Struggling hard with sugar cravings? Bad news if you also suffer from acne.
Sugar causes acne, Or at least it’s a top contributor to it for most peeps. It promotes inflammation and hormone imbalance, via that sneaky hormone called insulin.
And there is such a thing as sugar addiction, and all the intoxicating sugar cravings that go with that.
I know this, because I’ve experienced it.
It’s time for me to come clean — with a few juicy stories from my misty past, and what I did to claim my health and acne prone skin back from my over-the-top sugar cravings.
For a few years, I actually had a dedicated budget to chocolate and cookies and sweet things.
When I prepared for a trip, I made sure to pack a couple of chocolate blocks, just in case.
And I remember that one time when my housemate showed my guests (my friends!) how many chocolate blocks I kept in the fridge. (5)
I remember feeling annoyed at my housemate for revealing my dirty secret, and yet thinking that nothing was wrong with my chocolate intake, thank you very much.
I didn’t realise it wasn’t normal.
Worse, I didn’t realise it wasn’t healthy.
So… Hello, my name is Celine Harleaux, and I’m a recovering addict.
Help! I’m Craving Sugar and It’s Causing Acne, What Do I Do?
Give yourself a big hug!
The path will probably be tortuous, but I promise the destination is sweet (pun intended) 😀
Here’s what I and others in Naturally Clear Skin Academy did to kick our sugar cravings for good so that it could stop causing acne.
First of all, you need to get clear on your motivations.
Quit the stories you tell yourself, and be honest (and compassionate) with your beautiful self.
When do you crave sugar?
What are feeling, thinking about, before/when you crave it?
Is there a part of you that really, reallyyyyy wants that brownie, and another part that’s trying to control your impulse?
Personally, I used sugar to:
- Get a high when I felt tired, nervous, sad, depressed, stressed, homesick, lonely, etc… Which as a uni student, happened fairly often;
- Feel full and satiated so that I could study for another couple of hours before starving and having to cook a proper meal for myself (aka the worst excuse in the world).
Honestly, those are mechanisms I’ve only uncovered recently.
Back then, I was just in a sugar-high fog pretty much all the time.
Other triggers for sugar cravings that acne warriors have mentioned include:
- At home: “Whenever a family member brings home something sugary… I just can’t resist, especially if everyone is having a piece”;
- At the workplace: “I work in a donut factory, and the temptation is omnipresent”;
- During the week-end: “For me, it’s often when I’m in a coffee shop, and my partner treats himself to a custard square, I think: if he can, then so can I. And bam! I fall into the trap”;
- When out and about (or travelling): “When it is in front of me, when I’m having a stressful moment… Or when I’ve been eating well and healthy for most of the day or the week, sugar comes as a reward. Then obviously, I fall into a binge-eating pattern, and I stuff myself with every cookie in the packet, instead of just one”;
- When tired: “I learned to recognize what was pushing me to have sugar: I needed it to get an energy boost, and to help me go through intense emotions.”
How about you?
Analyse why you have to have sugar, why you feel that impulse to buy that slice of cheesecake in the shop, and devour it one go, even if there’s a part of you that says: “Stop!”.
Why do you have to eat every cookie in the packet, even when you’re full?
How do you feel before, during, afterwards, physically and emotionally?
I invite you to get clear on your conscious and unconscious motives and desires.
With an open mind, and a compassionate heart.
Be honest, patient, and forgiving: health is a journey, not a destination.
It’s the same for clear skin, and self-love.
Techniques to Stop Acne-Causing Sugar Cravings
Thanks to my intense sugar cravings, quitting sugar cold turkey was near-impossible for me.
I know that many brave souls have done it, but I felt like I was failing, again and again..
It was awful, like I was constantly disappointing myself and others who believed I could do it.
Instead, I was eventually able to withdraw sugar gradually, whilst on a high-protein, low-carb diet.
The detox brought up so much stuff to the surface, both toxins and feelings I did not want to deal with.
However, getting clear skin was my number one objective at the time; so if that meant that I needed to quit sugar and deal with my emotions properly, then so be it.
That’s how ready for clear skin I was (haha)!
If that sounds scary, remember that you won’t have to give up all sugar forever.
Just for the time being.
Afterwards, you will be able to eat natural sugar in moderate amounts, and the occasional processed sugary treat, too.
And you will actually feel satisfied! I swear!
Know that the detox is worst in the beginning, and as you get over the addiction and the sugar cravings slow, it will be easier to go with reduced amounts of sugar, or even without it at all.
Plan ahead what you’re going to eat, and have a general idea of what your meals are going to be the night before.
Also, eat nutritious meals throughout the day, and don’t wait until you’re hangry and starving.
Do it Slowly
Wean yourself off refined sugar treats slowly. For instance, you can treat yourself to a teaspoon of raw honey whenever the sugar cravings hit.
Or have a square of 90% dark chocolate every night after dinner… And look forward to it!
You can also set a specific time once a week (or twice at first) to have something you really crave. Decide beforehand when, and how much you will have.
And when the time comes, do it with pure pleasure, and without guilt.
The progress will be slower, yet more manageable and less stressful.
In other words, it will be easier to incorporate short-term, easy-ish healthy actions into a more permanent lifestyle.
Change Your Language
For some of us, the thought of not being able to eat sugar because of a super-strict diet makes us want it more!
The solution, then, is to change what you say to yourself.
Choose to transform the argument in your mind (“Why can’t I have ice cream? Life isn’t fair! Why meeeee? Why does everybody else have clear skin? What did I do to deserve this? I hate my liiiiiiife”) into positive statements (“I allow myself one treat every day, and I choose to focus on eating healthy the rest of the time”).
The above mindset twist turns this into something you are choosing to do for right now, rather than something you are forced into against your will. This has an amazing effect on curbing the sugar cravings.
You may also ask yourself what is it that you’re really hungry for?
Love, care, pleasure?
If your love of brownies really translates into a need to fill in a hole in your soul, take a leap of faith, and brainstorm ideas of other ways you can take care of yourself.
… Knowing that the occasional cookie is fine, too!
It might take some time until you figure out what you actually need to feel better when you feel deprived or resentful.
Until then, be easy on yourself, and release the guilt and the frustration as much as possible.
Supplements to Help Stop Sugar Cravings
Acne warriors can be a little crazy about supplements (I certainly have been!).
Don’t expect miracles from supplements, they do only that — supplement, or complement a healthy lifestyle that needs a little support.
Tracy recommends mostly L-glutamine powder to help curb sugar cravings. Don’t use it if you get hyper from it, and can’t sleep!
As always, do your research and ask your GP before starting a new supplement. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.
Also, check your protein intake and digestion.
If your sugar cravings are bad in the mid-afternoon, include protein with breakfast, and mid-morning snack.
Don’t skip this one: it is important when you have blood sugar issues, which is a big part of sugar cravings.
Using Recipes with Natural Sugar as a Sugar Alternative
There is sugar in everything.
Honestly, most of us don’t know how food tastes without it!
So, the easiest, when you’re on an off-sugar mission, is to read all the labels of all the foods you usually buy, in order to find out how sugar is sneaking into your diet.
Even then, you might find that what you can actually buy from the supermarket is a lot more expensive than regular, processed crap.
I suggest you make your treats yourself, experiment with new recipes!
Here are few of our community’s favorite recipes.
- I know it doesn’t really sound like a treat, but give a go to sweet fruits, like mangoes or grapes — depending what’s in season in your country
- Cookies and cream substitute: unsweetened coconut milk, blended with cacao nibs (and I dare say, a tiny splash of pure maple syrup)
- Nice cream: blend frozen bananas with a dollop of Greek or coconut yogurt and almond milk. Top up with pure maple syrup, 100% cocoa powder, vanilla powder, and melted coconut oil
- Unsweetened applesauce (homemade tastes even better, and is super easy to make) with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and add a dollop of unsweetened coconut yogurt
- My latest discovery: Cut a banana in two lengthwise, and fry in coconut oil on the stove. Flip when slightly brown, and take off the stove as soon as the banana starts to melt. Top up with roasted walnuts and pecans. Add with a tiny bit of vanilla powder and cinnamon, and some coconut cream (if you’re feeling fancy, mix cocoa powder with melted coconut oil to make a chocolate sauce)
- 100% chocolate is incredible! I can’t find it easily here in New Zealand, so I sometimes get my sister to send it to me from France 😉
- Raw cheesecakes — they have SO much flavour, and they are so many different recipes on the Internet. Generally, the base is a mix of dates and walnuts, and the ‘cheese’ is a cashew nut cream with a sweetener, and berries on top;
- Sweet, nutty, delicious almond butter. I use it in literally every sweet thing I make, and here’s my personal all-time favorite, quick‘n easy recipe: cut a Medjool date lengthwise, tuck in half a pecan, and cover it with a mix of almond butter, 100% cocoa powder, pure maple or date syrup, and a dash of cinnamon. It’s sooooo good.
