Sweet Acne


Back in December, I attempted to test a theory.  I was going to go off of sugar for one week and see if there is a relationship between sugar intake and breakouts.  I admitted one week wouldn’t be long enough, but wanted to break up the ‘test’ in small parts thinking it would be easier to stick with.  I even started a blog post about it.  Needless to say I don’t remember Wednesday of that week.  I completely forgot I started the post and conveniently put the idea of sugar and acne out of mind.  The idea of eliminating sugar from my diet seemed impossible.  I told myself the multivitamins and supplements I’m taking will do the trick.  I just need to give it more time.

As a kid, I was insanely addicted to sugar.  The only thing that saved me from having serious weight issues as a kid and young adult was my mother’s ability to eat half of a fifty cent candy bar and let the rest sit in the fridge for days on end.  If she didn’t buy it, I couldn’t eat it.  Chances are the sugary things she did buy at the grocery store in the afternoon would not have survived by sundown.

I started to get control of my sugar issues in my late twenties / early thirties.  Thinking back, it was a slow process.  I started by eating healthier forms of sugar for my fix and tweaked my diet over time.  My moments of ‘sugar insanity’ appeared all too often.

Fast forward three months and the multivitamins, zinc and fish oil supplements have not ‘cured’ me.  That is what every acne sufferer wants right?  …A nice, relatively simple, cure.  Everyone’s body is different so the supplements may just be the answer for some people.  If you’re one, God bless.  Unfortunately, I’m not.  Don’t get me wrong, the supplements did and do help.  It slows down my outbreaks (except around my menstrual / hormonal spikes) and it also helps heal them faster, but it does not prevent it.  This was most important for me because the zit remnants (hyper-pigmentation) last months at a time and is a constant reminder.

First thing every morning (and nearly 100 times throughout the day) I inspect my face for new arrivals and departures.  Recently, I reached my breaking point.  I was overwhelmed with anger, frustration and sadness.  The breakouts just would not stop.  What is causing it?  I delved back into some serious Google-ing and found my problem…

It’s sugar.  SUGAR!  Could it be?  The one thing that has comforted me when I’m sad; helped me celebrate; got me through boredom; gave me energy for my workouts and kept fat on my belly has caused my acne.  SON OF A…..

What is the connection between acne and sugar?  Simply put, an intake of refined sugar causes a rapid rise in blood sugar.  In order to get rid of the excess sugar from your blood, the body releases a rush of various hormones (one of them being insulin) to move the sugar to the cells in your body.  Most of the sugar goes to the cells of the liver and muscle.    The liver does amazing things for the body, including filtering unwanted and harmful substances from the body.  Once the cells in the liver are filled with sugar, the rest is transformed into fat (mine has an express route to my gut).  Some peoples’ livers aren’t strong enough to handle all of the sugar and lower insulin levels.  If so, the body responds to the surge of sugar and fat by sending it to the next level of defense to excrete it through the skin.  The sebum glands then become overactive.  The excess oil is trapped in the pores of the skin where common bacteria feeds on it – forming acne.

In all my other acne research, I must have read something about the relationship between sugar and acne, but obviously I wasn’t ready to accept it.  Removing refined sugar from my diet is a massive decision for me, much harder than leaving meat behind.  Once I reached my breaking point, the decision was crystal clear and fairly easy.  Sugar causes acne and acne causes misery.  Simple.

Maybe the prolonged effect of my diet change will strengthen my liver after a lifetime of abuse.  The liver does regenerate itself.  Hopefully, my body will be able to process sugar without giving me a zit(s).

I will wait one month to judge if this change is truly effective and report back.  Hopefully I will have good news.

6 comments on “Sweet Acne

  1. SpaceGuide says:

    I have the same conclusion: sugar is the cause of my acne-like symptoms (I am a 32-year-olda man). So I am trying to analyse it experimentally: eating some sugar-containing food and no other changes.
    As I can observe, after a 48-72 hours period I have a breakout. Thank about 1 week is needed to heal back to a more discrete level of acne.
    Do you have any cure theory – besides the obvious, not to eat sugar?

    thx in advance

    • Hello Andras,

      Unfortunately sugar (white and brown) isn’t the only culprit. You have to throw refined carbohydrates in the same bucket (white rice, white flour/bread, white pasta, white potatoes, honey). Even ketchup is high in sugar so be mindful of sauces/glazes. My body also reacts poorly to soy, soy proteins and dairy because it creates a hormone imbalance, but you may not have this issue. It is at times depressing knowing how much food I can’t eat now, but it gets easier as each day passes knowing what the consequences are. Lately, I’ve been loving sweet potatoes/yams, cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread with plenty of fake butter (buttery spread) and cashews.

      I would also consider taking a quality multivitamin, fish oil supplement and zinc daily. Water, water, water. It’s suggested you should drink half your body weight in ounces, but I try to drink a liter above that because of acne. It’s a struggle for me though.. If you’re a caffeine lover, you need to replace the amount you drink with water on top of what your body needs normally.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. SpaceGuide says:

    Thank you very much for your suggestions!

    My question is, have you tried to investigate the reason of our bodies’ reactions for these foods? And do you have any kind of answer for this big WHY???


    • My belief is poor liver function; although ‘poor’ may be a strong word. The livers of most acne sufferers can’t handle the spike in insulin. There are things you can take to improve liver function but it isn’t a quick fix – dandelion root tea, milk thistle supplement. Why is my liver or possibly your liver like that versus others? I don’t know. I liken it to DNA. Acne is my body’s first reaction to inflammation. Acne is an inflammatory disease. Other people that eat a high refined carbohydrate diet may not get acne, but may suffer from other inflammatory issues as a result; diabetes, arthritis, weight issues, advanced aging, heart problems and various diseases. Those with clear skin that eat a poor diet full of delicious refined carbs will feel the results of it one day, in one form or another. My favorite medical site is DoctorOz.com. If you live in the States, you’ve heard of it. If not, Dr. Oz is a heart surgeon who now has his own TV show, but also maintains his medical practice. The website is a great source of trusted information along with a spin-off site called Sharecare.com. Hope that helps!

  3. SpaceGuide says:

    It looks like you are a real expert!
    (I am living in Hungary)

    My suspicion is my liver as well, that is why I have tested my “liver function” by blood test in hospital labor more times. And the result always was OK – which I don’t understand. Because if my liver can not deal with higher amount of insulin I guess this should be reflected in a liver function blood test by a bad value of something. In the US is there a special liver test for this functionality perhaps? If yes, have you tried that?


    • I’ve had my liver checked as part of my annual checkup, but I haven’t heard of a special liver test that is acne related. Last year, my liver checked out fine, which was over a year before I removed refined carbs from my diet. This year, my liver enzymes were too high. I have a theory of why that is so I’ve made some tweaks and I will go back for a retest. I don’t believe the enzymes are related to acne, but I haven’t researched this.

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