Straight up, sugar is bad for your skin. Wrinkles, dry, dull skin, acne, redness, hyperpigmentation, excess facial hair...yep all of these are related to your sugar intake. Do I ever have anything good to say about sugar? Well, yes, the acidity of sugar is great for on your skin when used as an exfoliant. I will even give you a recipe to use at the end of the article. But when it comes to what happens on the inside, well, that isn't so pretty.
Sugar is high in acidity making it highly inflammatory, and with its high glycemic factor, spiking blood sugar quickly which then plummets quickly, means it further increases the inflammation. All simple carbohydrate foods spike insulin levels and contribute to inflammation. Quite frequently, for many of us, that interior inflammation can show up as inflammation on the outside: acne, rosacea, psoriasis, redness, and rashes.
Sugar is also responsible for premature aging. Collagen is what keeps your skin from sagging and wrinkling; it is a strong player in how youthful your skin looks. Sugar that
has been through digestion and turned into glucose literally eats the collagen in your skin, leaving it dull, dehydrated, and sagging.(1) Guess what the process is called when sugars creates irreversible damage to a protein, lipid or nucleic acid in your body?
Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs)(2). Kinda ironic? Just a little bit.
And just a reminder, we need plenty of vitamin C for our body to utilize collagen.
The resulting blood sugar imbalance also plays into your mood and your cravings, and in turn your stress levels. Your sugar levels spike, then plummet as the glucose is quickly up taken into your cells (Which, by the way, is stored as fat. And the reason why fat has a 'cottage cheese' look to it is because the glucose broke down the collagen in the cells and also sucked the water out of the cells leaving them dehydrated and puckered looking.) The high and low of your insulin levels is a direct player on the antagonist hormone cortisol. When functioning properly cortisol inhibits the storage of glucose as fat, however when we are constantly feeling stressed and cortisol is always elevated, it causes insulin resistance causing the need for more insulin to be released into the blood stream and increasing fat storage. In other words, when insulin and cortisol are constantly hanging out at elevated levels it is spelling disaster on both the inside and outside(3).
Another effect of sugar levels staying constantly elevated leading to insulin resistance is excessive hair growth (hirsutism) because the high insulin levels drive the ovaries to create more testosterone. Also, dark patches on the skin, known as hyperpigmentation or age spots, are due to the increased presence of free radicals, from a high sugar diet, which need antioxidants to fight against them. If you are experiencing this be sure to consume an omega with astaxanthin or there is now a collagen with astaxanthin as well. Free radicals are the components that cause inflammation and disease in the body(1).
If you are experiencing redness or rashes on the skin, this can also be attributed to not just the inflammatory nature of sugar, but also to the fact that it feeds a yeast, candida, that can be present in the gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome is linked to your skin microbiome and can contribute to an infection on the skin. This can manifest as either red or white patches on the skin(1).
Sugar can also cause a toxic state in the stomach once the glucose is gone and your blood sugar has spiked(1). Poor digestion shows up in your skin as dullness.
Stevia, monk fruit, xylitol or erythritol are the lowest glycemic sweetener substitutes. Stevia in forms such as Truvia are not healthy due to the added ingredients. Whole Stevia actually has health benefits including supporting the immune system in eradicating Lymes disease, but has a much stronger after taste. My favorite type of stevia is the SweetLeaf SweetDrops, they come in a multitude of flavors, such as chocolate, berry, vanilla, etc. Sugar alcohols, xylitol and erythritol, do not affect blood sugar but have been known to cause stomach upset and headaches for some people. I would only consume them in small amounts. Monk fruit is pricey and usually has erythritol as its first ingredient, although there is this option, and you use far less because it is nearly 150x - 200x more sweet. Dates can be another great option due to their low glycemic factor and fiber content.
Brown Sugar and Cranberry Juice Exfoliant (Clean Skin from Within by Dr. Cates)
1 Tablespoon of organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cranberry juice (only ingredient) or aloe gel
Mix together till sugar dissolves. Massage gently for 2 minutes. Rinse. Use only once a week.
This mask is best for oily and acne prone skin. However do not use if you have actively inflamed skin. The sugar will dissolve in the juice, and the glycolic acid in the sugar works as an exfoliant. Pomegranate, pineapple, or grape juice could also be used.
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