We all know that added sugar isn’t healthy. It causes tooth decay, throws your blood sugar off-balance, and can contribute to weight gain. But have you ever considered how eating it affects your skin?
If you read beauty websites, you’ll know that your diet makes a huge difference to your appearance. Let’s take a look at what sugar – one of the most common ingredients in processed foods and drinks – really does to your complexion.
1. What Does Sugar Really Do To Your Skin?
- Sugar May Make Acne Worse: When you eat refined sugar, your body breaks it down into glucose. This triggers your body to release insulin, which in turn triggers inflammation. This shows up on your skin as breakouts. If you are prone to acne or rosacea, sugar can make it worse. Eating sugar can also impair your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off minor skin infections.
- Sugar Makes Your Skin Sag And Wrinkle: Sugar causes premature aging of the skin. When inflammation in your body rises after eating sugar, collagen – which is responsible for keeping your skin smooth and healthy – breaks down. This is known as “glycation.” Glucose slows down the normal production of amino acids that keep skin looking plump and firm. When skin loses collagen, it starts to wrinkle, making you look older.
- Sugar Consumption Can Trigger Insulin Resistance, Which Can Cause Dark Patches And Excess Body Hair: High sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance. Signs of insulin resistance include dark patches of skin, particularly around the neck and under the arms, and new hair growth (also known as hirsutism). If you notice these symptoms, book a doctor’s appointment; insulin resistance requires careful monitoring and may be a precursor to diabetes.
- Sugar Can Raise Your Testosterone Levels: Testosterone causes your pores to get larger and will make your skin oilier, which in turn can worsen acne and redness. It also makes blood vessels in the face stiffer, which makes your skin less flexible and accelerates the aging process.
- Sugar Dehydrates Your Skin: People with diabetes often have sallow complexions and dry skin. This is because high blood glucose levels have a drying effect. High blood sugar may also slow down normal production of anti-oxidants in the skin, which can leave it more vulnerable to sunburn.
2. How Much Sugar Is Too Much?
The average American consumes around 17 teaspoons of sugar per day, but the official dietary guidelines released by the US Government suggest an upper limit of twelve.
Aim to get a maximum of 10% of your calories from sugar each day. Some foods, including fruit and vegetables, contain natural sugars that don’t count towards your total.
However, unlike fats, proteins, and healthy carbohydrates, you don’t need any added sugar in your diet at all. The less you eat, the better.
Health experts around the world agree that we need to stop consuming so much sugary soda, candy, pies, cookies, and other sweetened foods. Base your diet around wholesome, fresh produce instead.
3. Watch Out For Hidden Sugars
When choosing foods and beverages, take a closer look at the ingredients list. Remember that sugar isn’t always labeled “sugar” or “added sugar.”
Look out for “corn syrup,” “invert sugar,” “fructose,” “maltose,” “molasses,” “high-fructose corn syrup,” “dextrose,” and “trehalose.” As a general rule, if an ingredient name ends in “ose,” it’s probably sugar.
Sugar isn’t just in products that taste sweet, either – you can find it in savory processed foods such as pizza and pies.
Cutting down on sugar may be challenging at first, but after a few days, your taste buds will adapt to a healthier diet.
Instead of sugary snacks and desserts, eat moderate quantities of fruit instead. If you eat cereal, choose versions that are low or free from added sugar. Skip soda and choose water, milk, and unsweetened tea or coffee instead.
4. What About Artificial Sweeteners?
Some people cut out sugar but substitute it with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose.
These products make it easier to cut the number of calories you eat, which can help you maintain a healthy weight, and are usually better for your teeth than regular sugar.
Unfortunately, sweeteners may not be good for your skin. Some dermatologists, including Dr. Whitney Bowe, advise their patients to eliminate them from their diets completely.
Although there is still more research to be done, artificial sweeteners may cause skin problems by disturbing your gut biome and blood sugar levels.
Some research suggests a link between regular use of artificial sweeteners, weight gain, and diabetes. If you must use a sweetener, stick to Stevia, which is a natural alternative to sugar.
The Bottom Line
If you want to appear younger and healthier, it’s time to reduce the amount of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners in your diet. Within just a few days, you will look and feel considerably better.