventative measures) may help slow their development.

Sugar Can Cause Acne Breakouts

someone with acne on their face

Are you suddenly experiencing too many flare-ups and breakouts? It may be the effects of sugar on your skin. Extensive research has been conducted regarding the connection between dietary choices and acne.

Most scientists and dermatologists agree that things like diet, pollution, and other external factors can potentially impact the development of acne.

While research is still ongoing, a correlation has been found between diets with a high glycemic load and the presence of acne. Other studies have also found a link between Western diets containing dairy and high glycemic index content to affect hormone levels which may trigger acne, however more research on the effects of dairy on acne is still needed.

Dietary patterns, such as those containing excessive sugar, are just one factor thought to be associated with higher sebum production.

As excess sebum levels on the skin can cause acne in some, this can lead to an increase in acne vulgaris on the skin.

If you’re someone who experiences acne, reducing sugar intake can potentially help prevent breakouts, though other factors may also need to be considered.

Sugar May Cause Inflammation

Inflammation is usually a healthy response by our body to fight viruses or other infections. But when it turns chronic, it can begin to have many negative effects on your body.

In terms of skin health, some research has shown that eating high sugar foods can trigger an inflammatory response that can exacerbate skin conditions related to inflammation, such as psoriasis and eczema.

For those with skin conditions, it may be advisable to reduce sugar intake to control symptoms related to inflammation.

Chronic inflammation caused or worsened by dietary sugar is damaging to skin health and can also increase the risk of developing diabetes. It’s also a key risk factor in many other health conditions, such as dementia, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

Sugar Stimulates Oil Production in the Skin

two faces

Sebum, an oil produced by your body’s sebaceous glands, naturally coats the skin to keep it moisturized and protected. Some studies have indicated that consuming excessive amounts of sugar may be associated with high sebum production, which causes oily skin.

In addition to excess oil, sebum has also been found to increase the risk of acne in some individuals, indicating that reducing sugar may also indirectly cause acne.

More research is still needed to confirm the connection between sugar and other dietary factors that may affect oily skin.

Tips for Reducing Your Sugar Intake

Reducing your sugar intake doesn’t mean you have to cut all sugar out of your diet. Instead, educating yourself about where added sugars are hiding and making an effort to swap those foods out for healthier alternatives from time to time can be a great place to start. Not only will your skin thank you, but you can reduce your risk for many other health conditions linked to sugar intake.

Here are some tips to consider if you’re looking to consume less sugar.

Avoid Hidden Sugars

tortilla chips and dip

Added sugars are sometimes hard to avoid and are often disguised under different names, adding to consumer confusion. Nowadays, you’ll find sugar under more than fifty different ingredient names.

For example, sugar may be behind names ending in “ose,” or ingredients using any of the following words: sugar, juice, concentrate, honey, or nectar. Do any of these sound familiar? We could keep going!

Avoiding sugar can be difficult, especially if you have a sweet tooth. But learning to recognize some of the different ways sugar can sneak into your diet is essential. It’s also an excellent way to become a more conscious consumer to encourage better skin health.

The best part is that when you learn to avoid hidden sugar, you won’t have to cut out all desserts to avoid it because you’ll be naturally decreasing your sugar consumption in other foods.

Most Common Foods with Hidden Sugar

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Ketchup
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Fruit juice
  • Bread
  • Salad dressing

In these types of foods (and many others), sugar levels can always vary. Scan the nutrition labels of your favorite snacks and any other processed foods you eat regularly to see if any unwanted sugar is hiding.

Eat Fewer Processed Foods and More Natural Foods

Because sugar is so commonly found in prepackaged and processed foods, drinks, and sauces, sticking to a whole food-focused diet is one of the best ways to keep your sugar consumption in check.

Many ultra-processed foods are loaded with artificial sugars, flavorings, and other sweeteners and provide little nutritional value. Some examples of foods you may consider reducing your consumption of are: sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, ice cream, and frozen meals.

Cutting all processed foods out of your diet is not possible or specifically recommended; these foods can be just fine in moderation. Most dietitians recommend focusing on including high-quality protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and limiting consumption of refined carbohydrates, refined oils, added sugars, and trans fats.

Stay Away from Sugary Drinks

a glass of lemonade

Sugary drinks are notorious for their addictive nature. For many, cutting soda and fruit juice out of their diet is no easy task. However, these drinks tend to be high in calories and provide little to no nutritional value.

