Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Sugar by itself does not cause acne per se. There are many reasons that acne can form and hormonal fluctuations in the body (hormonal acne) can be a significant factor for your breakouts. Acne has many possible culprits; therefore, it is imperative to see a qualified dermatologist to assess your acne as well as skin type and put you on a specific skin care regimen tailored just for you. However, I do believe that acne is best treated with a comprehensive approach. Along with in-office medical treatments, at home skin care medications and creams, a healthy diet and lifestyle also help to promote healthy skin.
Here are some useful insights as to why sugar may be bad for your skin and further exacerbate your acne breakouts.
Let's examine how sugar affects your skin. Sugar’s oxidative properties can provoke acne and breakouts. Sugar and foods high on the glycemic index (meaning foods that, once ingested, convert quickly into glucose and cause your body's insulin levels to elevate), lead to a burst of inflammation that goes throughout your entire body. Foods high in sugar and saturated fats - like white bread, candy, fried foods, ice cream, sodas, and anything else with a main ingredient of sugar - cause spikes in your body's insulin levels that further exacerbate inflammation. Steep insulin spikes increase the production of skin oils and contribute to the clogging of follicles, which can worsen skin complexion.
Your body breaks down "simple carbohydrates”, like refined sugars and white flour, rapidly converting them into glucose, which then floods the blood stream. When this occurs, your body reacts by producing insulin to counter the glucose insulin levels spike, leading to inflammation-producing enzymes which attach to your body's collagen through an oxidative process known as glycation. This process breaks down collagen and elastin, contributing to aged, sagging and wrinkled looking skin. Glycation not only increases the appearance of aging, but also can aggravate particular skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. (Glycation also occurs internally, affecting connective tissue and joints!)