Is it time for you to break up with sugar?
If you asked your skin, it would probably say yes!
Your sweet tooth may have another opinion.
Either way, during this Valentine’s holiday season, we have a suggestion: How about skipping the chocolate and giving your loved one some clean skincare from CV Skinlabs instead?
He or she would probably enjoy it more, as skincare provides more lasting benefits than chocolate.
Plus, let’s face it: an excess of sugar isn’t good for your health or your skin. Here’s why.
Americans Consume Too Much Sugar
A little sugar here and there isn’t going to hurt you. But on average, Americans eat a lot.
An average of 17 teaspoons of “added sugar” per day, to be exact, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). (Added sugar is added into foods as opposed to naturally being part of foods like fruits.)
This is more than 2-3 times the recommended amount for men and women, respectively. The AHA suggests limiting added sugars to no more than 6 percent of calories each day. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories a day, or about 9 teaspoons.
You can find “added sugars” on the nutrition label. It’s a separate listing from the “total sugar,” which includes both the natural sugars in the food (such as the natural sugar in milk) and any sugar the manufacturer added after the fact.
Where is all this sugar coming from? You may be surprised. Yes, it’s in sugar sweetened sodas, cookies, cakes, and candy, but it’s also in unexpected items like yogurt, soup, bread, cereal, and condiments.
When you start reading labels, you realize how pervasive sugar is in our daily diets. Cutting back takes some effort, but it’s possible.
Is it worth it?
Why You Should Break Up With Sugar
Sugar isn’t good for your general health for several reasons.
First, it’s “energy dense,” which means it can easily cause weight gain. Most high-sugar foods like sodas, juices, and treats lack other nutrients like protein and fiber, so they don’t curb your hunger as well as healthier foods. That makes it too easy to consume a lot of calories.
Second, a high-sugar diet has been linked with some of today’s most dangerous diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some studies even suggest that a diet rich in sugary foods may increase the risk of some types of cancer.
In one study review, researchers found that in two of five studies on added sugars, a 60-95 percent increased cancer risk was observed with higher intakes.
That’s not all. A high-sugar diet may also increase your risk of depression and fatty liver disease.
And if you want to stay as young looking as possible, you’ll want to cut back on sugar, because a high-sugar diet may accelerate the skin aging process.
Break Up with Sugar for Your Skin’s Sake
Research has shown that sugars create changes in the skin that make us look older.
1. Sugar Creates Glycation, Which Leads to Wrinkles
Wrinkles are inevitable as we get older, but if we eat a lot of sugar, we’re likely to get them earlier in life.
That’s because sugar molecules in the bloodstream can attach to proteins like collagen and elastin, which are the main building blocks of youthful, smooth skin. Once they attach to these proteins, they can interact with other proteins to form what we call “advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).”
These AGEs then go on to cause protein fibers to become stiff and malformed. They can no longer perform their normal functions as well as they should, nor can they be properly repaired. That means they can no longer support the structure of the skin.
The result? Increased wrinkles, loss of elasticity, thinner skin, and dryness—all characteristics of aging skin. One 2015 study referred to this as the “sugar sag.” In an earlier study, scientists stated that the process of producing AGEs is accelerated in all body tissues when sugar is elevated, affecting not only the skin, but the blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and heart.
2. Sugar Can Cause Breakouts
If you have acne-prone skin, you have another reason to cut back on sugar, but not just the type of sugar you find in candy and cookies.
Studies have found a correlation between diets with a high glycemic load and an increase in acne breakouts. Foods high on the glycemic index more quickly break down into glucose (a form of sugar), spiking blood sugar levels.
With more glucose in the bloodstream, there is more opportunity for that glucose to combine with proteins and create AGEs. People with untreated diabetes—blood sugar levels that are too high—often experience glycation-induced complications like neuropathy (nerve damage) and retinopathy (eye damage).
A high-glycemic diet can also cause inflammation throughout the body, and inflammation is one of the key factors needed for acne development.
In a 2022 review of 34 studies, researchers found that an increased daily glycemic load intake was positively associated with acne and acne severity. Other studies have shown similar results—that consuming more high glycemic or sugary products was associated with acne breakouts.
3. Sugar Can Increase Inflammation
As mentioned above, a high-sugar or high-glycemic-load diet can increase inflammation in the body, and that’s bad for your skin in a couple of ways.
First, it can increase the risk of acne breakouts. Second, it may trigger an inflammatory response that exacerbates skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Systemic inflammation can also make your skin more sensitive and reactive, so that you experience redness and rashes more often.
Signs You Need to Break Up with Sugar
How do you know whether you’re consuming too much sugar?
Start reading labels and keeping track of how many grams you’re eating every day. Then check your skin for these signs of sugar damage:
Increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
Formation of deep, crevice-like wrinkles
Discoloration and hyperpigmentation
Increased acne breakouts
Slower healing of cuts, scrapes, etc.
And don’t think you’re too young for these effects to start showing up. According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, glycation usually shows up after 35 years of age, then “increase rapidly with intrinsic ageing.”
How to Cut Back on Sugar
So you’re convinced—it’s time to breakup with sugar, or at least cut back. Here are some tips to help you do that:
Change how you think about it: We usually associate sugary treats with pleasure and fun. Try to reframe your mindset so that you see sugar as a destructive force on your skin and health.
Read labels: Be more conscientious about buying soups, breads, yogurts, and condiments. Check the label and choose those that have less or no sugar. As a reference, 4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon.
Avoid sugar substitutions: You may think that all you have to do is choose artificial sweeteners to solve your sugar problems, but research shows that these ingredients can be just as bad, if not worse, for our health. Instead, focus on changing your taste buds to prefer less sweet items.
Rethink breakfast: If you can start your day with less sugar, you’ll set yourself up for consuming less throughout the rest of the day. Avoid sugar-laden processed cereals and choose healthier items like oatmeal, eggs, plain yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain toast.
Avoid all sugary beverages: These are one of the biggest factors in a high-sugar diet. Get used to avoiding them entirely. Instead, choose water, sparkling water, teas, infused waters, and coffee.
Redesign dessert: Try some low-sugar options for dessert. Try mixed berries topped with cinnamon and/or real cream, apples dipped in peanut butter, decaf cappuccino, plain yogurt with fruit and nuts, and dark chocolate.
Invest in quality skincare: Though skincare can’t compete with a high-sugar diet, it can help you recover from one. While you’re working on cutting back, try our CV Skinlabs skin care products to help improve wound healing, tame inflammation, and boost collagen and elastin production.
Have you tried to cut back on sugar?
Featured image courtesy of Pavel Danilyuk via Pexels.