Sugar and Skin from the Inside Out


Do you have a sweet tooth? Many of us do. With Halloween and the holiday season just around the corner, you will be more and more tempted by sugary treats. Although sugar has an alluring taste and is addictive in nature, it has a lot of potential to damage skin. In fact, it is one of the most significant triggers of skin problems, including inflammation. But there is good news about sugar! It isn’t all bad when it is used on the outside of the body. Sugar causes many skin problems from the inside, but on the outside, sugar is a natural and useful beauty tool. When used topically, it can contribute to radiant and luminous skin on the face and body. 

Sugar and skin on the inside 

Inside the body, sugar triggers inflammation, and it is an acidic food. Eating sugar causes blood glucose levels to spike quickly. In turn, rising and falling blood sugar contributes to feeling sluggish, shaky, and fatigued. But the effects of sugar go beyond how you are physically feeling. These effects can also show up externally.

The body uses glucose (blood sugar) as a primary fuel source, but if glucose is consumed in excess, or not used and metabolized properly, blood sugar increases, which can lead to glycation issues. That means glucose binds to skin’s collagen and elastin and makes them more rigid, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. Another problem with increased blood sugar is that it causes increased insulin production, which triggers excess sebum production and androgen activity. This leads to those uncomfortable and embarrassing acne breakouts and redness. 

To avoid these negative reactions to sugar, avoid refined sugar and sweeteners that spike your blood sugar. You’ll also want to avoid (or limit) high-glycemic carbohydrates, including bread, potatoes, pasta, and desserts, which rapidly convert into glucose in the body. 

It might be difficult for you to imagine a life without sugar. Many people have actual sugar addictions and find it hard to stop eating sugar. You do not have to stop eating sugar all the time, but instead, make healthier choices. For example, swap white table sugar for an alternative, like plant-based stevia or monk fruit. You can also eat fresh fruits and berries to enjoy a more refreshing but still delicious sweet taste. Plus, fruits and berries are naturally hydrating, whereas sugar is dehydrating which leads to an appearance of dull and parched skin. 

Overall, blood sugar imbalances are one of the big root causes of skin issues. To find out if this is one of your root causes, take our skin personality type quiz.

Sugar and skin on the outside

On the outside of the body, sugar can be beneficial because it is one of the world’s oldest humectants. This means it pulls moisture from the environment and draws it into the skin. Using a sugar scrub on the skin, especially when it is combined with another moisturizing agent, helps naturally hydrate your skin. Another benefit of sugar, when used on the skin, is that it is a natural source of glycolic acid. Glycolic acid promotes cell turnover to bring out your natural radiance, and it is typically used to minimize the discoloration so you can reveal brighter, younger-looking skin.

Sugar scrubs help soften your skin by removing dead skin cells, dirt, pollutants and helps unclog pores. Sugar scrubs are also better to use than salt scrubs. Most of the time, sugar granules are smaller and more gentle than salt granules, especially brown sugar. Brown sugar is softer than granulated sugar, so it is useful for sensitive skin, including on the face.  Raw sugar is usually more coarse than other types of sugar, so it should be avoided on the face. 

If you want to try out a sugar exfoliant at home, you can make this easy brown sugar and aloe vera gel exfoliant with just two ingredients: brown sugar and aloe vera gel. Aloe vera gel has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it easily penetrates the skin easily to quickly deliver nourishment. It is also known for its ability to soothe skin. Combining it with brown sugar in this exfoliant makes a gentle and nourishing scrub that is gentle enough to use on your face.

You will need: 

1 tablespoon organic brown sugar

½ teaspoon aloe vera gel

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and aloe vera gel. Apply to your body or face and gently massage for two to five minutes. Rinse with warm water and a washcloth. Use only once per week. For the face, I also recommend natural exfoliants specifically made for the face.

You can find this and other recipes in my book, Clean Skin From Within.

The temptation to eat sugar is very real, especially during the fall and winter months. Do your best to make good decisions in the kitchen on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an occasional treat, but sugar is a much better treat for the outside of your skin! Next time you’re tempted to reach for the sugar, use it for DIY skin care instead! 

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