How Sugar Affects the Skin

I know, this is not what you (or I) want to hear but you may want to put down that cookie or bag of potato chips. We know sugar and refined carbohydrates are not only terrible for our overall health but also have some not so desirable effects on our skin. Growing up in a big Italian family we ate a lot of carbs, to say the least. So as I write this my pasta eating heart breaks a little! 

Sugar + Aging

A less talked about contributing factor to aging is the process known as glycation. Eating sugar or refined carbohydrates gives the body a surge of insulin which is the hormone that is produced by the pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. When this happens the insulin creates a surge of inflammation. It produces an enzyme that attaches to collagen fibers breaking them down and causing them to lose strength and flexibility. The result? Skin is more vulnerable to sun damage, loss of elasticity and is prone to develop wrinkles and sagging.

Sugar + Acne/Rosacea 

Aside from potentially increasing the effects of aging, glycation can also make acne and rosacea worse. Research has uncovered the two main causes of acne - hormones and inflammation. We already know surges of insulin create inflammation but it also increases hormones and puts oils glands into overdrive. This creates a perfect breeding ground for acne bacteria to form. So think of it this way, sugar/carbs → hormones → sebum → bacteria → acne.

Skin Symptoms of consuming too much sugar

» Dark circles and puffiness around your eyes

» Acne that won't budge with skin care products

» Inflamed rosacea 

» Dehydrated skin

» The skin appears thinner

» Pigment and discoloration

» Sagging skin, particularly around the jowl area

What you can do

The biggest thing you can do is minimize your sugar, high glycemic foods, and simple carbohydrates intake. Replace with low-glycemic foods like dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, salmon, beans, brown rice etc. Spices that also help with the anti-glycation process are garlic, oregano, cinnamon, ginger, and clove.

Drinking green tea has been proven to stimulate collagen synthesis, so if you sipping on it regularly or even using a skin care product that contains it you are already doing your skin a favor. 

Alpha Lipoic Acid and blueberry extract are potent anti-glycation ingredients that when applied topically can slow down the process of glycation.

I have to say the top two skin concerns I get asked about the most are anti-aging and acne in hopes I will recommend some miracle skin cream. Sure, there are many wonderful topical products that will help with both, but if you are eating tons of sugar and refined carbohydrates they really aren't helping to fix the situation. Some literal food for thought...if you are struggling with acne or rosacea and want to do all that you can to age gracefully, remember, skin issues are not solely topical and I encourage you take a look your whole body. What are you eating?