Want Glowing Skin? Skip the Sugar.
You’re getting ready for a celebratory weekend away or a well-earned vacation. You relax, kick back (perhaps with a sweet cocktail), but soon begin noticing that your skin is breaking out or otherwise just not looking its best. Stress can’t be to blame, so what gives? It could very well be the sugar that you’re eating (and drinking) while on holiday.
There are a whole host of negative health impacts associated with sugar, from weight gain to cardiovascular troubles. And your skin isn’t immune from the effects. In fact, your sugar intake can make your skin sag and even contribute to breakouts.
Yet many of us spend lots of money on skin care products without pausing to consider that our diet may be to blame for our bad skin. Understanding how sugar affects your skin can help you to make an informed choice that will keep you healthy and looking your best.
Here are the answers to common questions about how eating sugar affects your skin:
Does sugar cause wrinkles?
The short answer is “yes.” After you overindulge in cake or sugary drinks, you might notice that your skin looks puffy or irritated the next day. That’s just the first indication of the long-term aging effects of sugar.
Collagen is essential to having firm, youthful-looking skin. The protein helps your skin repair itself and maintain a plump, healthy look. However, glucose and fructose can affect how your body produces and uses collagen, one study found. That’s because of a process called glycation, in which excess sugar molecules bind to the collagen protein in your skin, leaving it stretched out and unable to repair the skin as it normally would.
Glycation slows down the skin’s whole repair system, Hollywood dermatologist Harold Lancer
told The Cut. “Sugars bind to the amino acid chains and they gunk up the work,” he said. Once that system slows down, your skin might appear dull, wrinkled, or saggy. Over time, as you continue to eat too much sugar your body won’t be able to fight off and repair wrinkles and sagging, no matter how many lotions or creams you use. So if you cut back on your sugar intake, your skin may improve and make you look younger.
Does sugar give me pimples?
Although acne may seem to plague mostly teens, adults suffer from it as well: it affects 50% of women in their 20s and 25% of women in their 40s. But the condition is a phenomenon found mostly in Western societies, which is why researchers believe that our diet contributes to the development of acne. One big aspect of that diet: the amount of refined sugars and simple carbohydrates that we consume. In fact, people who regularly eat refined sugar have a 30% greater chance of developing acne.
How does sugar cause pimples? One study found that diet affects the five main causes of acne. When you eat sugar, your body produces insulin to try to clear the sugar from your blood. Your insulin levels spike, which kicks your hormones into high gear—and that can mean more acne (that’s also why teens also have pimples galore).
In addition, sugar can throw off your immune system. Then your body is more prone to harboring bacteria, which can cause clogged pores and lead to pimples.
The good news is that you can reverse the damage. Studies have found that diets that have a low glycemic load (i.e., contain less sugar) can help alleviate the symptoms of acne. One study found that reducing sugar for 10 weeks led to fewer pimples (similar results were found in this study). So, if you’d like clearer skin, try cutting back on the sweet stuff, perhaps by doing a 30-Day Sugar Reset.
Does sugar make me look puffy?
In addition to giving you more pimples and wrinkles, sugar is associated with increased inflammation, which can lead your skin looking puffy or swollen. One skin condition associated with inflammation is rosacea, in which the blood vessels in the face enlarge, giving a ruddy appearance. Since glucose naturally causes flushing, it can contribute to rosacea flare-ups.
How will reducing sugar improve my skin?
Luckily, your body is amazing at repairing itself. After you start cutting back on sugar, you’ll likely notice clearer, smoother skin. Once you’ve started to be more conscious about your sugar intake, you can make diet choices that will keep your skin looking great. These include:
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods. If you’re focused on eating healthy, you’re probably already eating foods that fight inflammation. Some of the best are tomatoes, olive oil, leafy greens, and nuts, according to Harvard Health. Eating these regularly and avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar and processed foods can cut down on inflammation throughout your body.
- Keep your blood sugar levels stable. Remember how we mentioned that insulin can trigger a hormone response that contributes to pimples on your skin? To avoid that, try to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. Cutting back on sugar and eating regular meals and snacks will help. Watch out for sugar hiding in places you might not expect it, like pizza, ketchup, and even green juices.
- Drink plenty of water. Hydrated skin is healthy skin, so remember to reach for water throughout the day. You’ll be surprised what a difference this can make in fighting saggy skin and even under-eye bags. Drinking water will also help you avoid sugar—sometimes you’ll crave sugar when you’re really just thirsty.
- Chose collagen-friendly foods. Sugar undermines your body’s use of collagen, but certain foods can give you a collagen boost that will benefit your skin. Hyaluronic acid, found in root vegetables, beans, and soy, can support collagen production, as can vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, peppers, and broccoli.
Your face allows people to make a snap judgement when they meet you. That’s why it’s so important to put a fresh face forward. Instead of searching for the next great skin care product, you can focus on cutting sugar to get healthier skin. Many celebrities, from Jennifer Lopez to Gwyneth Paltrow have given up sugar and credit that as part of the reason for their glowing skin. Why not give it a try yourself?