Charleston Dermatology Blog

Sugar and Skin Health: A Sweet and Sour Relationship

  • skin-conditions
  • skincare-tips

Everyone deserves a sweet treat now and again. But did you know too much sweetness can leave your skin feeling sour? Excessive sugar can wreak havoc on your complexion, but it’s no cause for panic. Our board-certified dermatologists are here to help you understand how sugar affects your skin, plus simple lifestyle changes that can save it. 

How does sugar affect your skin?

When it comes to our sugar intake, balance and moderation are key to maintaining healthy skin. Next time you reach for something sweet, remember that it may contribute to these effects:


Refined sugars, like those in sugary snacks and beverages, can trigger inflammation in the body that can also manifest on the skin’s surface. But how? Let us explain! 

When your body processes high amounts of sugar, it releases inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines. When released in an influx, these chemicals can lead to various skin issues, including redness, puffiness and even conditions like acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Excessive sugar consumption can exacerbate these skin problems by promoting inflammation.

Solution: Reduce sugar intake by opting for whole foods and minimizing processed snacks and sugary drinks. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins can help reduce the overall inflammatory load on your skin.

Signs of Aging

When sugar molecules bind to proteins like collagen and elastin, glycation can occur. This process creates harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can make your skin less supple, leading to a loss of elasticity and the formation of wrinkles. Over time, the accumulation of AGEs can result in visible signs of aging, making your skin appear older than it is.

Solution: Limit your intake of high-sugar foods and prioritize foods rich in antioxidants, which help neutralize the harmful effects of AGEs.

Acne Aggravation

High-glycemic foods, such as sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates – think white bread and pastries – can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. These spikes trigger an insulin response, stimulating the production of skin oils (sebum). 

An excess of sebum can clog pores and provide a favorable environment for the growth of acne-causing bacteria. The result? Increased and more stubborn breakouts.

Solution: Opt for complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables with a lower glycemic index. These foods release sugar more slowly into your bloodstream, helping to stabilize insulin levels and reduce the likelihood of acne flare-ups.

Treat yourself to healthy skin!

Is your skin in need of support? Our board-certified dermatologists are ready to help! We are proud to provide for South Carolina patients seeking skincare expertise. Contact us today to book your appointment and learn more about our cosmetic and medical dermatological services!

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