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How to Eat Sugar without Getting Acne

Does Sugar Cause Acne?

Does Sugar Cause Acne?

In our previous article we went over why foods with a high glycemic index can cause acne. We described how sugars and highly refined and processed carbohydrates, like white rice, are rapidly absorbed into blood, causing a spike in insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels.We also went over why spikes in these signalling molecules lead to acne.3

One of the keys to acne is therefore to change your diet. The low-glycemic index diet removes sugars and substitutes processed carbohydrates with whole grains, lowering insulin and IGF-1 levels and promoting clear skin.2 

Learn how to limit added sugars

Since cutting down on added sugar will help with acne breakouts, it is important to learn how to do so. Sugars are also hidden in complex carbohydrates. In fact, most carbohydrates are made of sugars!

To minimize acne you will need to learn how to avoid added sugars and sugars hidden in complex carbohydrates.

What are Added Sugars?

Added sugars are those not found naturally in foods. They contribute calories but no essential nutrients.

These include:

*Sugars and syrups that food producers add to products like sodas, yogurt, candies, cereals, and baked goods.

*Sugar you add yourself such as table sugar in coffee

What Foods have Added Sugars?

Does Sugar Cause Acne?

Regular sodas, energy drinks, sport drinks


Fruit drinks, such as fruit-flavored beverages and fruit punch

Cakes, cookies, brownies

Pie and cobblers

Sweet rolls, pastries, baked goods

Dairy desserts such as ice cream

How to Cut Down Sugar and Clear Your Skin

You don't have to give up the foods you love completely. Instead, you can learn how to limit added sugars so that your skin can be healthier.

Here are some ways how:

1. Keep track of how much sugar you're consuming

2. Replace processed foods and drinks high in added sugars with foods that have natural occurring sugars such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy (without added sugars such as plain yogurt).

*Eat fruit for dessert instead of cookies or pastries

*Instead of eating sugary breakfast cereals eat plain oatmeal sweetened with fruits

*Use natural sweeteners (honey, coconut sugar, dates) instead of processed granulated sugar.

3. Check the nutrition facts for the food and beverages you consume

Added sugars have different names like brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose, and trubinado sugar.

Added sugars are also found in common foods like pasta sauces, crackers, pizzas, etc.

How to Spot Hidden Sugars in Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are how sugars are stored in plants. Excess sugars are turned into longer chains called complex carbs. When you eat rice, tubers, or pasta, complex carbs are turned back into sugars by the gut and absorbed into the body. How fast these carbs are turned back into sugars depends on how processed the carbs you eat are.

Plant carbohydrates are normally hard to digest and locked behind multiple layers of fiber. However, modern food processing techniques have removed the fiber and plant material that helps you feel full, eat less, and delay the release of sugars.

When choosing your complex carbohydrate opt for whole grain products that have more fiber and reduce the spike in insulin and IGF-1.

How About Artificial sugar?

Artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, stevia can help you cut down calories. However, they may end up training your brain to crave sweetened foods. One paper proposes that dieters should instead unsweeten their diets instead of using artificial sweeteners.4


In conclusion, diet plays a large role but is not solely responsible for the development of acne. Dietary changes that reduce sugar and carbohydrate intake are helpful in reducing acne. If you'd like to know more about other foods that contribute to acne read our article: The Anti-Acne Diet - 30 Days to Clearer Skin