This Is Your Skin on Sugar
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with Jolene Hart, the author of Eat Pretty, about the wonders of hemp seeds when she mentioned the link between blood sugar spikes and skin. As she explained, when your blood sugar spikes, your hormone levels get thrown off and this can lead to inflammation which can then lead to wrinkles, weight gain and blemishes. Pass, right?
This was just a sidebar in our larger conversation, but weeks later, I was still thinking about spikes in blood sugar and the toll those spikes can take on skin. So I decided to call Naomi Fenlin, owner of Washington Square West’s About Face Skin Care and acne-clearing guru. I was curious to know: What kind of role does sugar play when it comes to acne?
Fenlin broke it down like this: When we consume simple carbohydrates like refined sugar, our blood sugar levels quickly spike and our pancreas responds by releasing the hormone insulin. This release of insulin stimulates androgens, the male hormones in the body that are linked to hormonal acne, and the stimulation of those androgens prompts a spike in oil production and skin cell growth. Hello, pimples. The insulin spike also leads to a systemic inflammatory response which, as I mentioned earlier, can results in blemishes and wrinkles. Yikes, right?
But, as Fenlin explains: one, nothing in moderation will kill you and two, not everyone will break out after an ice cream binge; it comes down to how you are genetically wired and whether or not your androgen levels are already out of whack. As she says, “I could eat sugar from now until the cows come home and I would never break out,” because she doesn’t have the hormonal make-up linked to acne. I know: Life is not fair.
So really, it’s the folks who are already predisposed to hormonal breakouts (my hand is raised high in the air) who need to watch their sugar intake if they’re worried about breaking out. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t all be cutting back on the amount of sugar we’re chowing down on. After all, we’re pretty much all eating too much of it anyway.
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