The idea here is to replace processed sugar with raw or dried fruits, honey, etc. at first, and then gradually take these off as you move into a near-completely (processed + natural) sugar-free diet for as long as necessary.
Make yourself a collection of all-natural treat recipes.
And know that it’s OK if you can’t control yourself enough to eat only one serving in the beginning (forgive yourself if that’s the case!).
Curbing the Sugar Cravings to Stop Acne is Worth the Fight
As I look back on my sugar-free journey, I realise that kicking my sugar habit was the hardest, yet the most rewarding thing I did for my skin… And for my health!
Now, I often hear that acne warriors are quite happy to quit sugar, but just for the time being, until they clear their skin, thank you very much.
To me, that’s just a sign of how pervasive processed sugars are in our daily lives.
How used we are to the stuff — and we don’t even know it.
Research the subject, and you’ll see how detrimental (processed) sugar is to your health.
And, as you work on getting clear skin, and as you learn to love yourself, pimples or no pimples, you will also learn to treat your body with respect, and that means nutritious food (a good majority of the time anyway!)
Want to know a secret?
As you get off the stuff, your tastebuds will alter.
You will be able (and that’s one of my own personal miracles) to taste the sweetness in rice, for instance.
In freakin’ rice!!!
You might also discover the complexity of flavours in something that seems boring at first, like an apple.
How crazy is that?
Kicking the sugar cravings might be a lot more difficult than you expect: it is often an up-and-down process, both physically and emotionally!
But know that your skin, your body… YOU are worth it.
And if you slip, remember to indulge in positive self-talk.
And you’ll find that it’s not too hard after a little while.
You’ll get there.
I’m sending you tons of love x
Bonus Resource for Stopping Sugar Cravings from Causing Acne
The Happy Pear guys have created many delicious sugar-free recipes (and I’ve tried most of them over the years!). Their bounty bar recipe is literally to die for (my husband actually has to hide them from me when he makes them).
Be aware that the recipes are not suitable whilst on a candida diet, but they’re an awesome way to get off processed sugar.
Celine Harleaux suffered from acne for what felt like centuries, and is now blessed with clear skin (well, most of the time).
She discovered energy healing and self-love during her acne journey, and she now believes self-love is THE key to help you regain your clear skin, strength, confidence, and awesomeness.
You can book a session with her through her website.
Can I disagree with you? 🙂 Sugar causes inflammation, for sure, I know it in my own skin! But I’m not sure about the detox theory…A doctor said: we don’t need to do anything to detox, our bodies do it anyway. That’s how our bodies have evolved during millions of years of evolution 🙂 The best way to detox the body is simply go to toilet and pee! Of course, if there’s something dangerous in the body, like nicotine, alcohol, mercury, poison mushrooms…then there is really need to detox!
So I don’t believe sugar causes any need to detox. Even if it’s unhealthy, I still think sugar is something natural. I’m quite a sugar junkie, and have been much worse. If I try to deny and cut all sugar…the mere thought causes anxiety. I needed to set boundaries to myself. So I allow myself to have one chocolate bar in the afternoon. I look forward to it and eat with pleasure. Then I’m satisfied. That’s the point. Feeling satisfied= no need to crave anything!
An esteemed nutritionist in my country said, the adult body can easily handle 50-70 grams sugar every day, without any damage. It’s good to know, no need to be so hysteric about it. Maybe my skin would be awesome, if I would replace all chocolate with spinach leaves…but is that a realistic thought? This is real life, not theories…I can be relaxed and happy if I can have some sugary treats, or become irritated and stressed if I’m never allowed to have any. So maybe life is always…little bit finding the balance? 🙂
So somehow this thought “sugar causes acne, it’s my fault, I’m a bad person, with no will-power, now I must try to cut all sugar and detox and if I will experience withdrawal symptoms, I deserve it, because I’m such a greedy and reckless person”…causes enormous stress to already stressed acne person! It doesn’t have to be so hard. Really, there’s no need to!
