There's no denying that many of us love to add sugar to almost everything we eat and drink. In fact, between the added sugar in many of our favorite foods to the sweet stuff we mix into our coffee, the average American consumes almost 270 calories of added sugar each day. And in case you're wondering, that's almost 17 teaspoons of sugar.
While the sweet stuff may taste delicious, it can also cause a lot of problems for your body and that includes your skin.
If you've ever had a post-dinner overindulgence of your favorite sugary sweets, then you know all too well what can happen to your skin overnight
All it takes is one look in the mirror to see how that pint of ice cream went to work on your skin while you were sleeping. But what is it about sugar that causes your skin to fight back with a vengeance?
"Sugar is an inflammatory food, so sugar causes inflammation within the body," said Dr. Saya Obayan, MD, MPH, FAAD, a board-certified clinical dermatologist. She told INSIDER that when you eat a lot of sugar, the sugar goes directly to your gut, gets processed, then enters your bloodstream, which can lead to inflammation.
The inflammation that happens when you eat foods with a high glycemic index can worsen certain skin conditions. High-glycemic foods such as white bread, soda, salad dressings, candy, and other baked goods contain refined and processed sugars and starches that cause your insulin to spike.
Dr. Donna Hart, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery told INSIDER that when you eat sugar, insulin levels rise, which subsequently increases the inflammation in the skin. And since inflammation is a key component in the formation of acne, you end up seeing flare-ups and an increase in the amount of acne on your face.
Too much sugar can also aggravate other skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis said Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified NYC dermatologist, assistant professor of Dermatology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Because of this, if you have any kind of inflammatory issues, it is best to avoid excessive sugar intake.
And if it's aging skin you're worried about, avoiding excess sugar is definitely in your best interest. That's because diets high in sugar may accelerate skin aging. Hart said that high-glycemic foods also contribute to aging by increasing the breakdown of collagen fibers in a process called glycation.
"Aging skin has the most changes in the dermis, where collagen and elastin fibers reside, and with glycation, sugars basically bind with collagen to form something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs)," said Hart. It's this binding that causes collagen fibers to become stiff and brittle, leading to older-looking skin.
Unless you're really strict about the foods and drinks you consume, avoiding sugar altogether can be a difficult task
The good news is you don't have to completely eliminate sugar completely to get your skin looking great, you just need to pay attention to where it's coming from.
"There is a difference between added sugars and the sugars that are naturally found in foods such as fruits and vegetables," explained Jaliman. Because of that, she said, including those foods in your day is OK because they add nutrients and nutritious value to your diet. For clear and healthy skin, it's the processed sugars and simple carbohydrates you want to avoid, but you don't need to be too militant about it.
And Dr. Kathleen Cook Suozzi, MD, a Yale Medicine dermatologic surgeon, and director of Aesthetic Dermatology agreed. She told INSIDER that a moderate amount of sugar in your diet is unlikely to have clinically evident effects on the skin, but excessive levels of sugar may exacerbate skin aging in the long term. In general, Suozzi said lowering sugar and saturated fats and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and omega fatty acids is prudent advice for skin health as well as overall health.
Registered dietitian, Rachel Fine, RD, CSSD, CDN told INSIDER that it's best to choose sugar from naturally occurring sources, such as fruit since the accompanying fiber and water content helps to slow digestion and absorption of the sugar, which prevents those hormone-related blood sugar spikes. And when it comes to packaged foods with added sugars, like most other experts, Fine said to keep these limited throughout your day.
While it's difficult to estimate the exact amount of sugar that's acceptable for people with skin conditions and inflammation, you can follow the guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association. For people who women, that means no more than 100 calories per day, and men should cap their sugar intake at 150 calories per day.