Sugar Acne Link: How Sugar Causes Acne

Some might not believe that there is a connection between food and acne. Specifically sugar and acne. You might say, “my friend always eat junk food and her skin is super clear. Is diet really important for acne?”, and my answer will be a resounding YES. Some people have genetic predisposition that makes them not prone to acne, and food will not affect the balance of their hormones and their skin health that much. But if you do have acne, you should not adopt the same lifestyle as they do. Previously, I have covered lifestyle changes for acne. In this post, we will discuss sugar acne relationship. There are many questions out there about “acne from sugar consumption” or “breakout from sugar consumption”. You also might wonder “why does sugar cause acne?”. We will discuss them here, so continue reading.

Why does sugar cause acne?

Our body needs sugar to function, however there is a possibility that sugar can cause acne. And some people are more prone to this than others. Let me explain the sugar acne relationship here. 

When you consume sugar or carbohydrates that get converted to sugar eventually, you will have spikes in blood sugar level. Spikes in blood sugar can cause a few things. First, inflammation throughout your body. Second, increased production of sebum/oil in your skin. A combination of inflammation and sebum production can lead to acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), scientists believe that low-glycemic diet can help with acne. 

Glycemic index refers to the ability of carbohydrate-containing food to increase blood sugar. Low glycemic index means the food will increase blood sugar in low amount, vice versa.

sugar acne_sugary food

How to prevent breakout from sugar consumption?

The answer is, limit sugar consumption in the first place! When I went to my nutritionist, she recommended me a diet based on the sugar acne relationship that we discussed above. The gist of the diet is to reduce inflammation in the body and regulate hormones. That can be achieved by avoiding consumption of anything that can cause inflammation and spike the hormones, including carbs/sugar. Other than that alcohol, caffeine, red meat are also in the list of things to avoid.

Diet to Regulate Hormones and Minimize Sugar

Restrictions on (means none or very minimum amount of):

  • Simple carbs including bread, rice, noodle, potato
  • Dairy (lactose is not good for skin and it might contain hormones from the cow as well)
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • High Glycemic Index fruits 
  • Red meat like pork/beef (because they have hormones injected to them by farmers)

Recommendations:

  • Romaine salad to replace carbs, with tomato and cucumber as the main companions to the romaine. no mayonnaise for salad dressing
  • Fruits only limited to apple and orange. Half an apple or half an orange a day
  • Fish and chicken as protein source
  • Omega 3 and Vitamin C as every day supplements
  • Basking under the morning (8 am / 9 am) sun for 30 minutes every day

I went through with this diet for almost 2 years because I was so tired of my acne and breakouts. As a result from the diet, I felt very energized and healthy. Moreover, my skin has never been clearer and for the first time, I felt good in my own skin again. What’s better is that it is sustainable. Unlike your visits to dermatologist where they give you topical cream that might stop your acne. However, when you stop using the cream your acne comes back again, and it comes back worse than before.

sugar acne_clear skin

Given the sugar acne relationship, should you change your diet?

If you want to take the sustainable route of fixing your acne problem, this is worth trying. It sounds simple, but it is hard to maintain. However, it was worth it and I learnt a lot from this understanding of sugar acne relationship and from adopting the diet.

This diet taught me how:

  1. To be in control of my acne
  2. Our body works and how food may affect our skin health
  3. Not to rely on skincare products, but instead fix my imbalances from within

In the course of 2 years I did not always follow the restrictions to the T. I played around with recipes on my own. For example, if I craved rice, I substituted rice with quinoa (a better “grain” alternative). You will learn to be creative in this whole journey and it will also open up your horizon to the world of nutrition.

By changing your diet, not only that you can clear your acne, but you will also be healthier in the process. You may not need to adopt the diet too strictly over time, but you can learn what is your acne trigger and minimize its consumption. I shared my experience when I took the route of laser acne treatment, which did not solve the root cause of my acne. It is not only expensive, but also not effective. 

5 thoughts on “Sugar Acne Link: How Sugar Causes Acne

  1. I have holes and scars left out on my face because of acne.Also I am still struggling with the acne.I started eating fruits a lot.that helped me reduce acne.but I don’t understand how to get rid of my scars and holes.please help me out.

    • Hi Meghana. My personal experience is to be careful with sugar consumption including fruits that contains fructose as well. Eating low GI fruits is the best for your insulin and hormone levels regulation. For holes and scars, it really depends on what kind of acne scars they are. Hyperpigmentation can be solved using topical product. I do use AHA and BHA regularly that helps to exfoliate my skin and increase cell turnover of those scarred area. vitamin C serums also helps to lighten up the hyperpigmentation. Holes (as in ice pick scars) needs to be treated using laser or TCS cross unfortunately. Through all my research for holes treatment there is no cheap or natural way to do this.

