We all know sugar is bad for your waistline, but what about your skin? With all of the negative press sugar has been getting for its effects on heart health and obesity rates, we thought it was time to decipher its beauty ramifications -- and the results aren't pretty. We spoke to Dr. Nicholas Perricone, a dermatologist and nutritionist with an eponymous skincare line, and Dr. Maryann Mikhail, a New York-based dermatologist, to get the lowdown on what exactly sugar does to your skin and what you can do about it.
Why Sugar Is Bad For Your Skin
Let's start with the basics. When you ingest sugar or high-glycemic foods that rapidly convert to sugar -- whether it's in the form of an apple or a piece of cake -- your body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose, which raises your insulin levels. Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, white bread and soda, cause your insulin levels to spike, which leads to what Dr. Perricone describes as "a burst of inflammation throughout the body."
Inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles. Digested sugar permanently attaches to the collagen in your skin through a process known as glycation. Aside from increasing the effects of aging, glycation can also exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea. Plus, the more sugar you eat, the more likely it is you'll develop insulin resistance, which can manifest as excess hair growth (hirsutism) and dark patches on the neck and in body creases.
Understanding the glycemic index, the scale which determines how quickly blood sugar levels rise after ingesting particular foods (hence, the high- and low-glycemic labels), is key to making the right choices for your skin when it comes to sugar.
What Sugar You Shouldn't Eat
Simple carbohydrates are your skin's enemy, since they rapidly break down into glucose and result in insulin spikes. Avoid foods that are proinflammatory, high-glycemic or high in saturated fats like: white bread, candy, fried food, ice cream, fruit juice, pasta, ketchup, cream cheese, jam, pizza, sugar (white and brown), packaged snacks and sodas.
What Sugar You Should Eat
Opt for complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and vegetables, which are broken down into glucose at a slower rate (and therefore don't cause that pesky insulin spike). Low-glycemic options, like beans, nuts and whole grains, as well as fibrous foods, which delay sugar absorption, also help control blood sugar levels. Do your best to follow an anti-inflammatory diet of healthy fats (like olive oil and avocados), lean protein (like salmon), fiber (like broccoli and cauliflower) and antioxidants (like berries) if you want glowing, youthful skin.
Other Tricks To Counteract Sugar's Effects On Skin
•Get plenty of sleep. When you don't get enough shut-eye, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which mobilizes sugar stores and causes your insulin to spike.
•Speaking of stress, try to keep yours at a minimum. Stress can spike insulin levels just like eating sugar can. The effects of stress are particularly correlated with acne breakouts.
•Eat frequent, balanced meals. Don't think lowering your sugar intake means lowering your food intake per se. If your goal is to keep your blood sugar levels consistent, make sure to fuel up with low-glycemic, high protein food every three hours to avoid insulin spikes.
•Be mindful about how you prepare your food. When cooking starches, like potatoes and foods with wheat, keep in mind that the heat involved in cooking causes a process known as gelatinization, which can lead to upping the glycemic index of a food item. The takeaway? Avoid starches fried in high heat or that are commercially processed.
•Order counts. Eat your proteins first when sitting down for a meal, since they don't stimulate insulin spikes and therefore keep your body from triggering the inflammatory effects caused when you ingest insulin-spiking foods.
•Fats are your friend. Healthy fats, like Omega-3s, keep your skin looking soft, supple and radiant (read: youthful).
More advice for your beauty routine:
Freeze Your Eyeliner
Does your eyeliner constantly crumble while putting it on? Our friends at <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/face/galleries/tips-to-stay-beautiful#3">You Beauty</a> recommend leaving it in the freezer for 15 minutes prior to applying your makeup. It should glide along your lash line seamlessly after that.
