Does Sugar Cause Acne: 5 Practical Tips For Making Healthier Choices

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Acne represents a widespread dermal condition impacting millions globally. Although its precise origins may differ, ranging from hormonal fluctuations, inflammation, pore obstruction, p. acnes bacteria, to the production of keratin and sebum, there is an increasing body of research indicating a connection between the intake of sugar and occurrences of acne flare-ups.

In this article, we will explore the relationship between sugar and acne, how dietary choices can impact skin health, and practical tips for making healthier choices to promote clearer skin, especially when you are starting to consider that your skin might be affected by your sugar intake.

How Does Sugar Cause Acne?

Pancake with frosted sugar and does sugar cause acne

Sugar falls under the class of high-glycemic foods known to cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Think of simple carbs such as white bread and sugary treats. Science now says that foods with a high GI[1] are to blame for acne breakouts. This is because the hormone insulin is produced when excess sugars are consumed.

When this happens, inflammation is experienced all over the body, putting your skin at risk of pimples and other skin problems. Inflammation breaks down elastin and collagen and could actually aggravate acne. These are the two most vital building blocks of the skin.

They are responsible for keeping your skin youthful. Sugar leads to chronic inflammation, which damages the two proteins. What results are fine lines, pimple breakouts, deep wrinkles, and early symptoms of aging. But how does sugar cause acne?

During the processing of sugar, your body tends to produce an excess amount of oil, leading to a dehydrating effect on the skin. This creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow in the pores. Spikes in insulin stimulate oil glands.

When too much sugar is consumed in a person’s diet, it is more likely for you to develop insulin resistance; the pancreas goes into overdrive, producing more insulin than necessary and insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a chain of hormones similar to insulin.

IGF has the potential to activate androgens, which then prompt the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. It is clear that hormonal imbalances trigger acne. Your diet influences your sex hormones, including IGF-1, insulin, and testosterone, all of which promote breakouts.

Your diet’s glycemic load affects your hormones the most. Eliminating sugar and eating a healthy diet can balance out these hormones. Understand that sugar also has the potential to create a suppressive effect on the immune system.

Practical Tips forĀ Making Healthier Choices

spoon pouring sugar and does sugar cause acne

There are many healthy sugar alternatives, like natural sweeteners and fruits, that can help lower your blood sugar levels. But if you’re considering taking the path of making healthier dietary choices, here are some steps you can take.

Switch to Low GI Foods

Foods with a low GI take longer to break down, allowing your blood glucose to stabilize. This enables you to feel full for a longer time. Instead of reaching out for sugary treats, potatoes, or white bread, eat lean meats, nuts, tofu, and low-GI fruits such as plums, cantaloupe, and blueberries.

The recommended amount of daily added sugar is 150 calories, but unfortunately, most people consume far more than that. For instance, yogurt, juices, and peanut butter, among others, contain a very high amount of sugar.

Switch from Soda to Water

Sodas have very high amounts of sugar, and some can go as high as 30 grams per serving. This can quickly cause an inflammatory effect and a spike in blood glucose levels, both of which can lead to acne. If you are looking for an energy boost, choose green tea instead, which is loaded with health benefits. For hydration, drink more water to maintain healthy skin.

Manage Stress

You seriously need to chill out to prevent the domino effect responsible for breakouts. Reducing stress levels can also help you stay away from sweet treats and comfort foods. Why don’t you engage in some yoga, jog around, take a nap, or get into any other healthy activities?

Go Sugar and Dairy Free

Milk, even the organic type, is loaded with hormone triggers that could cause acne. This is why most studies have linked skim milk and other dairy products to acne. One study found that adults who consumed milk and ice cream regularly were four times more likely to suffer from breakouts.

For instance, cow’s milk has been found to contain high amounts of amino acids, which cause the liver to produce more IGF-1. Dairy does not cause breakouts in everyone, but if it has recently become your daily diet, you might consider giving it a break to observe changes in your flare-ups. Switch to low-GI milk alternatives such as soy milk and unsweetened almond milk.

Try Seasoning

There are herbs and spices that have been found to help eliminate pimples. These include garlic, ginger, cloves, allspice, oregano, and cinnamon. Add them to your food as a seasoning for a healthier and more tasty meal.

Cutting down on sugar will no doubt improve your skin. However, do not assume that it will completely clear the breakouts. In addition to eliminating it, you may need an acne treatment solution to clear up stubborn flare-ups.

While cutting down on sugar is a great way to reduce breakouts, a good skincare routine is a step that cannot be skipped. You need consistent application of the right products, as recommended by your dermatologist. That includes anti-acne and topical medications.

Because there are many factors that cause acne and hormonal fluctuations in the body, you cannot just assume that sugar is the culprit. It is therefore imperative that you seek the opinion of a dermatologist to rule it out through an assessment of the breakout and your skin type and to put you on a skincare regimen. Acne is best treated with a comprehensive approach.

pile of 3 doughnuts

The Role of Diet in Maintaining Healthy Skin

Apart from the direct sugar-acne connection, overall dietary choices also play a crucial role in skin health. Processed foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats can promote inflammation and oxidative stress, contributing to skin problems. A balanced diet that includes nutrient-rich foods can support clearer and healthier skin.

Impact of High Sugar Diets

Diets rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to a higher prevalence of acne and other skin conditions. These foods can disrupt hormonal balance, encourage inflammation, and weaken the skin’s natural defenses. As a result, individuals may experience more frequent and severe acne breakouts.

The Role of Processed Foods

Processed foods often contain hidden sugars and unhealthy fats, which are detrimental to skin health. The additives and preservatives in these foods can also trigger inflammatory responses, further aggravating acne symptoms. Opting for whole, natural foods can promote better skin health.

Benefits of a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide essential nutrients for skin health. Antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in these foods support skin repair, protect against free radicals, and maintain a vibrant complexion.

spoonful of sugar with raspberry on top does sugar cause acne

Frequently Asked Questions

Can sugar directly cause acne?

While sugar itself may not directly cause acne, high-sugar diets can contribute to hormonal imbalances and inflammation, both of which can exacerbate acne breakouts.

How long does it take for dietary changes to show effects on the skin?

The time it takes for dietary changes to show effects on the skin can vary from person to person. Some individuals may notice improvements within a few weeks, while others may take longer.

Are all sugars bad for the skin?

Natural sugars found in fruits and some sweeteners like honey have less impact on the skin compared to refined sugars. Moderation and choosing healthier alternatives are key.

Is chocolate linked to acne breakouts?

While some studies have suggested a possible link between chocolate consumption and acne, the evidence is not conclusive. Moderation is advised.

Can hormonal acne be managed through diet?

Dietary changes, particularly reducing sugar and processed food intake, can help manage hormonal acne to some extent, but individual results may vary.

chocolate bars and does sugar cause acne


The link between sugar and acne highlights the importance of dietary choices in maintaining clear and healthy skin. By reducing sugar intake, incorporating nutrient-rich foods, and adopting a holistic approach to skin health, individuals can support their skin and improve their overall well-being. Making informed choices about diet, skincare, and stress management can lead to clearer, more radiant skin.

Committing to the changes is something that makes an individual feel better. If you are on the bandwagon for notorious acne, you might consider keeping sugar aside. Skipping sugar is not just the better choice because it will reduce the concentration of acne, but it will also improve your overall health.

Also, check out the other comparison review I did below for more options on facial care procedures: