Want clear skin? We’re sorry to be the one to break it to you but it may be time to give up sugar!
While acne may be considered ‘normal’ in our teenage years it can be absolutely devastating when it persists through a woman’s 20s & 30s, or when it comes back in to your life at peri-menopause. Dermatologists and the food industry both love to tell patients that diet has absolutely nothing to do with acne (hint; there’s no pill for a poor diet). Thankfully current research is beginning to confirm what we see daily in our replete wellness patients; high glycemic foods (aka white sugar) DO increase acne frequency and severity, and their removal should be a part of any thoughtful acne treatment protocol.
Available evidence shows that sugar can induce cravings that are comparable to those generated by addictive drugs, so Canadians are eating approximately 52g of it daily. This means that the average Canadian is consuming over 10 teaspoons of added sugar every single day. Sugar is a problem for the skin because it causes levels of the blood sugar regulating hormone insulin to spike, which in turn initiates a cascade of hormonal responses within the body. Most importantly high insulin levels cause an increase in a protein called insulin like growth factor or IGF-1, which is one of the worst acne culprits. IGF-1 causes sebaceous glands (the glands in your skin that regulate oil production) to go into overdrive and also increases the cell turnover in your skin. This means that sugar causes an overproduction of dead skin cells and excess oil, which creates an ideal scenario for the acne-causing bacteria propionibacterium acnes to grow on your skin, leading to inflammation and acne.
There’s more bad news if you’re over 25 years old and consuming an excess of dietary sugars. After the age of 25 your skin’s production of collagen (the protein responsible for skin elasticity) dramatically declines leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. Sugar has the ability to further decrease levels of this important anti-gaining protein via the process of glycation which causes premature ageing and dull skin.
Sugar increases oil production, causes inflammation, increases the number of acne-causing bacteria in the skin and causes wrinkles – making it an obvious no when it comes to clear beautiful skin. Dramatically reducing your sugar intake is one of the most important things that you can do to clear up your acne for good. It takes perseverance, education and preparation but I promise that reducing your sugar intake will have profound impacts on your skin and your overall health (trust me, I’ve been there).
Beautiful skin truly does come from within and it’s nearly impossible to achieve clear, glowing skin without drastically reducing your sugar intake. Here are a few of my favourite websites / cookbooks to help you get started:
Pro tip: there are tons of amazing sugar-replacements on the market. We love monk fruit sweetener (golden by Lakanto is the best we’ve tried); it’s not bitter like some other natural sweeteners and it can be used as a 1:1 replacement in baked goods.
If you’re interested in learning more about how naturopathic functional medicine can help you clear your adult acne you can book an online appointment with Dr. Sarah here. (note: naturopathic care is only available to patients living in Ontario, Canada).
If you live in Oakville you can visit Dr. Sarah in person, book your in-person appointment here.