Is sugar truly the “enemy” of the skin?

Is sugar truly the “enemy” of the skin?

Oh, the grievances! So many things can harm the skin, yet in the quest to find a scapegoat, it turns out to be… sugar! If you were to Google the relationship between sugar and skin, up to 99% of the articles would list a myriad of harmful effects. From acne caused by excessive sugar consumption to accelerated aging and skin allergies, the accusations are relentless. However, have you ever wondered if sugar is indeed the “black sheep,” always blamed for the issues we face?

This article will take us on a sweet journey to understand more about this compound. From there, we can sweeten consciously and recognize other factors that may cause skin issues.

Is every type of sugar bad for the skin?

According to scientists, there are three types of sugar molecules, and unfortunately, they all have adverse effects on the body when consumed in excessive amounts. First is Glucose (commonly found in bread and starch), which the body metabolizes the fastest, leading to an increase in blood sugar levels.

Fructose (derived from sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn, also known as “fruit sugar”) has less impact on blood sugar but is linked to weight gain and hormonal imbalance as it needs to be processed in the liver. Finally, Sucrose (white sugar) is a combination of both fructose and glucose, a familiar ingredient in our daily diet.

Fruit sugars can be beneficial for health when consumed in moderate amounts

Here, two things need to be understood. According to nutrition expert and food coach Anupama Menon, if you intake sugar from natural sources such as fruits (apples, pears), sugarcane, honey, etc., in moderate amounts, it has minimal adverse effects on the body. These foods not only contain sugar but also minerals that help supplement enzymes for a healthy body. Dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer (known for treating celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé) emphasizes paying attention to the glycemic index of foods.

Foods with a low glycemic index help manage insulin production, slowing the blood sugar increase. For example, watermelon has a high glycemic index, while kiwi, blueberries, and blackberries have lower indices.

Sugar in apples is good, but you might want to reconsider in apple pie | Source: Unsplash

Next, what truly harms the skin is processed foods with refined sugar (high in calories but devoid of accompanying nutrients). Since many types of foods already contain natural sugars (such as bread), adding extra sugar becomes redundant. It’s these excesses that make sugar the “culprit” for the skin.

In terms of consumption within the body, sugar seems to play the role of the antagonist. However, when used externally on the skin, it deserves to be cast as the angel. Sugar is a natural humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the environment into the skin. Therefore, when you apply products with sugar or its derivatives, they genuinely help hydrate your skin and retain moisture within.

Other “offenses” besides sugar

Perhaps you often order bubble tea with specifications like “less sugar,” “30% sugar,” and you can gauge how sweet it is. This is also why sugar is notorious and always remembered as a culprit in causing skin issues. However, there are other components in many foods that are equally harmful to the skin, but we often overlook them. Not to go far, a cup of bubble tea might reduce sugar, but it often contains cow’s milk or powdered milk. These ingredients can also be harmful to the skin, causing allergies and hormonal acne.

Hình 3

Many other ingredients can be harmful to the skin, not just sugar | Source: Unsplash

According to dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, certain high glycemic index foods, such as white bread, white pasta, and potatoes, can wreak havoc on your skin. Foods with a high glycemic index not only cause acne but can also be linked to premature aging. However, the problem lies in our active consumption of these high-sugar foods in large quantities. So, sugar remains “innocent” until we indulge in it excessively.

Excess sugar isn’t only from food but also from the quantity we intake

Additionally, many manufacturers intentionally disguise sugar with various “aliases.” For example, sugar might hide behind names ending in “ose” or ingredients using any of the following: syrup, concentrate, honey, or nectar. This confusion leads us to believe that we are consuming less sugar when, in reality, it is the opposite. Nowadays, you can find sugar under more than 50 different ingredient names.

Do artificial sweeteners harm the skin?

Nutrition expert and lifestyle disease specialist Dr. Vishakha Shivdasani notes that long-term use of artificial sweeteners or processed sugar substitutes can alter your taste buds. “Because they are sweeter than regular sugar, those who use them for an extended period tend to find fruits and vegetables less palatable. Your dependence on sweetness increases.” Meanwhile, dermatologist Dr. Hadley King explains that even artificial sweetened foods, such as diet sodas, ketchup, and fruit juices, can also pose problems for your skin. “Artificial sweeteners have been shown to impact our hormones similarly to sugar, so they can also contribute to causing acne.”

How to enjoy sweetness while maintaining healthy skin?

Many people are gradually moving towards a sugar-free lifestyle. However, it’s essential to understand that it’s entirely possible to consume sweet foods and still have healthy skin. This can be achieved by incorporating naturally sweetened foods into your diet, as mentioned at the beginning of the article. If we completely eliminate all sugar intake, we might find ourselves “sleeping with the garlic” before realizing whether our skin is improving or not.

According to dermatologist Dr. Jamuna Pai, low sugar levels can lead to brain energy deficiency, resulting in lack of concentration and fatigue. Cutting down on sugar primarily targets added sugars. According to WEBMD, some experts recommend that the daily added sugar intake should be limited to 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women.

Beautiful skin is a harmonization of multiple factors; if only ‘convicting’ sugar without considering other factors, achieving beautiful skin becomes challenging | Source: Unsplash

Next, having beautiful skin and a healthy figure isn’t solely determined by whether you consume sweet foods or not. While excess sugar can contribute to skin issues, reducing sugar is just one of the ways to enhance skin health. In any case, beautiful skin is the result of a combination of factors, including genetics, skincare routines, environmental factors, and lifestyle.

When asked about the “enemies” of the skin, Dr. Harold Lancer places environmental toxins such as air pollution and ultraviolet rays at the top of the list. Following that are harmful foods, stress as the third, lack of sleep as the fourth, and skincare habits as the last. Therefore, to achieve beautiful skin, it’s important not to focus solely on sugar but also to consider other factors to build a comprehensive skincare routine for both your skin and body.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

You may use these <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr> tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>