A dermatologist weighs in, and I said goodbye to cake (for one sad week) to find out.
There’s always a conundrum when presented with dessert. Remember a couple of years ago, when everyone was talking about “Sugar Face”? Excess sebum, pronounced wrinkles, pustular acne, and dark circles? One on hand, it’s not a medical diagnosis, and on the other, it sounds like sugar certainly doesn’t do your skin any favours, especially sensitive, rosacea-prone skin like mine. Bring forth, the 7-Day No-Sugar Diet. Seven days, because that’s supposedly how quickly one will see improvements in their appearance.
(Also read: Easy Ways to Eat Less Sugar Every Day)
But hang on – Dr Teo Wan Lin, the founder and medical director of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre says that there is no conclusive link between a high sugar diet, and the worsening of existing medical conditions, such as rosacea and eczema. In principal, it “promotes a pro-inflammatory state”, which both conditions are linked to.
What high GI – a value assigned to foods based on the effect they have on your blood sugar levels – food does though, is cause insulin levels to spike. “There is evidence that this increases sebum production, contributing to acne formation. Additionally, high-glycemic foods can accelerate aging theoretically via an increase in the breakdown of collagen fibres, a process known as glycation.”
That doesn’t sound good either, so for the purpose of this article (and to put said conundrum to rest) I eliminated added sugar from my diet for a week to see if there’d be a difference in my skin. Keyword: Added sugar. “The presence of sugar in natural foods like fruit and honey is not harmful, and essential for our body’s nutrition,” says Dr Teo. “The problem arises when sugar is consumed in excess or when it is consumed in the form of refined artificial sugars.”
So, nothing too guerrilla – I avoided cake, simple carbohydrates and processed food, which often have sneaky amounts of sugar, and ate only whole, real foods, including complex carbohydrates like brown rice, and fruit.
Surprise! There isn’t a difference, and by the time afternoon strikes, my T-zone’s oily. I don’t crave sugar, but out of habit I want a jolly square of chocolate. I have blueberries instead.
My cheeks are still characteristically rosy and when I check in again at around 3 pm, there’s that inevitable shine. At a social dinner, I have some red wine, which maybe isn’t part of the no-sugar diet…. Or is it? Cin, Cin.
Yesterday’s cheeky glass (fine – two, large) of wine certainly didn’t help. My skin’s flushed. On the plus side, my skin has a sheen but it’s definitely not as oily as the previous days.
Food update: NO WINE.
Never have I put my face under such scrutiny but peering at a magnified mirror, my pores appear smaller, and my skin looks slightly less red.
My skin feels smoother than usual. There seems to be some improvement with the redness and dry patches between my brows, and dare I think it, my skin seems more supple.
There aren’t major differences with the day before. I do notice however, that my makeup goes on evenly, and stays on because hurrah, my skin seems more balanced, less oily. Also, my rosacea hasn’t flared up like it usually does around that time of the month – no ruddy-red skin, no pustular spots.
PS: I had wine at dinner again.
My face didn’t react from the wine this time but I had considerably less to drink than Day Two. I’m beyond pleased that my skin is smoother than it’s ever been, and my dry patches have miraculously cleared up. I wish I could say my skin was plumper, but that would probably take more than a week, or time travel (back, obviously).
Would I go off added sugars again? Absolutely, I saw a difference in my skin and liked it. I can do without sweets for a few days. But will I quit sugar entirely? Nope, I’m not a sugar fiend to begin with and the key thing here, as Dr Teo says, is balance.
(Also read: Questions You Should Be Asking Your Dermatologist)
See signs of Sugar Face? Try these skin-savers:
Repair: Pai Skincare Instant Calm Redness Serum – Sea Aster & Wild Oat, 30ml, $92, Sephora
This super-soothing serum reduces redness with strengthening sea aster, while the natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties of wild oat repairs damaged skin. Hyaluronic Acid also intensively hydrates skin to help maintain tone and suppleness.
Strengthen: Dr Jart+ Cicapair Serum, 30ml, $66, Sephora
Powered with anti-inflammatory ingredients centella asiatica complex and green repair herbs to calm sensitive skin redness and soothe irritation, while strengthening skin defences.
Moisturise: Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum, 30ml, $163, Sephora
A peptide-rich (from Spanish lavender) serum, fortified with dual weight hyaluronic acid and natural sugar polymers from larch tree, this hydrates the skin and has a double plumping effect, smoothing and minimising the look of lines and wrinkles.
(Also read: The Best New Vitamin C Serums to Brighten Your Skin)
Hydrate: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra™ Intensive Hydration Serum, 50ml, $68, Sephora
Formulated with ultra-hydrating vitamin B5 and pineapple ceramides to attract and hold moisture, and a unique blend of lentil, apple and watermelon complex to help diminish dryness and the appearance of fine lines.
Plump: ORBIS Wrinkle White Essence, 30g, $74, Robinsons Raffles City
The miracle ingredient in this “medical-cosmetic” product is W-Niacin, derived from Niacinamide (a form of Vitamin B), which boosts collagen production, plumps the skin and reduces wrinkles.
Clarify: Kylaz Spot Off Treatment, 10ml, $18 from Jyx.Shop
Packed with eight powerful ingredients including aluminium chlorohydrate, salicylic acid and centella asiatica extract, use this emergency treatment to clear spots, calm skin and control oil production.
Calm: Indie Lee Clearing Mask, 48.2g, $88, from Sephora
Bentonite clay, seaweed and colloidal sulphur blend with exfoliating glycolic and salicylic acids to draw impurities, toxins and bacteria from your pores and thwart acne, while chamomile and camphor extracts calm inflammation.