Don’t we all have a sweet tooth? 

As a kid, I’d always look forward to celebrations. Parties meant there would be cake. 

And ice cream, (if I was lucky). 

I’m (usually) not a child anymore, and understand the implications sugar have on our health. But more specifically, does sugar make you break out?

That’s the question I’ll answer in this post.

I did my research in the name of science and in short, here’s what I found:

Sugar is a trigger for acne and can make you break out. Cue sad music. Sorry to all the sweet-tooth natural beauty Queens, but that’s the reality.

I do hate being the bringer of bad news. But let me make it up to you.

I can’t change the reality that sugar is a culprit for breakouts. But by going through the how and why, I can perhaps help soften the blow of this fact. It’s the least I can do after dropping some bad news.

Let’s begin.

What “Sugar” Are We Talking About?

does sugar cause acne? Here's the answer

When I say “sugar,” what do you immediately picture? 

There’s a high chance you thought of the white stuff you put in tea or coffee, right?

But that is just one member in the group of “sugars.” Members of the group are molecules with similar structure. Meet the whole gang:

  • Glucose – the fuel for your brain; normally found in dextrose
  • Fructose – also referred to as fruit sugar, their abundant in—you guessed it—fruits!
  • Galactose – naturally occurring in milk
  • Sucrose – also known as table sugar (yeah, the white stuff), it’s a combination of glucose and fructose
  • Lactose – or milk sugar is the combination of glucose and galactose 
  • Maltose – or malt sugar, this is the combination of glucose and glucose

The first three in the list—glucose, fructose, and galactose—are the building blocks of all forms of carbohydrates

They account for one molecule of sugar each. (Stay with me.)

That’s why the next three on the list are a combination of them. Take note though: sugars are a type of carbohydrate. But not all carbohydrates are sugars.

More complex carbohydrates will have more than ten molecules of sugars. These complex carbohydrates include starch, like in potatoes or rice. Also fiber, like what you’ll find in the husk of whole grains. 

As carbohydrates enter your body though, no matter how complex, they’ll be broken down to glucose, fructose, and galactose.

Natural Vs. Refined Sugars

Food with natural sugars are important for your body. They not only have natural sugars. They also contain essential nutrients that help your body and skin stay healthy. 

For example, most fruits, vegetables, and nuts have naturally occurring sugar.

On the other hand, refined sugars can come from sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn syrup. Sugar cane and sugar beets undergo a process to extract their sugar while corn syrup is chemically produced. These refined sugars are added to cakes, cookies, cereals, etc. to make them sweet.

The biggest difference between natural and refined sugars comes down to nutrients. Food with natural sugars will also have vitamins and minerals. But food with refined sugars will likely lack nutritional value.

Sugar, Acne, and Hormones

does sugar cause acne? Here's the answer

Now let’s get to the meat of things. How does sugar affect acne?

One way is by contributing to hormonal changes. Paying attention to hormonal changesmatter a lot when dealing with acne. It’s one of the known triggers of acne after all. Researchhas long found that an imbalance in hormone levels could lead to acne breakouts.

Sugar comes into play with hormones by affecting insulin secretion. Food loaded with sugar, often the refined type, makes your blood sugar spike. Your pancreas responds to the sugar in the bloodstream by pumping insulin to your blood. Insulin then helps regulate the sugar from your bloodstream by sending it to cells to be used as energy.

Wait, there’s no mention of hormones there, right?

Well, there is when we mention insulinResearch links insulin to oil production and interactions with hormones called androgens. These sex hormones cause follicle glands to increase in size and produce more oil. Overproduction of oil then contributes to the formation of acne.

It’s like a domino effect. As each domino falls, excessive sugar in your diet will lead to acne in the end.

Sugar, Acne, and Inflammation

does sugar cause acne? Here's the answer

Sugar, especially in it’s refined form, is an inflammatory food. This spells bad news for acnesince it is an inflammatory skin condition. Inflammation will only exacerbate acne. Combine acne and inflammation, what do you get? Pus-filled bumps with inflamed skin painful to touch. That’s one hellish of a breakout! 

So it’s no wonder why you’ll often come across advice to avoid inflammation-causing foods. And sugar is one of them. It has been proven that lowering sugar intake in a diet contributed to decrease in inflammation

Is Cutting Sugar Enough to Treat Acne?

does sugar cause acne? Here's the answer

Diet is just one factor that triggers acne. Yes, the skin condition may seem straightforward enough. Excess oils plus dirt plus infection from C. acnes equals acne. But in reality, acne is a multi-factorial skin condition. Hormonal changes, diet, stress, exfoliation, internal health issues, and other external factors contribute to acne. Not to mention the unique case each person may have. We humans are quite diverse after all.

With that, is cutting sugar enough to treat acne?

Sadly, no. Cutting sugar is far from being enough to treat acne. But it can certainly help. Having a healthy diet will give you one less thing to worry about when treating acne. You won’t have suspicions whether sugar is causing your breakout when you’ve cut sugar from your diet. This can help you channel your efforts to other factors contributing to your acne.

Take note though that a diet completely devoid of sugar is impossible. As we discussed in the first part of this post, sugar is in almost everything you eat. Fruits, vegetables, milk. Check this glycemic index and you’ll find even nuts have sugar.

But you know what’s possible? 

Cutting refined sugar from your diet. Slowly decrease your intake of foods with low nutritional value and high amounts of refined sugar. This may sound difficult. But it gets easier once you get the hang of it. Know which foods can give you the sugar rush without the unnecessary additives.

Start by curbing your craving of sweet junk food by snacking on some fruits instead.

For example, mangoes are not only high in several types of naturally occurring sugars. They also provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

So skip the donut or cake slice.

Snack on some fresh mangoes instead. Here’s a smoothie recipe I like that you may want to try. Instead of table sugar, this recipe uses mangoes and pineapples as natural sweeteners.

To Wrap It Up

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Juliet said this line to Romeo as they bid each other goodnight. The sorrowful parting is made sweet by the thought that they will meet again. For us though, may we part with refined sugars without the thought of ever meeting again. 

The journey towards a healthier diet may seem sorrowful at first. You’ll need to turn your back on favorite snacks and comfort foods along the way. But knowing what lies at the end of the journey makes it all worth it. And what is at the end? A healthy body and even healthier skin!

What do you plan to cut out of your diet? I’d love to hear from you. Share your experience in the comment section below!

As always, thank you for reading all the way to the end. You rock, natural beauty Queen!

Stay tuned and take skin care!

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