    • hi Meghana – sorry for the late reply. Be mindful that eating fruits a lot may not be the best way to tackle acne. From my experience sugar can aggravate your acne and fruits do contain fructose (which will be broken down into glucose). Eat more greens instead, have more salads than pastas or pizzas or rice.

      Regarding scars and holes, unfortunately it will be best handled by dermatologist. You may need to do chemical peel to get rid of hyperpigmentations and lasers to improve your skin texture. Try to find reliable dermatologist clinics who can give you honest advise for treatments as well as reasonable price.

      I did go through such treatments to help me improve the appearance of some scars. They are not gone completely though, but improved a lot.

  2. My daughter has a lot of acne. I took her to a dermatologist and he tried every topical ointment and cream he had. Nothing helped. He said the next step is Accutane. I won’t let her take that. I took her for Lazer treatments and it didn’t help. It left her with a lot of hyperpigmentation. I ordered the Mad Hippie vitamin C serum you recommended. I hope it helps. I’ve been trying to get her to eat better and she tries, but not enough. She loves carbohydrates and hates vegetables. I hate to see her suffer. She doesn’t want to leave the house. I am enjoying reading your posts. I just found them today. Have you tried the oil cleansing method or do you have any thoughts on it? Thank you.

    • Hi Ann, glad that you can relate to the posts I have written.

      There are other ways to deal with acne other than accutane, and I believe you will prefer more natural approach that doesn’t damage the body and give long lasting effect for the body. The way to do it is to somehow target the root cause of acne. Sadly to say, root cause of acne is hard to pinpoint. Everyone has different reasons why they got acne. The symptoms (acne and breakout) may be the same but the cause may differ. It is a complicated b****.

      The more natural approach though will take more time to show its effects, I had my acne disappeared starting from the 3rd month I changed my diet and then gradually my skin became totally clear. During those months definitely we can grow impatient and wish to have a more drastic improvement within a short period of time. However I will totally totally recommend explore changing diet to improve acne – I know there are doctors out there who say food and acne have no link but I know for sure from my own experience it isn’t true. I healed mine by taking zero antibiotic and only by changing my diet and taking supplements (omega 3 and vitamin c). Find a good nutritionist may help for your daughter case. If you need to prepare healthier food, YouTube offers a wealth of information how to make eating healthy fun as you can make yummy food out of healthier ingredients. I went through a very strict one year without rice or simple carbs, beef, alcohol, milk, and fried food – all because I want to see my skin improve.

      Mad Hippie Vitamin C really helps me with my hyperpigmented scars from acne. Use it in the morning before wearing sunscreen will also increase the efficacy of the UV protection. However if your daughter have very active acne I am not sure how much it will help in preventing the new ones from coming out. I strongly believe that topical treatment can only do as much, the issue of acne lies within the body as our skin is a window to our health. One thing to keep in mind is also not to be too harsh to our skin. Don’t overdue the skin, use gentle face wash with low pH and without harsh surfactants, always moisturize the skin and wear SPF to prevent hylerpghyperpigme of the acne scars.

      I did lasers to deal with my scars. I did mine around 8 years ago after I got my horrible cystic acne breakout. At that time my skin was still erupting and has not really calmed down. My mom still insisted me going for the treatment regardless, to prevent the one coming out to surface. I don’t think it was really effective in that way for my case as my skin just erupted regardless I got laser treatment (I did CO2 laser btw). In retrospect I think laser is more worth it in dealing with the aftermath of acne (resurfacing the skin, reduce pigmentation and scarring etc) as it is very expensive and you can imagine the laser trying to reduce the marks but your body is still “creating” new acne that cause new marks.. having said all that, you should consult dermatologist who can suggest you other types of laser that is
      may be suitable in dealing with very active acne.

      I did try oil pulling before, some people see improvement in acne from doing oil pulling but I didn’t. On the other hand I just don’t think it is a routine I can keep up with as I don’t like the idea of swirling oil around my mouth for several minutes. I did it for a few weeks back then and can’t keep doing it unfortunately. It is actually not hard to do as you can use the ingredients you have in the kitchen. You just need discipline in doing it to see results I guess. The effect may not be immediate but more of gradual, just like any other more natural approaches. My current favorite home treatment is something easier to do such that I can incorporate into my daily routine, it is called Water Therapy. It is cheap, easy to do and effective. I can testify to that. You can read more on Google about it. Supposedly it improves the overall health of the body and help to clear skin for some people. I wrote about it in my recent post as well.

      Hope this helps to answer your question. Let me know if you need any other clarification or help. Cheers!

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