Shave With Conditioner
If you're out of shaving cream, lather your legs with conditioner instead of soap. Conditioner will soften the hair on your legs making it easier to shave (and it will leave your skin feeling extra silky). Source: <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/face/galleries/tips-to-stay-beautiful#4">You Beauty</a>
Rinse Hair With Beer Or Vinegar
Rinsing your hair with beer helps restore moisture to your locks while using vinegar will up the ante in shine. Soak your hair in either liquid (not at the same time) for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water. Source: <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/face/galleries/tips-to-stay-beautiful#5">You Beauty</a>
Turn Up The Heat
For curlier, flirtier lashes, the experts at <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/face/galleries/tips-to-stay-beautiful#2">You Beauty</a> recommend heating your lash curler with a hair dryer for five to eight seconds before curling them.
Use Ice Cubes To Keep Fat, Acne and Wrinkles At Bay
The experts at <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/face/galleries/tips-to-stay-beautiful#6">You Beauty</a> recommend massaging an ice cube over your face until it melts. Do it every night before bed and keep fat cells, acne and wrinkles under control.
Make Your Manicure Last.. And Last
Before applying nail polish, wipe nails with an acetone-based cleanser. Essie Weingarten, founder of <a href="http://www.essie.com/">Essie Cosmetics</a>, told the pros at <a href="http://www.redbookmag.com/beauty-fashion/tips-advice/manicure-tools-and-treatments#slide-4">Redbook</a> that cleaning excess dirt, oil or moisturizer from your nails will ensure that the polish adheres properly. Follow the rest of these tips at <a href="http://www.redbookmag.com/beauty-fashion/tips-advice/manicure-tools-and-treatments#slide-4">Redbook</a> and your perfectly polished manicure will last for a week and a half.
Soothe Your Stomach.. And Your Face
Apparently Pepto-Bismol isn't just a stomach soother, it can also be used as a facial mask. It contains bismuth subsalicylate, which is commonly found in facial creams. In an interview with <a href="http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/beauty/6-weird-beauty-tips?id=5">Reader's Digest</a>, <a href="http://www.skinworks.ca/our-team/dr-frances-jang">Dr.Frances Jang, a dermatologist</a> at <a href="http://www.skinworks.ca/">Skinworks</a>, recommended spreading two teaspoons of Pepto-Bismol on your face, then letting it dry for 15 to 30 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water.
Apply Sunscreen Daily
Wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine. Even when it's cloudy. According to the <a href="http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens">American Academy of Dermatology</a>, 80 per cent of the sun's ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.
Don't Neglect Your Elbows
It's easy to forget about your elbows, but they need just as much protection and care as other parts of your body. Cure dry elbows by massaging <a href="http://bio-oilusa.com/en-us/">Bio-Oi</a>l onto them daily. You'll see and feel softer elbows in at least two days.
Lighten Hair With Chamomile Tea And Lemon Juice
In an interview with <a href="http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/beauty/6-weird-beauty-tips?id=5">Reader's Digest</a>, Popie Poulos, hairstylist and owner of <a href="https://plus.google.com/108355367519345999757/about?gl=ca&hl=en">The Salon</a>, recommends rinsing your hair with a mixture of chamomile and fresh lemon juice instead of conditioner to permanently lighten your tresses. Allow your hair to dry while sitting in the sun or use a blow dryer — the heat will lighten your locks.
De-Puff Your Eyes With Raw Potatoes
In an interview with <a href="http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/beauty/6-weird-beauty-tips?id=3">Reader's Digest</a>, Dr.Frances Jang, a dermatologist</a> at <a href="http://www.skinworks.ca/">Skinworks</a> recommends using raw potato slices to soothe your eyes. She says they are astringent which means they help decrease water retention and they also contain the enzyme catalase which helps lighten dark under eye circles. First, wash and peel a potato. Cut two slices and place one on each eye for 10 minutes. Lay down, relax and let the potatoes work their magic. Rinse the eye area gently with lukewarm water when you're done.
Maximize The Lifespan Of Your Blow Out
We love walking out of the salon with a fresh blow out, but how do you prevent your locks from going limp in the days after? The experts at <a href="http://www.allure.com/beauty-trends/blogs/daily-beauty-reporter/2011/11/surprising-tricks-for-making-a-blowout-last.html">Allure</a> say plan early. Your hair naturally secretes oil so be two steps ahead and spray your roots with dry shampoo before you start producing oil. This way the dry shampoo will absorb any moisture before it weighs down your tresses. Also make sure you protect your hair from moisture (rain is sure to ruin your mane) and touch up your blow out in the morning using a hair dryer and round brush. It will give you an instant boost of volume.
