Few happy occasions in life seem complete without dessert. There’s the cake you smash into on your first birthday; the holiday cookies handed out by grandma; and the first bite of dessert you share (or smear) with your partner after your wedding ceremony. Sugar helps us celebrate. But by 2008, more than half of Americans were celebrating (or just grabbing food with hidden sugars) in over-abundance, ingesting a half pound of sugar on average every single day. That’s not only trouble for our waistline and teeth; it’s scary news for skin health. Sugar damages skin by speeding up the aging process in the body and fueling inflammation, which has links to advanced wrinkling, age spots, redness, sagging, sensitivity, blemishes, and a host of other skin issues. The consumption of sugar is one catalyst for the formation of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) in the body, a major cause of skin wrinkling that leads to the breakdown of collagen and connective tissue. We also know that sugar can negatively affect the health of your microbiome, the population of bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut.

We at the NAA would all place reducing sugar intake as one of the most important things you can do to increase your overall health and improve your skin. Also, due to bioindividuality, different people react differently to sugar in all its forms. Some people do fine with whole grains and naturally sweet fruits and vegetables, while others experience negative skin reactions. We’ve certainly noticed that we each have different experiences and reactions to sugar as well. It’s such a big topic that there’s no way we can tackle it in one post, but we’ll start by sharing what we each do to curb the temptation of sugar, and help out our skin health.

Curb Sugar Cravings

Rachael Pontillo, President:

“I’ve found that I tend to crave sugar if I’ve had too many ‘yin’ things like alcohol or caffeine, as sugar is a yin substance, and when you have too much yin, you crave more yin when you actually need more yang. I also find that I crave sugar when I’m not getting enough protein or healthy fats in my diet. I also crave sweets when I’m tired or stressed, so I try to have lower sugar impact snacks on hand when I know I’m going to be up late or am entering a busy period in my life.”

Tisha Jill Palmer, Co-Founder:

“Combining normally higher sugar impact foods with high-protein food lowers the overall glycemic load and leaves me craving less (example: apple slices with almond butter). Adding fermented foods like kombucha also helps reduce cravings–I think my ritual helps as well–pouring into a crystal goblet and enjoying it as I would a glass of wine. Using cinnamon–sweet potato with cinnamon is my go-to sweet treat.”

Jolene Hart, Co-Founder:

Go ahead and honor that craving (we all have them!), but do so with a treat that also has benefits for your skin. Dark chocolate, chia pudding, and frozen bananas blended into ‘ice cream’ have become skin-friendly classics that require little-to-no prep or kitchen skill. But that’s just the beginning. For those who love to cook and bake, there is a whole world of low- or no added sugar dessert recipes out there, many of which use alternative sweeteners or foods like dates and fruit for sweetness.  It’s true that sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar are still forms of sugar, so moderation is key. But those sweeteners can have a lower glycemic index, additional benefits like minerals or enzymes, and are less processed than refined sugar, making them less destructive to your skin.”

Ready to put down the bowl of Ben & Jerry’s? Us too. Sugar has such a major effect on the skin that we now think twice before indulging—and celebrating—with sugar. And when we do, we opt for small portions and natural sweeteners, and we don’t miss out one bit.

CommentWe want to hear from you!

Tell us: what’s your best strategy for overcoming the sugar gremlins either for yourself personally or that you’ve found with your clients? Please share in the comments below.