From Acne To Wrinkles…Why Sugar Is Bad For Your Skin




A reoccurring complaint I’m seeing in my practice is from patients with concerns about saggy and/or dull skin, acne, and rosacea. What they do not realize is how much their appearance reveals about their internal health condition. Indeed the two are connected, so it takes a truly WHOListic approach to treat the issues. Besides doing facial acupuncture and microcurrent treatments, in many cases it is possible to resolve the situation by using natural nonprescription approaches. To do this, it’s helpful to look at the patient’s diet, food sensitivities, and indigestion patterns. And increasingly in those patients with these skin complaints, as well as changing hair and body conditions, I’m seeing insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body to process sugar. Dermatologists have long noted that sugary food has a high glycemic index resulting in rapid sugar load into the body and dramatic fluctuations in insulin. Over time, it can result in insulin resistance, or even diabetes, which can accelerate the aging process.


Sugar and Your Skin

Sugar is a wrinkle maker. Simple carbohydrates like refined sugar, white bread, soda, and candies cause a spike in one’s insulin level, which leads to inflammation throughout the body, according to research conducted by clinical and research dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Inflammation produces enzymes, which break down collagen and elastin resulting in saggy skin and wrinkles. A process known as glycation occurs when digested sugar permanently attaches to the disappearing collagen of the skin.Dr. Perricone further explains that, “While wrinkled skin is the first outward appearance of glycation, most degenerative diseases are affected in one way or another by pathological (disease-producing) glycation reactions. These reactions result in major damage to the body, including arterial stiffening, atherosclerosis, the formation of cataracts, neurological impairment, diabetic complications, wrinkled, sagging skin, and more.

Acne and Rosacea are also often the result of insulin resistance. Insulin and its cousin, insulin growth factor (IGF-1) promote higher levels of testosterone, which increases the function of sebaceous glands causing acne and greasy skin. Researchers found that metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) and rosacea appear to have similar pathogenic pathways. Inflammatory cytokines (cells related to the immune system) and oxidative stress are present during the development of both disorders. Additionally, it is a well-known fact that high cholesterol and cardiovascular disorders are often accompanied by rosacea.

Here it’s worth briefly noting the acne-dairy connection. Milk products like ice cream, cheese, instant breakfast drinks, etc., might cause acne outbreaks according to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology. What is the link? Much of the milk we drink is produced by pregnant cows and contains high levels of hormones like progesterone and insulin-like growth factors that can send oil glands into overdrive. It really doesn’t matter if it is organic milk without bovine hormone pretreatment or not. The hormones are just hormones. If dairy triggers your outbreaks, simply avoid all milk products.

Insulin resistance, or pre diabetes, is also strongly associated with these additional skin conditions:

–  Skin tags. Research has further shown that those with skin tags have higher cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and inflammatory factors as such CRP (C-reactive protein).

–  Skin lesions. Called Acanthosis Nigricans, these lesions appear as a darkening and thickening of the skin in areas such as the neck, underarms and groin. Most people with this condition have an insulin resistance condition as well.

–  Hirsutism. This condition is characterized by excess hair growth, especially facial hair in women. All of that is a result of hormonal imbalances, which often come hand-in-hand with high level of blood sugar. Policystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and insulin resistance are related because insulin stimulates ovarian androgen (testosterone) production, which results in excessive hair or male pattern baldness.

–  Cysts. May occur with people who have ovarian cysts, or who have an underactive thyroid or adrenal gland.


While your skin is on the frontline of the effects of insulin resistance — a sugar binge can show on your face in just a few days — you should also take note of body changes like increased external and internal body fat, swollen ankles, water retention, puffy eyes, and fat accumulation on the face (cheeks and second chin). Sugar or high glycemic foods, which quickly convert to sugar, raise insulin levels and put a lot of demands on your body and thereby increase inflammation.

Watch for these additional red flags indicating possible insulin resistance:

– Constant sugar craving

– Sluggishness

– Skin breakouts

– Frequent mood swings

– Weight gain

– Increase dental cavities

– Brain fog, especially after meals


Fortunately, insulin resistance can be treated. It’s not too late to turn into a healthier you using a natural approach! For example, in our clinic we use a truly holistic approach of addressing facial rejuvenation as well as the internal causative factors. We will help you to follow the right diet, prevent or reverse insulin resistance, balance micronutrients, help sugar metabolism, and improve GI function and biome by using all natural remedies. We will provide facial acupuncture and microcurrent for facial muscles and skin, as well as acupuncture treatments and remedies for sugar cravings, detoxification, and more.

For any treatment plan, it’s recommended that you reassess your diet, otherwise you may be treating your skin without getting to the bottom of what is really going on. Just remember, each patient is unique and requires a unique approach to their health.


Helena Amos, M.Ac., L.Ac., is an acupuncture and natural medicine practitioner since 1986, having received Masters degrees in Acupuncture in England and the US. She received specialty training in Cosmetology Acupuncture in Europe and with the best teachers in the USA, and has been doing it for nearly 15 years. Currently, she is the owner of the Acupuncture and Natural Medicine Clinic in Rockville, MD, and is available for complementary consultations. Call 301-881-2898, email her at, and visit for more information. LIKE on Facebook @AmosAcupunctureAndNaturalMedicine.