Some studies have shown that frequent consumption of sweetened drinks has often been associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and many other preventable health conditions.

Recently, a strong link between consumption of sugary drinks and certain types of cancer was also discovered, demonstrating that eliminating these drinks from your diet can positively impact things besides skin quality.

Because it is so easy to over consume sugary drinks, it is best to limit them as much as possible. Medical professionals recommend limiting your consumption to less than four ounces per day.

Breaking Up With Sugar Will Make Your Skin Glow

Breaking Up With Sugar Will Make Your Skin Glow

Do you hear that? It’s your skin asking you to lay off those sweets!

(And haven’t you heard? You’re sweet enough already, my friend.)

Because elevated and erratic blood sugar levels do not bode well for the skin.

While the connection between nutrition and skin health is missing from most conversations regarding skincare and in Western medicine, I’m on a mission to change that with my new book Glow: The Nutritional Approach to Naturally Gorgeous Skin.

The fact is: the skin is the body’s largest organ and everything in the body is SO intimately connected. Not only does the skin require certain key nutrients to build, protect, and repair itself, but a number of common internal imbalances often manifest in the skin — causing premature aging and triggering skin issues like acne and eczema.

Blood sugar imbalance in particular plays a significant role in skin health:

  • Elevated blood sugar depletes some of the glow-getting micronutrients that skin cells need to regenerate and repair.
  • Elevated blood sugar levels promote the formation of advanced glycation end products or “AGEs”. This acronym is apt since AGEs cause proteins – like the collagen and elastin that keep the skin smooth and elastic – to become rigid and snap.
  • Elevated blood sugar causes an inflammatory spike in insulin (which the body produces to bring blood sugar levels back down). Inflammation ages the skin from the inside out, and triggers or worsens inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema.
  • Dietary sugars feed the bad bacteria in the gut, throwing the gut microbiome out of balance. This impacts digestion, inhibits the absorption of glow-getting nutrients, and promotes “leaky gut” – a significant cause of chronic inflammation.
  • Since the endocrine system is very delicate, chronically elevated insulin levels can throw the other hormones out of balance as well. This can have a tremendous impact on the skin.

Of course, skin health is just one of the oh so many reasons to keep blood sugar levels balanced.

Erratic blood sugar levels are often the culprit behind that afternoon energy crash, “hanger”, and crazy cravings, as well as more serious health conditions like insulin resistance and type two diabetes.

So, how do we start to balance blood sugar for glowing skin?

The first step to regulating blood sugar levels is cutting refined sugar and simple, refined carbohydrates from your diet. The majority of dietary sugars should come from whole fruits and vegetables.

But beyond that, the best and simplest way to help prevent blood sugar highs and lows is to include quality fat and protein with each meal.

It’s especially important to start the day off on the right foot and eat a breakfast high in fat and protein. And eating breakfast in itself is important for blood sugar regulation: when you skip out on breakfast, your body produces the stress hormones cortisol, which in turn elevates blood sugar levels.

Since protein and fat are digested more slowly, they help slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and ensures your body gets the steady stream of sugar into the blood on which it thrives. Protein and fat also keep us feeling fuller longer, which helps us overcome sugar cravings.

Your body will thank you for keeping blood sugar levels steady and reward you with naturally glowing skin from within!

About The Author:

Nadia Neumann is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and founder of the popular healthy living blog Body Unburdened, which empowers readers with the information and resources they need to live a healthy lifestyle rooted in real food, natural beauty, and a healthy home. She believes that real food is the foundation of health and that unhealthy chemicals have no business being inside our bodies. In addition to everything you’ll find on Body Unburdened, Nadia has authored the eBook The Home Detox Guide as well as her new book Glow: The Nutritional Approach to Naturally Gorgeous Skin.

Does Cutting Out Sugar And Alcohol Really Help Your Skin?

Birthday cake with a slice taken out of it on a table next to a pink cocktail.

When it comes to gorgeous skin, one of the most popular pieces of advice is to eliminate sugar and alcohol from your diet. Celebrities have attributed their beautiful, eternally youthful-looking skin to avoiding both. While they also have the money to invest in many other skincare treatments, we wanted to know if cutting out sugar and alcohol really is a shortcut to glowing skin. So, we asked two dermatologists for their expert insight.

Is sugar bad for your skin?

It depends. If you’re eating a lot of refined sugar‚ which is the sugar that is produced and put into foods like ice cream or baked goods—some studies show it can interfere with your gut flora. This causes more inflammation in the body, which can damage your skin by causing acne and redness, says Dr. Kristy Bailey from FCP Dermatology in Toronto. However, foods like fruits and vegetables which are beneficial to health also have natural sugars. “Foods with natural sugars not only have less sugar [than foods with refined sugar], but they also [provide] all the other good things that come along with natural sugars, such as fibre and antioxidants, which kind of combat the sugar that you’re ingesting with the fruit.”

The impact that refined sugar has on your skin is more commonly from consistent, long-term consumption, says Dr. Zaki Taher from Lucere Dermatology in Edmonton. “If you occasionally have a sugary drink with lunch, that won’t immediately impact your skin,” he says. But having one every day, for example, can “catch up to you and really age your skin in the long run.”

Is alcohol bad for your skin?

Alcohol has both immediate and long-term effects on your skin, says Taher. Its immediate impact is more noticeable for people with rosacea, who can get redness, lumps and overall swelling or puffiness within minutes of consumption. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, so over time with continued consumption, blood vessels break and your skin can look red even when you’re not drinking, says Bailey.

As a diuretic, alcohol ramps up urine production and dehydrates your body, says Taher. This leaves skin looking dry and can cause acne and premature signs of aging, like wrinkles. “We’re struggling to get enough water in our bodies to have healthy skin, but then [if] you [add] something like alcohol, [it] can make you pee it all out.”

And, ideally, avoid sugary alcoholic drinks, because they are a compound of both negatives for your skin. “It’s two strikes in one,” says Taher. Instead, Bailey suggests opting for red wine. Despite it being a rosacea trigger, it has antioxidants which can help decrease the inflammation that’s created from the alcohol and sugar.

Why do people cut out sugar and alcohol together?

The inflammation caused by sugar and alcohol consumption in tandem break down collagen, an important protein in your body that helps to provide structure to your skin. “Generally, we lose one percent of collagen a year starting at 30 years old. So by the time you’re 40, you’ve already lost 10 percent of your collagen,” says Bailey.

While alcohol makes you dehydrated, over time, sugar starts to stick and harden onto collagen, through a process called glycation. “[Sugar] hardens all of that collagen [you] want to make supple,” says Taher. “[We] drink water to try to have nice, glowing skin. But alcohol is going to dehydrate the water, and sugar is going to harden that collagen.”

The bottom line: Can cutting out sugar and alcohol help your skin?

Taher and Bailey say they have seen improvements in the skin of patients who have limited or completely cut out sugar and alcohol. Someone with a low-sugar and low-alcohol diet tends to have brighter skin, less acne and less incidence of rosacea, says Bailey. “We also see their skin looks a bit brighter, more plump, and their dark circles seem to get a bit better.”

Taher says that cutting these things out of your diet can help improve hormonal acne, which is common among adult women. It can also help people with chronic skin conditions, like psoriasis. “[When] people [with] chronic skin infections cut out their sugars, they can [lessen the infection] or they can actually clear it up, and the same goes for alcohol,” he says. [contextly_auto_sidebar]

So, should you cut sugar and alcohol out of your diet?

Only if you want to, and if it feels right. “The best approach someone can have is to do what is healthy for them,” says Taher. When it comes to sugar consumption, he recommends following Canada’s dietary guidelines, which say free sugars—any sugar added to a food or drink, or the sugar that is already in honey, syrup and fruit juices—should not be more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. Recommendations for alcohol vary based on weight and gender, he says, but the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recommends no more than ten drinks a week for women and 15 drinks for men (but be aware these guidelines are a decade old and are higher than recommended limits in other countries; Australia, for example, recommends no more than seven drinks a week for both men and women). Taher adds that it’s good to get into the habit of reading labels, so you’re aware of what you’re putting in your body.

There are also healthy foods that you can incorporate into your diet to make your skin brighter, and to help prevent some collagen loss. Bailey recommends antioxidants, which can be found in different berries, and omega-3, which can be found in foods with healthy fats, like nuts, avocado, and salmon.

Taher and Bailey suggest keeping yourself informed on the impact different foods have on your body, and opting for healthier options when you can. “Just monitor your intake, and try not to have too much of anything,” says Taher. “The most important message is always everything in moderation.”

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