An important part of holistic skin care is understanding the relationship between sugar and hormones. Refined sugar (i.e. cane sugar) often gets a bad reputation, and rightfully so. As opposed to honey, or sugar found in fruits, refined sugar is quickly metabolized and digested by your body (which is why you never feel full after binging on chocolate!). This immediate sugar rush leads to increased levels of a hormone that is similar to insulin, known as insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1. According to DermaHarmony.com, “IGF-1 is thought to promote acne in a similar way to insulin, by promoting follicular obstruction through inducing androgen-mediated sebum production.” Furthermore, “A study of post-adolescent women, ages 20–25 years, found increased levels of IGF-1 in those suffering from acne.”
Unfortunately there aren’t tons of studies yet about the impact of diet on the skin (nutrition as a science is less than a century old, after all), but we know that refined sugar impacts hormones, which increases sebum production, which leads to acne.
So how can we avoid the dreaded spike of IGF-1 that leads to hormonal acne? The easiest way is to avoid packaged foods and restaurant foods and opt instead for home cooked meals. This has worked pretty well for me. If you’re too busy to plan your own meals, then meal prep kits such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are a good idea because you have all the ingredients and know exactly what is going in your food. If you’re still tempted by dessert, there are many options for baking with sugar substitutes that you can try. Sugar alternatives are great when you want something sweet that will not impact your hormone levels. Check out my next post for a guide to sugar substitutes and how to determine which ones you should use!