Sweet Saboteur

 Ever since that first cavity, we have all been told how terrible sugar is for our teeth. Then it was the scale that showed us how donuts and a size 4 are mutually exclusive. But not much mention was made of how bad the white stuff is for your complexion. And we're not talking about sugar scrubs. We're talking about what happens in your body when you ingest sugar, and why it's about the worst thing for your skin, second only to the sun.

Many studies have proven that sugar is the enemy of collagen, one of the essential building blocks of skin. Whenever you decide to treat yourself to that ice cream cone or a beignet after a hard day, consider that all that refined sugar rapidly changes into glucose in your bloodstream, causing an overload to your system called glycation. All those extra glucose molecules grab onto the collagen fibers in your skin and weaken them. Hence, loose, sagging, wrinkled skin that is more susceptible to sun damage. That's a one-two punch that accelerates aging. And it's not just refined sugars. It's all high-glycemic foods, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, and starchy, processed and packaged foods.

Inflammation and Its Aftermath

Sugar causes inflammation throughout the body. Some of the effects of this inflammation or glycation related to skin are: a breakdown in collagen and elastin that harms the skin's support system and elasticity, leading to wrinkles and sagging; exacerbation of acne and rosacea; insulin resistance that can lead to hair growth in unwanted places (hirsutism) and melasma (dark patches of over-pigmentation.)

Sugar and Acne

As an example, when you ingest high-glycemic foods that cause a spike in your insulin levels, the excess insulin triggers your skin's sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which can mingle with dead skin cells and clog pores, resulting in acne breakouts. Sugar also aggravates hormonal acne, the perfect storm for anyone fighting acne. When you are tempted to reach for that cupcake, just think "sebum," because that's how your body will respond to it.  The same goes for processed, packaged foods that are high in sugar. Read the labels. If sugar is the first, second or third ingredient, shelve it. This doesn't mean you have to shackle yourself to a life without sweetness. It's just a heads up to make more healthy (and beautiful) choices. Some studies show that simply switching from high glycemic index foods to low GI foods can reduce acne by 30 to 50%.

So, what do you do when a craving hits?

Berry, Berry Good

All berries, and strawberries in particular, are great for your skin, and so sweet that you can retire the sugar bowl and still feel satisfied. PLUS, berries contain powerful anti-oxidants that counteract other aging processes, so it's a win-win for your skin.

Stevia, Please

Another day way to calm your craving and satisfy a sweet tooth is with the natural, non-glycemic sweetener, stevia. It is available in both liquid and granulated form, and a favorite brand we love is Pyure, which has a natural, sweet flavor without the aftertaste. Experiment with liquid drops to sweeten your beverages instead of sugar. It also makes a great "rimmer" for your water. Slide a slice of lemon or lime around the rim of your glass, dip in a saucerful of granulated stevia, squeeze the rest of the lemon or lime into your glass and fill with ice cold water.  You'll get the sweet you need, Vitamin C, and hydrate at the same time. Your skin will love you for it.  The granulated stevia can also be used in the making of your favorite desserts, so all hope is not lost for you sweet tooths out there. The cure is to gradually wean yourself from refined sugar and high-glycemic foods.

Very Revealing

Another habit to adopt is to gently exfoliate your skin every day to rid your pores of dead skin cells. STEMULATION DAILY MICRODERM SCRUB is a gentle scrub that employs natural diatomaceous earth to whisk away dead skin, stubborn makeup and airborne pollutants, leaving clear pores that are less likely to clog.  Another way to exfoliate is with alpha hydroxy acids, gentle fruit acids that penetrate and deep-clean the pores.  STEMULATION AHA BALANCING HERBAL TONER contains botanical extracts of cucumber and green tea to balance aggravated skin.

Easy Does It

Gradual, conscious changes will wean you from sugar, and that will not only benefit your skin but your entire body and your overall health.  Paraphrasing a famous dieting quote, remember this:  Nothing tastes as good as a clear, glowing, radiant complexion makes you feel!