Countouring Creates Dimension
The trick to achieving a chiseled celebrity-like face is to contour (Angelina Jolie cheekbones, anyone?). Your face is three dimensional so applying foundation in a single tone will only make your face appear flat. Add a highlighter to areas of your face that would usually catch light but create enough shadow to emphasize your jaw line and cheekbones. For tips on how to contour your face according to its specific shape, visit <a href="http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/gallery/contouring-face-shape/p105682/page4">Total Beauty</a>.
Say Goodbye To Makeup Sponges
Makeup sponges help you apply make up, but not without a cost. They usually soak up more liquid foundation than what ends up on your face. The result? You're wasting foundation and constantly buying new sponges. The fix? Get a foundation brush. You waste less foundation and it allows for a more even and precise application than a sponge would.
Avoid Overly Rosy Cheeks
Giving yourself a natural glow avec blush is an in look for spring. But you'll want to avoid brushing on too much (lest you look like a clown). So always start your blush line two finger widths away from your nose and only apply it on the apples of your cheeks. This will ensure you create a natural glow without going overboard.
Keep Misbehaving Brows In Check
Spritz an old toothbrush or a clean mascara wand with hairspray, then brush brows and style them as desired. Even the most hard to tame brows will fall in line with this trick. Source: <a href="http://shopping.yahoo.com/news/44-timeless-beauty-tips-000000915.html">Yahoo Shopping</a>
Applying False Lashes
Adding extra eye fringe amps up the glam instantly. First, take your falsies and loosen them by gently flexing the eyelash band, then curl your natural lashes to make sure your falsies line up with your actual lash line. Apply glue on your falsies using a Q-tip. Using tweezers (or finger tips if you feel that gives you more control), place your falsies as close to your lash line as possible. Let your lashes dry for a minute before you add a coat of mascara (this is optional). Source: <a href="http://www.makeup.com/article/how-to-apply-false-eyelashes/">Makeup.com</a>
Toothpaste Zaps Pimples
You've heard it before — don't pop your zits! The folks over at <a href="http://www.dailyglow.com/how-to-get-rid-of-a-zit-fast-easy-home-remedies.html">Daily Glow</a> suggest applying a bit of toothpaste to a pimple before bed and washing it off with warm water when you wake up in the morning. They say that toothpastes draws impurities out of clogged pores and dries the skin with shrinks the pimple. Opt for organic toothpastes rather than gel toothpastes which don't work as well.
Blot Away Excess Oil
Do you start the morning with matte, fresh-looking skin only to find that by the time 5 p.m. rolls in you're a shiny mess? If you have oily skin then blotting papers are a beauty godsend. Don't use powder to soak up the oil. Using too much periodically throughout the day will make your skin appear cakey because you're just layering makeup on top of more makeup. Opt for blotting papers instead. They will soak up all the oil. We love <a href="http://www.sephora.com/blotting-papers-P312902?skuId=1411735">We love Sephora's blotting papers.</a>
No Makeup Remover? Try Lotion Instead
If you're out of makeup remover, use body lotion to get rid of makeup. It works especially well on tough mascara.
Create Fuller Lips
If you're tired of having thin, pursed puckers, extend your lip line using a neutral-toned lip liner. Then apply lipstick over top. Be careful though — don't extend your lip line too much.
Lashes For Miles
Curl your lashes both before and after applying mascara for longer lashes. You may want to re-curl them throughout the day to get some extra lift, just remember to be gentle when you apply pressure with your curler.
Don't Pop It
No, no, no! Don't pop your zits. Not only does it increase the chance of scarring, it's also likely that you will worsen the blemish and spread bacteria to other places on your face which could give rise to another breakout.
Stop Your Hair Colour From Fading
If you've just had your hair dyed, the last thing you want is for the colour to fade. One surefire way to prevent such a mishap from happening is to use a deep-conditioning treatment once a month. This will help lock in colour and has the added benefit of staving off dry and damaged locks.
Use A Flat Iron To Create Waves
Flat irons are amazing tools with multiple uses. Not only can you use it to straighten your hair, you can also create tight curls or soft romantic waves.
Exfoliate Your Lips
Dry, flaky, chapped lips are the worst canvas for lipstick. To ensure that your puckers are in perfect pout condition, the experts at <a href="http://thebeautydepartment.com/2012/06/diy-lip-smoothie/">The Beauty Department</a> recommend exfoliating your lips. To do this, apply lip balm to your lips, then using a toothbrush or clean mascara wand, scrub your lips (don't be too rough). Then, use a tissue to wipe away excess flakes and voila! You'll have a perfect pout in no time.
Microwave Lotion Into Luxury
Who doesn't love a spa day? If we could go every day, we probably would, but that would also put a dent in our wallets. A quick, easy and cheaper indulgence is to put your favourite lotion in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Make sure the oils in your lotion don't separate and that it isn't too hot. Apply it on to your skin and enjoy! Source: <a href="http://www.bellasugar.com/How-Make-Lotion-100-Times-Better-993220">Bella Sugar</a>
Exfoliation is an important and easy way to buff away the dead skin cells that cover up your skin's natural glow. Use a light exfoliator, like the <a href="http://www.dermalogica.com/ca/html/products/daily-microfoliant-11.html">Daily Microfoliant from Dermalogica</a>, to freshen your face daily.
Know Your Shade
When choosing a foundation, test a product on the skin near your jawline. And be sure to do it in natural light. This will ensure the foundation tone you choose for your face isn't too different from the natural shade of your neck. We really love <a href="http://www.makeupforever.com/products/hd-foundation.html#.UO7yx-RlV8E">Makeup Forever's Invisible Cover HD Foundation</a> because it comes in so many shades.
Uses For Old Mascara Wands
Don't throw away your old mascara wand, it's still got a few uses left. Clean it and use it as a brow brush instead. You might even find it handy around the house — use it to unclog sinks or clean tough to reach areas in your home. Source: <a href="http://www.athriftymrs.com/2012/02/8-uses-for-old-mascara-wands.html">A Thrifty Mrs</a>
Wear Pantyhose Or Tights
What's worse than having to wear a skirt with absolutely no time to shave your legs? We've all been there. The hassle free fix for this is to wearing pantyhose or tights (try a patterned pair for something new). It will disguise stubble as well as any blemishes on your stems.
Before you tweeze, make sure you soften your skin by dabbing a cotton ball soaked in warm water or cream. When you start tweezing, do so in the direction of your hair's growth. Source: <a href="http://shopping.yahoo.com/news/44-timeless-beauty-tips-000000915.html">Yahoo Shopping</a>
Camouflage Grey Hair
If you want to camouflage some strands of grey hair on the go, the folks at <a href="http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/makeovers-tips/timesavers/fast-beauty-00000000040261/page3.html">Real Simple</a> suggest using mascara if you have dark hair. For blondes or redheads try dusting your roots with bronzing powder.
Cut Back On Pedicures
Save money on your beauty routine by taking care of your feet on a daily basis. Simply scrub your foot with a pumice stone each morning in the shower. Once you step out and dry off, apply a moisture cream to your feet. This will increase the amount of time you can go without a pedicure and will keep your toes healthy and fungus-free.
Use Dry Shampoo
We absolutely love dry shampoo, especially <a href="http://www.kloraneusa.com/DryShampoo.htm">Klorane</a> (we use this brand religiously). It absorbs excess oil on your strands and scalp and keeps your mane looking clean and fresh. If you don't have dry shampoo, try washing just the top of your head (or wherever there is oil), with regular shampoo followed by a quick blow dry. Your tresses will look as good as new.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Be beautiful and environmentally savvy while you're at it. Recycle your old beauty products by shipping them to <a href="http://www.terracycle.ca/en-CA/">Terra Cycle</a> (you can download their pre-paid UPS shipping packages online so it's completely free). They'll take your old beauty products and transform them into something new.
