The Scoop on Sugar: Acne-Friendly Sugar Substitutes

The Scoop on Sugar: Acne-Friendly Sugar Substitutes

If you have acne, you've likely been told to stay away from sugar, and you've likely been confused. Does that mean you can't even have fruit? That you should consume sugar substitutes? That you can't make any of your favorite recipes this holiday season?

Allow us to help you clear the confusion in time for your next holiday party.

First, check out your refrigerator. Any mayo or Canadian bacon or soda in there? Now check your pantry. Is it full of cookies and other packaged goodies? Yes? Then it's full of sugar, too-and probably not the good kind. The sad truth is that sugar can be found in almost every food these days. When you combine all this sugar with foods that easily and rapidly convert into sugar like potatoes, pasta, crackers and potato chips, your skin may suffer the consequences.

What can sugar do to my skin?

Sugar can cause two major types of damage to your skin:

1. Inflammation, which may affect your organs, including your skin, of course!

2. Glycation, which is a chemical reaction similar to the one that occurs when you fry meat. Collagen (a building block of the skin) deteriorates, and as a result your skin loses its elasticity and brightness. To put it simply, your skin ages!

Not all sugars are created equal.

Bad sugars: "Bad" sugars are those that are processed, refined, void of nutrients, and have a high glycemic index, which means they rapidly break down into glucose and result in insulin spikes.

These are sugars like table sugar and the typical brown sugar (not to be confused with raw sugar that is brown in color) that have more calories, zero nutrients and may even contain harmful remnants of substances that are used in the refining process. Sugar substitutes are no better. Alternative sweeteners such as Splenda have numerous side effects-even if they've been approved by the FDA.

The list of bad sugars also includes simple carbohydrate foods like pizza, jelly, white bread, candy, anything fried, ice cream, fruit juice, soda and most packaged foods. These products may not even say "sugar" on the label. Sugar often wears the disguise of corn syrup (or any word that ends with "syrup"), fructose, lactose (or any word that ends in "ose"), fruit juice concentrate, sorbitol or xylitol.

Good sugars: "Good" sugars are ones that are unrefined or rather less refined; still contain nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, & potassium; and have a relatively lower glycemic index, which means they take longer to break down into glucose and do not result in big insulin spikes.


Stick with sweeteners like organic coconut palm sugar, birch tree extract, date sugar, raisins, honey, natural unsweetened applesauce and unsweetened cocoa powder. 

Good, unprocessed sugars can also be found in fruits and vegetables, which are full of nutrients.

So how can I eat sugar without harming my skin?

Too much of ANY sugar may harm your skin and your body. Choose good sugars and eat food containing these sugars in moderation. If you're currently eating a lot of sugar every day, you need to decrease your intake. Here are some tips on how to do that this holiday season:

  1. Be an educated consumer. Read the labels at stores (keep an eye on your inbox for an upcoming post about how to read those labels) and ask your waitress what is in the food you're about to eat. Pay attention to the sugar content but also the carb content. Go for complex carbs with a low glycemic index like vegetables, whole grains, and fruits such as berries, which have less sugar.
  2. Figure out which foods contain carbs that have a high glycemic index and try to avoid them or at least limit them. See for this information.
  3. Eat other foods that will help lessen the effects of sugar on your body. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar and will also keep you fuller longer. Choose foods to eat that have a higher concentration of fiber such as nuts, almonds, beans, flax or sesame seeds and bran. Antioxidants and proteins, when eaten before carbs or sugar-filled products, prevent the rapid increase in sugar level in your blood, prevent excessive food cravings, can help you lose weight and will keep your body younger-looking and less prone to inflammation.
  4. Eat before you go to that holiday party. Fill up on something nutritious so you won't be so tempted to stuff down baked goods. Try a spoonful of natural, low-fat cottage cheese, a hard-boiled egg, or 2-3 slices of home-baked turkey breast.

And remember-eating the right sugars might help reduce inflammation, but it won't treat your acne. The key to breaking the acne cycle is getting to the root of the problem and treating from the inside.

With a Promise of Clear Skin,
Dr. A and the AcnEase®


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