Breakouts: The Effects of Sugar on the Skin

Spa City Organics

Breakouts Got You Down?


Have you been concerned lately about the number of breakouts you’ve been experiencing on your skin? We’ve all experienced these troubling eruptions;  I know I have; but when I was younger, they were a great mystery to me. It took me a long time to realize that what I ate had a profound, and quick, effect on my skin.

Today, there is a lot more awareness about the connection between what we eat, and the condition of our complexion. Most of us have been able to make the associations of the inherent effects that certain foods have on our skin. Many people cite chocolate, dairy and fast foods as obvious sources of trouble, along with various other food sensitivities which, for them, may cause flare-ups; but it seems the food that causes the most problems with our skin, is sugar.

A recent study looking at acne-causing foods, cited refined grains and sugars as the #1  acne-causing food. These are foods which are simple carbohydrates, made of white flour, such as bread, crackers, and pasta, and foods that contain refined sugars, such as soft drinks, candy and baked goods. These two foods are put in the same category, because the body responds and metabolizes them, in the same way - they have, essentially, identical effects on the body.

These effects on our skin are profound. The moment we ingest refined sugars, our bodies produce a surge of insulin to stabilize blood sugar levels. When there is an increase in insulin, inflammation results, and thus causes a host of problems, including exacerbating existing skin problems such as rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and acne.

A diet rich in sugary foods creates the perfect environment in which acne will thrive. The  inflammation caused by the insulin surge, causes our bodies to produce stress hormones, such as cortisol. This boosts oil production, giving blemishes the perfect environment in which to grow. It also causes acidity, which is a fundamental problem in most complexion concerns. In addition, blemishes not only increase in number, but also become more red and painful.

Sick and Tired?

And, as if that’s not enough, a diet high in sugar-laden foods suppresses our body’s normal response to bacterial and viral attack: our immune system is suppressed. This, of course, can have global effects on our bodies, leaving us more vulnerable to illness in a general way; but this immunity suppression is also specific in regard to our complexion, because our body is left more vulnerable to acne-causing bacteria.

Also, sugar consumption makes the body create more testosterone, which causes us to have larger pores, and more oily skin; it also hardens blood vessels, giving one a ruddy complexion. Sugar is also dehydrating. This causes an increase in oil production, which causes mild swelling and breakouts, while leaving the skin less oxygenated, causing it to look sallow and lackluster.

But perhaps the greatest harm caused by ingesting sugar, is a process called glycation. When sugar molecules break down, they permanently bond with our collagen and elastin - proteins that are essential to firm, healthy skin - and weaken them, causing them to lose strength and flexibility. These bondings are called ‘advanced glycosylation end products’ (AGEs), which ultimately increase the effects of aging, and exacerbate existing skin conditions like acne and rosacea. Best selling author and dermatologist, Nicholas Perricone has said that AGEs are at the very heart of aging. Wrinkles, deep lines and sagging skin- as well as acne - are a direct result of glycation and AGEs. 

Secret Sugars

Many people may feel that they don’t have much sugar in their diet, but we don’t need to eat a lot of obvious sweets to be effected by glycation, because we have so many hidden sugars in our diet. So many of our foods that we think of as ‘innocent’ have a surprising amount of hidden sugars. For instance, yogurt is thought of as a healthy snack, but most flavored yogurts pack a big sugar punch. Typically yogurts contain anywhere from 17g to 33 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving ( 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon.) Salad dressing typically contains 5-7 g per 2 tbl., and a granola bar can have 8-12 g of sugar. Soups, pasta sauce, almond milk and breakfast cereals also are big sources of sugar. And of course, our loved designer coffees can be killer: Starbuck’s Blended Coffee Frappucino with whipped cream has a whopping 69g of sugar - or 17 teaspoons! Getting into the habit of reading labels and being mindful of how much sugar we are consuming, can go a long way toward helping us to avoid its harmful effects.

In general, highly processed foods tend to be high in sugar. Sugars are called by many different names; in fact, there are 61 different names for sugar used in the food industry. Sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup are but a few of the different names behind which sugar can be hidden. No wonder consumers can be confused about exactly how much sugar they are consuming.

A Fresh, New Start

Luckily, we can halt, and to some degree, reverse sugar's effects on our skin. Dermatologist and author, Dr Frederic Brandt, has said that giving up sugar can make you look 10 years younger. Dermatologist, Dr. Harold Lancer, says that the results are fast: when you give up sugar, he says, you see improvements within 72-96 hours.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, found in brightly colored vegetables and fruits, can be an enormous boost to the health of our skin. All sorts of berries and fruits are rich in antioxidants, as are kidney beans, and artichokes. Also, it has been found that a diet rich in vitamin B1 and B6 inhibit AGEs (beef, liver, nuts and brewers yeast are great sources of B1, and dark, green leafy vegetables, oranges, papaya and cantaloupe are high in B6.) 

Switching from simple carbohydrates to complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread (instead of white bread) butternut squash or  brown rice (instead of white rice) for instance, are changes that are easy to make, and that will significantly have a positive impact in the long run. Additionally, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is highly recommended, both, as a nutritional supplement, and as a topical treatment to counter the effects of AGEs. ALA’s fat solubility helps it to easily penetrate the skin, where it's great anti-inflammatory properties help to protect your cells from free radical damage.

If you are currently dealing with acne, implementing these changes is sure to improve your situation. And be sure to use products on your skin that are free of harsh chemicals, and that are perfectly suited to your skin type.

At Spa City Organics, we have many all natural skincare products, each created for specific skin types, so we have the right products for your unique skincare needs. We will be happy to guide you toward the products that are best for you to use at home. For instance, we have products that are specifically made to help clarify your skin, like our Be Clear Acne Spot Treatment, with tea tree oil, lavender and cypress, to help heal your skin quickly; or our Be Clear Foaming Face Wash, loaded with nutrients and anti-inflammatories, as well as healing aloe vera.

There are also many essential oils which are extremely effective for treating acne, such tea tree oil, lavender, frankincense and lemongrass, all of which are available for you to create your own products at our Blending Bar. You can make over 30 different products, such as body lotion, facial oil, body scrub, and bath and body oil, to name a few.

So don’t let troubled skin get you down! A few adjustments in our habits can make a world of difference.


Local, organic and eco-conscious, we pride ourselves on the fact that all of our products that we use for our services, and sell in our spa, are mindfully, and small-batch made, right on our premises in our spa manufacturing lab.

“This information is provided for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

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