Right from childhood to now, if there's one warning that's been consistent in our lives, it's to stay away from sugar – the chocolates, the colas, the sinful desserts and so on. Especially if you've been on the weight loss wagon. And we've told ourselves “you only live once, so make it sweet!” way too many times than we're proud to admit. But guess what? Sugars do more than just make themselves at home on the waistline. They open up the gates to pretty much all your skincare nightmares.
Woah. What exactly do sugars do?
A diet that's disturbingly high in sugar raises insulin levels, which in turn puts your body under the pressure of unnatural demands to deal with the food you just ate. Bread, soda, refined sugar and such simple carbohydrates cause insulin levels to spike high, which leads to what is described as a burst of inflammation throughout the body.
How does this affect our skin?
Turns out, in ways more than one. Read on.
- Skin tone and texture
When high carb foods are converted into sugar after consumption, the blood sugar levels spike. This elicits a response from the body to control the levels. The response causes an inflammation which affects all organs, including the skin, and causes redness, swelling and stress.
Now, an inflammation anywhere on the body intimates the body that something is wrong. Which means, the defender – the immune system – now kicks into action. When there is a fairly large intake of sugar on a regular basis, the inflammation becomes chronic. And that leads to a constant response from the immune system, which is more harmful than helpful. A hyperactive immune system does only more harm than good, and side effects are seen in the form of damaged skin tone and texture.
Glycation refers to the process that occurs when sugar of any type is digested and releases glucose into your bloodstream.
Collagen is the protein fibre that keeps the skin smooth, firm and elastic. In this case, the sugar attaches itself to this collagen and weighs it down. The result? The collagen becomes rigid and inflexible. This means that the skin sags and develops wrinkles faster than it is supposed to. We don't want that, do we?
Wrinkles and sun damage
Every skin has three types of collagen, and glucose affects the strongest and the most durable collagen i.e. Type III. High glucose levels can cause the skin to dry, which increases the chances of wrinkling. This is the reason why diabetics have dry, dull complexions. Some studies also suggest that high blood sugar levels reduce skin-protecting antioxidants, which makes the skin’s fight against sun damage weaker and eventually non-existent.
Sounds freaky! What can be done?
Understanding the glycemic index, the scale which determines how quickly blood sugar levels rise after ingesting particular foods (hence, the high- and low-glycemic labels), is key to making the right choices for your skin and your sugar consumption.
If you've been thinking of changing your meal plan, now is a good time. Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and vegetables, low-glycemic options, like beans, nuts and whole grains, as well as fibrous foods, all delay sugar absorption and help control blood sugar levels.
You could have the best skincare products at your fingertips, but none of it will work if your diet isn't balanced and full of vitamins A and E and skin-helping nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.
Resist the temptation of that chilled cola drink. Aerated and sugary drinks are pretty much the worst thing you can put into your system. Keep sipping water instead of sweetened drinks. Water is the easiest available elixir and staying well-hydrated alone can work wonders for your skin.
If you have to take our advice, we say that Sugar is best consumed in the form of that peppy Maroon 5 song!