3 Ways Your Sweet Tooth Can Ruin Your Skin

October 01, 2016


By Dr. Jen Newell, ND

The other morning, I was discussing the impact of diet on the health of your skin with a patient of mine. She was shocked that I so firmly believe that what you eat impacts your appearance because her dermatologist had told her for years that there was no connection. Unfortunately, this myth has survived for far too long. Your diet and lifestyle are the foundation on which your health is built, including the health and radiance of your skin.

One of the foods that has the greatest impact on your skin is sugar. The two greatest contributors to acne are hormones and inflammation. Hormones cause an increase in sebum (oil) production and skin cell growth leading to an accumulation of sticky, thick sebum and dead skin cells within the pores. Inflammation promotes bacterial growth within those pores. Sugar has it’s sticky fingers in both of these processes and can ruin your skin in 3 ways.

  1. Sugar aggravates hormonal imbalances

Most cases of acne are hormonal to some degree. Acne-prone skin is sensitive to androgens (male sex hormones) – androgens stimulate sebum production and skin cell growth. When you eat sugar and your blood glucose rises. In response, your pancreas produces insulin to stimulate uptake of that sugar by the cells. Elevated insulin levels increase IGF-1…IGF? WTF? Higher values of IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor) are associated with more severe acne, oilier skin and larger more visible pores.

  1. Sugar drives inflammation

Multiple studies have shown that individuals with acne have higher levels of inflammation. Sugar increases inflammation dramatically. One study showed that a single can of pop/soda per day for 3 weeks increased inflammation levels by 87% (2 cans per day led to an increase of 105%). Systemic inflammation increases redness, cystic blemishes and the risk of scarring from acne.

  1. Sugar disrupts gut bacteria

Excess sugar consumption alters gut bacteria by promoting the overgrowth of pathogenic (AKA bad) bacteria. This disrupted balance leads to an increase in inflammation and an exacerbation of acne and other skin conditions.

Sugar definitely contributes to acne…now that doesn’t mean you have to avoid sugar like the plague, the occasional treat is not something to stress out about but expect trouble if you indulge too frequently.

Have a beautiful day!




Jen NewellDr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.

Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *