When it comes to beauty and health, what you eat and drink can have a huge effect on whether you wake up with a dewy complexion or dull skin. It's not always easy to pinpoint which foods can have a bad effect on your skin. Both natural and refined sugars are often pinned as the culprits for that unexpected pimple, flushed skin, or even early signs of aging, but before you swear off sugar forever (which would be a really difficult thing to do considering everything from tomato sauce to yogurt contain natural or added sugars), check out the different ways sugar can help brighten your skin — and how to combat any negative effects caused by your favorite foods.
The Fine Lines
Although you might be more concerned about what your favorite treat can do to wreak havoc on your waistline, sugar has also been linked to wrinkles. Through a process called glycation, sugar in the body sticks to fat and protein cells, which form advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs harm the precious protein fibers (collagen and elastin) responsible for bright, smooth skin. And while you might side-eye that tempting candy bar with triumph, the sugar in pasta, wine, bread, and even vegetables can also contribute to glycation. But don't freak out just yet—staying hydrated, eating a diet rich in B1 vitamins and B6, and using products containing retinol (which rebuild collagen) can keep you looking great for years despite your insane sweet tooth.
Juice for a Glow
Although a 12-ounce glass of orange juice contains 33 grams of sugar (almost as much as a soda or candy bar), reaching for fresh juice doesn't affect your skin in a negative way. "We can't put all sugar in the same basket," says Katherine Baqleh, Australian-based nutritionist and founder of Health Victory Nutrition Experts. "Refined sugar from nutrient-dense foods such as desserts (biscuits, pastries, cakes) makes skin appear oily/dry and blemished. However, sugar from fruit is rich in water, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants and keeps the face looking flawless, smooth, glowing, and with its antioxidant properties, delays the appearance of wrinkles and minimizes the breakout of blemishes, pimples or acne. That 'glow' that people have is the result of adequate hydration and plenty of fruit and vegetables."
Give Your Pores a Taste
Your taste buds aren't the only ones who appreciate a yummy reward at the end of the day. The small particles in white, brown, and raw sugar are awesome for exfoliating away dead skin on your face, which helps reveal the fresh skin below for a natural glow—plus, sugar is gentler on skin than sand or salt granules, which can cause irritation while scrubbing away dirt. Make a simple sugar scrub with brown sugar and coconut oil twice a week for a flawless glow.
Why We Still Want to Blame the Chocolate
Ever felt bloated after a fun night of wine and desserts? When digesting sugar, your blood sugar rises and then plummets, causing inflammation through all parts of your body. Among the side effects of inflammation is one of our biggest enemies: breakouts. High blood sugar and sugar crashes put your body under stress and make your complexion dull. "That's not to say that an occasional treat will cause any harm – enjoying a dessert food that you really feel like having on special occasions will make you feel happy from the inside out," Bagleh says, explaining, "The best-looking face is the one that carries a smile." We definitely agree with Bagleh on enjoying our treats, but we'll keep incorporating tons of antioxidant-rich foods (like fresh berries and sweet potatoes) into our diets to help repair skin from the inside out.