Skincare Mistakes 101: How Sugar & Dairy Can Cause Your Acne

Word is getting out that the link between food and acne is no longer a myth and that they hold a degree of truth. So do the top two contributions to our diet, sugar and dairy, count then? Based on our research, we definitely think so!


Sugar is everywhere and it is delicious. From desserts to soda to fruit and even bread, sugar may make up a good “sneaky” portion of our diet but it’s also a viable energy source to keep our bodies functioning. Sugar is mostly found in a lot of processed carbs like white bread, cakes, donuts, cereal, and the like. And…let’s be honest with ourselves: we tend to overeat those.

To understand the relationship between sugar and carbs, let’s backtrack for a bit. Carbs are split into two groups: simple carbs and complex carbs.


Simple carbohydrates are quick burning fuels that give the body a burst of energy. These simple carbs typically consist of sugars like glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose. To give you some perspective, fructose is a sugar that’s found in fruits and honey, but is also used for flavoring candy and soft drinks. At a molecular level, these sugars resemble somewhat like sentient hexagons that are easily broken down by our body’s digestive system. Some examples of simple carbs include cupcakes, cookies, donuts, soda, juices, and everything else that sweet tooths in the world can’t resist.


Complex carbohydrates (also known as starches) are also sugars that provide fuel to the body but they break down slowly throughout the day. This helps the body retain energy and keeps us feeling full for a longer period of time. At a molecular level, these complex carbs are a cluster of hexagonal sugars kept together into chains. Some examples of complex carbs include starchy veggies like broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes, whole wheat or whole grain bread, legumes, pasta, and rice.

Complex carbs in general are what we should gear towards for maintaining a healthy diet, but simple sugars are when we start to notice interesting things in our body, which can most likely lead to acne and breakouts. Since simple sugars are easily digested in the body, the body releases insulin to combat the sudden spike in glucose, which then causes a burst of inflammation to spread all throughout the body. Remember that your body experiences inflammation to protect itself from infection, illness, or injury.

Essentially eating simple sugars is like pouring gasoline into a fire, which burns uncontrollably fast and dies down just as quickly as it started.

The scary thing about overeating simple sugars is that excess sugar molecules can really damage your skin’s collagen levels through a process called glycation. This process allows the sugar molecules to “eat” away the collagen and elastin on your skin, so to speak, which can eventually create uneven skin tone, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Here’s the thing though: I’m not trying to scare you into cutting off sugars for good. Sugars are essential sources of energy that our body needs and sometimes, we all deserve to treat ourselves to a slice of cake every now and then.

What you can do instead is to reduce the current amount of sugar you eat on a regular basis, and swap out processed sugars for natural sugars to reduce spiking your insulin levels.

For example: if you normally drink tea with two spoonfuls of sugar, gradually switch to one spoon of sugar, then one-two spoons of honey. And if you’re bold, you can start drinking your tea without any sugar in it.

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