Cakes, cookies, and candy are bad for your waistline – and your complexion. Nicholas Perricone, M.D., best-selling author of The Wrinkle Cure and The Perricone Prescription explains why a low-sugar diet may be the best way to get the beautiful skin you want. And it's not just desserts – pasta, bread and crackers may be causing skin problems as well. Dr. Perricone shares his skin savvy about the effects sugar has on your face, why a few diet swaps may give your complexion a natural lift and which supposedly healthy foods can cause major problems.
When your blood sugar spikes, usually after you eat a carb-heavy meal like pasta, your body becomes inflamed. This inflammation affects all organs – the heart, the lungs and the skin – and can cause redness, swelling and stress. Normally, inflammation tells the body that something is wrong and encourages an immune system response, but if the inflammation is chronic, immune system cells are consistently patrolling the body, causing more harm than good. This immune response can greatly affect your skin tone and texture.
Glycation refers to the process that occurs when sugar of any type is digested and releases glucose into your bloodstream. The sugar then attaches itself to collagen, the protein fiber that keeps skin smooth, firm and elastic. When collagen is weighed down by glucose, it becomes rigid and inflexible. This means your skin is more likely to sag and develop wrinkles – two things no woman wants.
Your skin has three types of collagen, and glucose weakens type III, the strongest and most durable collagen, making skin look less supple. High glucose levels can dry skin, which makes skin more likely to wrinkle. This is why diabetics often suffer from dry, dull complexions. Some studies even show that high blood sugar levels reduce skin-protecting antioxidants that leave you more susceptible to sun damage.
Though sweets are seen as the biggest diet sins, when it comes to your skin, all carbohydrates can wreak havoc. If you eat a light pasta salad for lunch, your body converts that to sugar, and sometimes the amount of sugar is comparable to your favorite candy bar. Whole grains tend to be digested more slowly than white rice, bread and pasta, which means your skin isn't hit with as much glucose at one time. The best way to ensure a lovely complexion is eating a balanced diet, full of vitamins A and E and skin-helping nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.
High fructose corn syrup and other liquid sugars may cause the most damage of all – they may produce more collagen-hurting molecules than anything on the dessert menu. Also look for hidden sugars like barley malt, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate and maltose Be sure to check fruit drinks, sodas and all packaged foods for these skin harming-ingredients. Sipping water instead of sweetened drinks can have an added bonus: Water makes skin cells plump, which naturally hides wrinkles.