Sugar, Carbs & Your Skin

It can get pretty confusing with knowing what diet is best for you as there is so much information online. But one thing that most people can agree on is the effect of simple carbohydrates and sugars on our skin. The western-style diet is focused mostly on refined carbohydrates. These are grains and sugars that have been processed, removing their fibre and most of their nutrients. This includes foods such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, pastries, cakes, sweets and breakfast cereals. 


How refined carbohydrates & sugar affect our skin

Refined carbohydrates and sugars can affect our skin in a few ways. But most prevalent is that they affect our blood sugar, which can then increase hormones that increase oil production in the skin and blocked pores, leading to an increase in breakouts. Other ways excess sugar can affect our skin is by causing collagen to breakdown, interfering with wound healing by affecting our immune system and disrupting the microbiome.

So how can you eat to balance your blood sugar and support your skin?  Here is how:

HEALTHY carbohydrate choices

Extremely low carb diets can cause other problems for your hormones, so I’m not suggesting a low-carb diet. But it’s important to know the best type to consume. Whole-grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, brown or wild rice, millet and oats are good choices. It’s essential to never eat grains on their own, you should always have a balanced meal with fats and protein.
Your breakfast can be the most important meal when it comes to balancing blood sugar. Try to always eat something in the morning. Avoid having caffeine without food and swap your cereals for something more substantial. Granola or oats with yoghurt, nut or seed butter and berries will give you a healthy balanced meal. Another example would be to add avocado and an egg to your toast. 


This relates to how much certain foods cause your blood sugar to rise. The main focus here is to eat lots of vegetables, especially green leafy veg and legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas. These foods allow a slow release of energy, stopping the blood sugar rollercoaster.


You should be eating protein with every meal. This also helps to balance blood sugar.
Animal sources of protein include – meats, fish, eggs and dairy 
Vegan sources of protein include – tofu, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), peas – if you are vegan or vegetarian you may want to consider a protein powder.


This can be the hardest step because sugar is so addictive. A good place to start is to read all your food labels, sugar is everywhere! You can easily miss how much sugar you are actually eating every day because it’s in a lot of prepackaged foods. If you choose low-fat alternatives, the fat is often replaced with sugar or sweeteners, so choose full fat! Once you have made healthier swaps, you can start reducing how much sugar add to your food and drink.


People that sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to crave unhealthy foods the next day. Lack of sleep also affects hormones involved in hunger, meaning you’re more likely to overeat and not feel satisfied. You’re also more likely to be dependant on sugary foods or caffeine to get you through the day as a form of energy. Prioritising your sleep is important in helping you make the right decisions when it comes to food. You want to aim to be in bed 8 hours before you need to get up the next morning.

The main takeaways of this article:

  1. You don’t need to avoid carbs, just make sure your meals are balanced
  2. Focus on good quality grains over processed ones
  3. The majority of your carb intake should come from vegetables & legumes
  4. Sleep is essential as it can affect your food choices throughout the day



  1. A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial
  2.  The relationship of diet and acne. 
  3. Association Between Adult Acne and Dietary Behaviors 
  4. Sleep patterns, diet quality and energy balance,Short%20sleep%20duration%2C%20poor%20sleep%20quality%2C%20and%20later%20bedtimes%20are,an%20adequate%20amount%20of%20sleep 
  5. Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation 
  6. Photo by Alexander Mils from Pexels



Do you feel like you’ve tried everything but nothing will shift your acne?

I’ve been where you are for years and can understand your frustration. Grab my eBook and get my best tips on what to do to finally improve how your skin looks and feels. You’ll also get a bi-weekly roundup of my tips and blog posts to help you lead a healthy lifestyle, plus news I only share through email. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of my emails. Before you subscribe please make sure you have read the privacy policy page.

By Emilia Papadopoullos
DipCNM, Nutritional Therapist

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