Don't Pump Your Mascara
The experts at <a href="http://www.beautyismyduty.com/makeup-2/how-to-make-your-mascara-last-longer/">Beauty Is My Duty</a> say that you should never pump your mascara (i.e., moving the wand up and down in the tube really quickly) because it will only allow air into the tube which will cause your mascara to dry (and ultimately shorten its lifespan).
Apply Bronzer Evenly
Before applying bronzer or self-tanning lotion, mix a drop or two of the solution with moisture cream. Blend using your finger or a Q-tip then apply to skin as you would regular moisturizer. This will ensure the cream blends in — and covers skin — evenly.
Use Oil On Your Skin.. Even If It's Already Oily
This probably sounds crazy, but using an oil-based product to remove makeup or excess dirt from your skin can actually improve your epidermis' condition. Why? Over-cleaning stimulates the sebum glands, which causes skin to over-produce oil. Using oil-based products will have the opposite effect.
Avoid Chipped Nail Polish Like The Plague
There are only two options for your nails — with nail polish or without. Do not allow your nails to be caught somewhere in the middle (there is nothing worse than nails donning chipped red nail polish). Even if you think no one else will notice, trust us, someone will.
Sometimes less is more. Don't slather your face with moisturizer because it will take 10 minutes or more to be absorbed by the skin before your face is ready for makeup. In an interview with <a href="http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/makeovers-tips/timesavers/fast-beauty-00000000040261/index.html">Real Simple</a>, Susan Evans, a dermatologist, said the best way to apply face cream is to blend a dime-sized amount on your cheeks, nose, chin and forehead instead of moisturizing heavily.
Clean Your Makeup Brushes
Make sure you clean your makeup brushes regularly to avoid a buildup of makeup residue and bacteria. You can purchase makeup brush cleaner from a drug or beauty store, or you can simply use shampoo and conditioner to clean your brushes as you would your own hair. Clean brushes guarantee a super smooth and even makeup application every time.
Treat Ingrown Hairs
Apply a product containing azulene or witch hazel to help reduce the swelling and redness that's associated with ingrown hairs. From there, coax the ingrown hair from its location with a pair of tweezers (don't pull it out, though — this will only make the ingrown hair regrow in in the same way later).
Towel Dry The Right Way
Don't rub your hair dry with your towel; it will cause your hair to frizz. Instead, before getting out of the shower gently squeeze excess water from your hair. Then, wrap your hair in a towel and pat it dry to absorb any remaining moisture.
Consult A Doctor Before Popping Pills
Do you really need all those supplements? It's true the healthier you are, the healthier your skin and hair will be. But popping supplements without discussing them with your doctor can do more harm than good. Why? Because mixing certain vitamins and minerals can have the opposite effect of what you're hoping. Talk to your physician before popping any pills.
Remove Nail Polish Without Remover
If you run out of nail polish remover, you can remove cracked or chipped nail polish by applying a clear top coat to the nail and removing it promptly with a cotton ball.
Don't douse yourself with perfume before you leave the house (you don't want to bombard other people's nostril with strong smells). Just because you can't smell it doesn't mean other people won't be able to. If you wear it every day, chances are your olfactory sense has just become desensitized to the scent. <a href="http://www.chercabulasmindbox.com/2010/08/beauty-tips.html">Only spray or dab perfume on select spots like your knees, wrists, base of throat, and behind your earlobes. </a>
A Top Coat Is A Must
Add a top coat to freshly painted nails, and then again once they are dry. This makes your nail polish less likely to chip and will ensure it lasts longer.
Clarify Your Hair
In order to remove product build-up from locks, use a clarifying shampoo once a week. This will also help prevent dandruff and other annoying hair/scalp conditions.
Our best beauty tip? Smile! It's the most beautiful asset you have. Wear it every day.
Our best beauty tip? Smile! It's the most beautiful asset you have. Where it every day.