Skin Coach Q&A: Skin and Sugar (the OTHER white drug)



Does sugar have any effect on skin health?

Skin Coach Erin Answers:

Yes, sugar intake is a major factor in both acne and aging. Thankfully, the World Health Organization has recommended lowering dietary sugar. Thus more people have become aware of just how much they eat. The new recommendation for an adult of typical body mass index is only 25 grams per day.

When I personally began paying close attention to labels, I was blown away by the amounts in even ‘healthy’ foods. Added sugar is an insidious threat to our health at many levels. I can’t go into all of them here, but I will say…

Sugar is aging

We all know sun exposure is aging us, but few realize that sugar is a major player in the wrinkle brigade. The simplest explanation is that sugar attacks and weakens collagen and elastin proteins, in a process called glycation. This makes skin more prone to wrinkles, sagging, and loss of textural tone. It’s a difficult, if not impossible condition to correct. Cutting back on foods high in sugar is the best prevention.

Sugar promotes acne

Many factors contribute to acne, and blood sugar level is among them. Elevated amounts of sugar, brought about by a high glycemic diet, lead to the hormonal chain reactions and inflammation that helps fuel acne.

In each of these examples, I’m not only referring to added sugar in sodas or candy. Keep in mind that alcohol is high in sugar, as are processed foods, refined flour (think bread, crackers, pasta, pancakes) and any food with a high glycemic load. A Google search will give you a reference list.

We live in a culture of sugar

It truly is an addictive substance that wreaks havoc on our bodies, and I’m continually disappointed by the amount that’s offered to our kids at school. There is so much ‘drug awareness and prevention’ being taught, yet our children are constantly offered their drug of choice: sweets. They’re rewarded with it. It’s available at all events, and the focus of many school fundraisers. Sleepovers and parties are all about sugar. Camping brings sodas and S’mores, skiing brings hot chocolate. Every holiday and celebration has a focus on sweets. We just begin to recover from Halloween in time for Christmas, then the kids are bringing home boxes of Valentine’s candy, followed right up by their Easter basket. Most of us grow up with this prevailing theme, and pass the addiction on to the next generation.

For acne and aging, and for untold other health reasons, it’s my hope that awareness will increase, and people will take more opportunities to ‘just say no’ to what I’ve come to call, ‘The Other White Drug.’