How Sugar Affects Skin Health & Appearance

Written by Alison Moseley, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on July 16, 2020 3 Comments

There are many things that can harm the skin. The sun (specifically overexposure to UV rays) is an obvious culprit in causing damage, premature aging, and skin cancer. We have also written about the negative affects of stress, smoking, alcohol, and certain foods on the skin.

But did you know that one of the biggest contributors to skin problems can be found in almost everything we eat? That’s right, we’re talking about sugar. Here’s how excess sugar consumption can negatively affect your skin, and what you can do about it:

Sugar and the skin

You can find lots of information online regarding how sugar affects your waistline and general health. Its impact on the skin, however, is a less covered topic. Over-consumption of sugar can both accelerate the aging process and either cause or contribute to a host of skin health issues.

Inflammation: Sugar consumption leads to spikes in blood sugar, which results in inflammation. This can make the skin appear red, dull, and unhealthy.

Collagen Damage: Collagen is one of the most essential proteins in maintaining youthful appearing skin. Collagen is a protein that works to make the skin firm, smooth, and elastic. Glucose both breaks down current collagen and contributes to lower future collagen production, making early line and wrinkle development more likely.

Blood Sugar Variations: High sugar consumption causes rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. This in turn can lead to acne breakouts and symptom “flare-ups” of various skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema.

Solution: Cut Down On Sugar

It’s easy to reverse the harmful effects of sugar by simply cutting down on daily sugar intake. In fact, many people have reported dramatic improvements in how their skin looks and feels within days of reducing their consumption.

When it comes to cutting out sugar there are two big obstacles that might get in your way. First, sugar is in almost every staple of the American diet. Many everyday foods like breads, sauces, and snacks contain added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Additionally, simple carbs found in things like white bread or fruit juice break down into glucose, causing issues equivalent to sugar. The best way to cut out sugar is to be aware of what you’re eating. Read nutritional labels and shy away from processed foods in favor of whole foods.

The second obstacle is the fact that sugar is an addictive substance. Getting off sugar “cold turkey” can actually cause people to feel bad both physically and mentally. Instead of immediately cutting out sugar you might want to slowly “detox” from sugar by gradually reducing your daily consumption over a period of a couple of week

Alison Moseley, MD

Alison Moseley, M.D. completed her doctorate of medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where she graduated with the distinction of Magna Cum Laude. Dr. Moseley is Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is active in various medical organizations, including the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society of Dermatology, the Texas Dermatological Society, the Texas Medical Association, and the Travis County Medical Society. She currently sees patients at our Lakeway location.

3 Responses to “How Sugar Affects Skin Health & Appearance”

  1. Avatar Cyrus says:

    Great blog Dr. Moseley, thanks for sharing

  2. Avatar Neptune says:

    (This has nothing to do with sugar) So, my elbow is cracky, (As it should be, like cracky skin cracky) But it’s gotten too cracky, like- i can see small red dots on it(I think it’s like blood or something i don’t know) , i take swimming lessons, maybe the chlorine affected it? I’ve moisturized it more for the past couple days and it’s helping, but i feel like it’s not working, y’know? Respond if you have advice, if you don’t, well heck T.T (Btw good blog thing, i learned alot! thnx for sharing it with the world :)))))

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Neptune,

      Sorry to hear about that issue, it does sound like chlorine exposure could play a role. Moisturizing often may help, you could also try lightly exfoliating using a gentle scrub prior to moisturizing.

      However, its tough to determine without assessing you in person, you may want to see a dermatologist and have it looked at.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

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