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What Sugar Is Really Doing to Your Skin

Does sugar cause acne, premature aging, or other unfortunate skin symptoms?

Written by: 100% PURE ®
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Have you ever felt the need to steer clear of sugary foods for fear of it giving you a breakout? Maybe in school, you were even warned not to have any chocolate the week of picture day! And yet, why, exactly, are we made to fear sugar in relation to our skin? Can’t acne be caused by all sorts of things – and how does sugar cause acne in the first place?

We’ll tell you what you need to know about sugar, how it really affects your skin, and how you can maintain a relationship with sugar that is healthy for not only your skin, but for your overall health.


True or False: Does Sugar Make Skin Age Faster?

True: overconsumption of sugar can cause one’s skin to break down and age more rapidly.

This is because sugar can erode elastin while breaking down collagen molecules, which are like the building blocks of our skin. Likewise, when collagen and elastin are damaged, this leads to the onset of fine lines and wrinkles.

Largely due to this function, sugar is known as an advanced glycation end product, or AGE. These are a class of compounds resulting from the combination of proteins and sugars that can hasten the effects of aging.

Studies have closely observed the ways in which too much sugar causes inflammation in the tissue whilst breaking it down, causing it to weaken and lose elasticity. This is also true in the case of carbohydrates and starches that digest quickly.

Such foods are notoriously sugary and often synonymous with “junk food”: top offenders include baked goods, candy, chocolate, and fried foods.


Acne breakout
True or False: Does Sugar Cause Acne?

False – well, sort of. Sugar alone won’t necessarily cause acne, meaning that you shouldn’t need to fear the occasional cupcake.

However, it’s important to understand what it means when foods have a high glycemic index. When high-glycemic foods are ingested, they rapidly turn into glucose in your body, causing insulin levels to spike. High glycemic foods often align with AGEs, and can be found in processed foods like candy, baked goods, and many sugary cereals, just to name a few.

Similarly, a harsh scrub tends to have ingredients that disrupt your skin’s pH. A harsh scrub can also physically remove friendly bacteria and substances that friendly bacteria “eat.”

Now, when this happens occasionally, it’s not much of a big deal: our bodies are meant to handle sudden changes. However, it’s not good if this happens often and repeatedly, as this increases your risk of chronic inflammation, which causes a host of problems – including acne breakouts.

With that being said, it’s important to have sugar in moderation, and approach it as a small and occasional part of our diets.


Sugar alternative
True or False: Is All Sugar Bad for You?

This one is also false, but there is a bit more to the explanation as to why.

Essentially, there are three types of sugar we see in our foods: added or “white” sugar, unrefined sugar like agave nectar or maple syrup, and the sugar which naturally occurs in fruit.

We all probably know by now that of all of these sugars, white sugar is warned about the most. That’s because white sugar causes the most damage and inflammation, and is a key factor in weight gain.

As for the other two sweet substances, less refined or processed sweeteners like agave nectar are slightly better than white sugar – but the nutritional benefits aren’t much better. Plus, your body still recognizes these sweeteners as monosaccharides. In other words, this means that our bodies recognize them as nearly identical to refined sugar.

Meanwhile, the best sugar you can have in your diet is that which you naturally obtain from fruit and starches: apples, sweet potatoes, peaches, and pumpkins are great examples. This kind of sugar is okay, not because of the quality of the sugar itself, but because of all of the vitamins, minerals and fiber that comes with the rest of the food.


How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Sugar and Your Skin

While our complexions are certainly impacted by our hormones, genetics, and the products we put on our skin, the foods we put in our bodies play a massively critical role.

According to the University of California at San Francisco, Americans consume a daily average of 17 teaspoons of sugar. This is troubling, considering that the recommended daily intake is just 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men.

As you might have guessed from earlier, this makes it very likely that far too many Americans are consuming foods with a dangerously high glycemic index.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, maintaining a diet that is rich in healthy fats, vitamins and antioxidants – while low in carbohydrates – are associated with cases of skin exhibiting fewer wrinkles and less collagen damage.

That being said, it’s crucial to adapt to a diet which is rich in fruits and vegetables, while also getting a healthy dose of minerals and vitamins from legumes, leafy greens, tofu, and nuts.

We’ve created our own in-depth guide to creating a skin-healthy diet, to benefit your skin and overall health – for your skin’s sake, it’s definitely worth a read!


A Final Disclaimer About Acne

It’s certainly true that a nurturing and healthful approach to diet is a crucial factor when it comes to maintaining a healthy glow and body.

That being said, it should be noted that acne can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including shifts in hormone levels, a reaction to a product, or something in your genetics.

As such, it’s important that we make the disclaimer that while this can be used as a comprehensive quick guide to maintaining a healthy relationship with sugar, this is by no means the end-all, be-all answer to acne treatment. Moreover, it should be acknowledged that this approach may not work for everyone, as no approach is universal.

With the previous information in mind, don’t hesitate to contact a dermatologist if you can’t pinpoint the source of your acne. A trained dermatologist will be able to not only answer your questions accurately, but they may even be able to run tests that will clarify the root causes of your acne, and help put you on a track to healthier, happier skin.

We carefully hand-select products based on strict purity standards, and only recommend products we feel meet this criteria. 100% PURE™ may earn a small commission for products purchased through affiliate links.

The information in this article is for educational use, and not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used as such.

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