Acne and sugar.
This is a tough one, my love.
I’ve got quite the long standing relationship with sugar myself – and to be completely honest with you – it hasn’t always been easy.
I’ve been known to struggle with an oreo addiction and/or have one too many sour patch kids on a bad day.
And I know you might struggle with the same thing – and I can’t blame you!
The abundance of sugar in our daily life; sodas, fruit juices, ice cream, cake, cookies, bread, ketchup, the list goes on… makes it really hard to remove all together.
However, I know you might suspect that it’s really impacting your skin, so I wanted to share a few tips that I’ve learned about how to slowly remove it from your diet, and also, what happens, exactly, when you eat sugar.
But first, because a dear reader (thank you Yelena!) asked me to clarify a bit for you, I wanted to go over what I mean when I say “sugar”, below.
I do NOT mean naturally occurring sugars that you’d find in fruit. I mean artificial sugar – the white sugar found in all of our processed foods, white breads, pastas, cookies, cakes, chips, etc.
The bad type:)
NOW. While I’m giving you the following overview of what exactly happens when your body ingests sugar – do NOT, by any wild stretch of the imagination – think that I am “sugar shaming” you if you happen to have a doughnut today.
That is SO not the goal here. Making big food changes like removing sugar is HARD and it takes TIME and oh, you just happen to be a human, in the meantime, so, immediate change is usually quite impossible and quite unrealistic.
One day at a time:)
(If you’re on the #healyourfacewithfood challenge you are “technically” off sugar for the next 30 days, but again, you’re human, I get it, buh-LIEVE me.)
SO. Without further ado, let’s discuss Acne and Sugar – and what exactly happens when sugar enters your blood stream:
- The second you take a big bite out of a doughnut – aka glucose – your body sends a signal to your pancreas that it will need to be on “insulin duty”. Meaning, very soon, your blood sugar is going to rise (a little or a lot, depending on how big that doughnut was) and your pancreas will need to secrete insulin to manage your rising blood sugar levels.
- Once insulin has successfully performed its job, your blood sugar levels will slowly lower and stabilize. Now. This process is all well and good – and kinda beautiful if you think about it – but where we can get into trouble is if and when we ingest TOO much sugar, too quickly – too often.
- If and when you continue to eat a ton of sugar over a long period of time (think: decades, not, months) you can start to develop “insulin resistance”. This means that your cells may not be able to use insulin correctly anymore and as a result – your blood sugar rises – a lot, and dangerously. As insulin struggles to be absorbed by your blood, your pancreas naturally gets tempted to produce more insulin (because its getting signals that its not being used properly and knows there is a problem…) and the circle goes around and around until you get into some serious trouble.
Have you ever had a big plate of pasta/bread/cookies, etc. and felt exhausted afterwards? That’s your blood sugar/insulin at work.
- This cycle of spiking your blood sugar (by eating a ton of sugar) and then drastically dropping your blood sugar (your pancreas releasing insulin), is what creates that feeling of exhaustion and depletion.
- Your liver also plays a role in regulating your blood sugar levels. It stores excess glucose from the bloodstream to be used later (let’s say you go on a long run tonight, you’ll need some “reserves”). But, like any other organ, the liver also has a limited storage capacity.
- Having excess sugar in your blood is an overall-bad-thing; it even affect tiny blood vessels in many of your body’s organs like your heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.
NOW. How does this chain reaction of sugar-insulin impact your acne? I talk about it in depth in my Clear Skin, My Way Program (coming soon!) but here are just a few of the ways it impacts your skin:
- The spike in blood sugar levels leads to skin inflammation and acne breakouts. It increases other hormone levels of insulin – specifically Insulin Growth Factor 1 – that encourage an overgrowth of cells in your body. This is NOT good because having an overgrowth of cells at your pore is usually the first step in a breakout – without too many cells at the pore – you’re less likely to have a zit. MUY importante, mi amor.
- Excess sugar in your blood stream also depletes the collagen in your skin on the cellular level. Collagen is essential for “aging gracefully” (notice I didn’t say “not aging” because I think you can be stunningly beautiful at any age) and it allows your skin to stay supple, elastic and vibrant.
- The imbalance in blood sugar levels can make you a bit moody; kinda like when you feel super anxious in the morning and then exhausted in the afternoon? That’s most likely due to imbalanced blood sugar levels and believe me – this up and down moodiness is happening on a cellular level – which deeply impacts your hormones. (For more info on how to treat acne after stopping birth control, head here).
- Studies have shown that there’s a relationship between high-sugar diets and free radicals in the body. Free radicals are not good as they’re responsible for creating cellular inflammation. To ward these babies off, try to always opt for fruits and/or veggies instead.
- Too much sugar can also lead to an overgrowth of yeast in your body – which can cause a candida problem – which can cause rashes and redness on the skin.
- Excess sugar can also create a major water imbalance in the body leading to dehydration. Do you have dark circles and puffiness around your eyes? Sugar might be to blame. I recommend having a water bottle with you at all times and filling it up 3-4 times a day.