Remember a couple of years ago when everyone was talking about “Sugar Face”? It’s said to be accompanied by excess sebum, pronounced wrinkles, pustular acne, and dark circles? On the one hand, it’s not a medical diagnosis, but on the other, it sounds like sugar certainly doesn’t do your skin any favours, especially sensitive, rosacea-prone skin like mine.
Dr Teo Wan Lin, the founder and medical director of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre says that there is no conclusive link between a high sugar diet, and the worsening of existing medical conditions, such as rosacea and eczema. In principal, it “promotes a pro-inflammatory state”, which both conditions are linked to.
What high GI—a value assigned to foods based on the effect they have on your blood sugar levels—food does though, is cause insulin levels to spike. “There is evidence that this increases sebum production, contributing to acne formation. Additionally, high-glycemic foods can accelerate aging theoretically via an increase in the breakdown of collagen fibres, a process known as glycation.”
That doesn’t sound good either, so for the purpose of this article, I eliminated added sugar from my diet for a week to see if there’d be a difference in my skin. Keyword: Added sugar.
“The presence of sugar in natural foods like fruit and honey is not harmful, and essential for our body’s nutrition,” says Dr Teo. “The problem arises when sugar is consumed in excess or when it is consumed in the form of refined artificial sugars.”
So, nothing too guerrilla—I avoided cake, simple carbohydrates and processed food, which often have sneaky amounts of sugar, and ate only whole, real foods, including complex carbohydrates like brown rice, and fruit.
Surprise! There isn’t a difference, and by the time afternoon strikes, my T-zone’s oily. I don’t crave sugar, but out of habit, I want a jolly square of chocolate. I opted for blueberries instead.
My cheeks are still characteristically rosy and when I check in again at around 3pm, there’s that inevitable shine. At a social dinner, I have some red wine, which maybe isn’t part of the no-sugar diet…. Or is it? Cin Cin!
Yesterday’s cheeky glass (fine—two, large) of wine certainly didn’t help. My skin’s flushed. On the plus side, my skin has a sheen but it’s definitely not as oily as the previous days.
Food update: NO WINE.
Never have I put my face under such scrutiny but peering at a magnified mirror, my pores appear smaller, and my skin looks slightly less red.
My skin feels smoother than usual. There seems to be some improvement with the redness and dry patches between my brows, and dare I think it, my skin seems more supple.
There aren’t major differences with the day before. I do notice however, that my makeup goes on evenly, and stays on because hurrah, my skin seems more balanced, less oily. Also, my rosacea hasn’t flared up like it usually does around that time of the month—no ruddy-red skin, no pustular spots. PS: I had wine at dinner again.
My face didn’t react from the wine this time but I had considerably less to drink than Day Two. I’m beyond pleased that my skin is smoother than it’s ever been, and my dry patches have miraculously cleared up. I wish I could say my skin was plumper, but that would probably take more than a week, or time travel (back, obviously).
Would I go off added sugars again? Absolutely, I saw a difference in my skin and liked it. I can do without sweets for a few days. But will I quit sugar entirely? Nope, I’m not a sugar fiend to begin with and the key thing here, as Dr Teo says, is balance.
Text: Lydia Ng
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