Remember the days when everyone swore that eating a lot of pizza, chocolate, and other fatty junk foods would cause acne and other skin issues? Turns out, it isn’t the fat in those foods that’s the culprit behind everything from breakouts to eczema to premature aging: it’s sugar. With more and more research showing that diets high in sugar cause everything from diabetes to heart disease, it’s no wonder that the sweet stuff also has a serious impact on your skin. So what exactly does a candy-laden diet do to your complexion?
When you eat something super sugary like a big piece of cake or simple carbs like white bread, your body immediately produces a surge of insulin to help stabilize your blood sugar levels. When insulin increases, so does inflammation. This inflammation can exacerbate existing inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and eczema.
A sugary diet creates the perfect environment for acne to thrive. First off, sugar increases inflammation throughout your body, making blemishes extra red and painful. A diet high in sugar also suppresses your body’s white blood cells—the soldiers responsible for fighting off infection. This leaves you vulnerable to acne-causing bacteria lurking on your skin. The increase in inflammation also causes your body to produce stress hormones like cortisol which boost your skin’s oil production, giving bacteria the greasy environment they need to grow and populate.
Breaks Down Collagen
When you flood your body with sugar, it attaches to collagen protein in a process called glycation. During glycation, a new type of substance is created: advanced glycation end products or AGEs. AGEs are incredibly destructive to your body’s proteins; they break down elastin and degrade collagen. The most prevalent types of collagen in your skin are types I, II, and III. Type III is the longest lasting and strongest. AGEs degrade type III collagen into type I, causing wrinkling and loss of skin firmness.
Worsens Allergic Reactions
If you suffer from allergies or eczema, you’ve probably realized on your own that sugar causes flare-ups. Because sugar stimulates inflammation and suppresses white blood cells, your body is less able to fight off even mild allergens. If you suffer from food intolerances and sensitivities, be extra careful with your sugar intake, which can make your allergies worse.
So what should you be eating? Doctors and dermatologists alike recommend staying away from processed sugars and simple carbs. Most experts agree that fruits and whole grains are fine; although they have a high sugar content, they also contain nutritious antioxidants and fiber that are essential to a healthy diet. Try to be kind to yourself: we all have slip-ups. If you do give in to the temptation of Halloween candy, try taking a B-vitamin supplement to mitigate the effects of sugar. Vitamin B-1 and B-6 inhibit the protein-destroying effects of AGEs.