PS. I’ve also noticed, a very simple way to reduce sugar cravings: Sleep well, good breakfast, good lunch. If we are tired and blood sugars drops, it’s entirely natural to crave sugar and it has nothing to do with willpower etc.
Hi Anna! 🙂
You’re right that detox might not be the most accurate of terms, it’s often a catch all term, whether it’ accurate or not. You are absolutely right that detox is something that our bodies do all the time — what’s referred to as “detoxing” is not so much ‘making’ your body detox, as it is simply supporting your body’s natural detox process. It’s usually when you remove the load of things for the body to detox, then the theory is that it simply has more capacity to “clean house”, where before it was just trying to put out fires. I don’t know why exactly this ends up with a worse before it gets better/withdrawal effect, but it seems to.
But anyway — back to sugar. I don’t want to push your buttons, but if you are a self proclaimed sugar junkie, I see how this article might get you anxious! However, that doesn’t mean that one chocolate bar per day is necessarily healthy. One, perhaps two, small chocolate bars per week, sure. (that’s my opinion, so we are fine to disagree, and what is healthy is so variable depending on the person anyway).
I agree with you in so many ways. For me, my personal experience was that when I was super strict about my diet, I craved sugar so hard. And then I’d binge on it. Because I couldn’t have it because of my skin, I wanted it so bad. Similar to what you’re saying.
And then when I stopped being so strict and changed my thinking to “I can have sugar whenever I want. I’m choosing not to eat it right now, but that’s fine because I can have it anytime I want”. As a result, I don’t have sugar cravings anymore at all, and I don’t feel the need to eat it every day. If someone offers me pie, I eat it and as you said savour it and enjoy it, but I don’t feel the need to have a sweet treat every day — because I’m not in a feast or famine anymore. I don’t have to stock pile it like chocolate’s going out of business. It makes perfect sense that if someone (even if that someone is yourself) is threatening to take something away from you, it makes you anxious and you want it more.
So anyway — point being, my advice is that if you’d like to cut back on sugar for your skin, then change your thinking — make it a choice you’re making for right now, and not a “have to”.
The thing is that for a lot of people, sugar can be a big acne causer (everyone is different of course). Some people would rather have clear skin than have sugar. But it’s hard to get off sugar, you know this. Some people, like yourself, would rather have some sugar and have perhaps not-as-good skin (if that’s the case for you) and that is the choice you’ve made for yourself. That makes you happiest, and that is totally fine!
No one is at all trying to say that you have to get off sugar completely, otherwise it’s your fault or that you’re greedy or deserve withdrawal. That’s the last thing Celine is intending to say. She is just giving people who would rather have clear skin than sugar the help they need on how to get off of it… if that’s what they want to do. It is not intended to make anyone who chooses to eat sugar feel like a bad person. Nor is the article saying that you have to be a saint and never have a cookie. Ask yourself if you have a belief that desiring sugar and pleasure makes you a bad person. It doesn’t! In reality all that desiring sugar says is that you’re human. We all have a desire for things that are pleasurable!
Unfortunately some thing that are pleasurable are not healthy depending on the dose, and depending on your intention behind them (like are they actually being partaken in occasionally for a bit of fun or pleasure, or is it to cope with a difficult emotion – which leads to an unhealthy dependence). This could apply not only to sugar and food but anything — alcohol, gambling, drugs, sex, TV, social media, work, relationships, hobbies even. Again, none of this makes you a bad person, at all. It’s simply human nature.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Anna! 🙂 It’s good to have a discussion about these things
Yes, please, disagree with me! I do love a good debate.
Sweet treats are definitely an enjoyable part of life! I remember the chocolate and pear tart that my grandma used to bake especially for me… I also remember that instead of having one slice of that delicious tart, I would have 2 or 3, and maybe even eat the whole thing at night while everybody was asleep.
And it happened every time there was dessert/a baked treat/chocolat in my home… I’m French, and it happened often! This all caused a vicious cycle of pleasure, guilt, and inflammation in my body (my body wasn’t able to cope with all the sugar!).
As you say, all is well with having one chocolate bar in the afternoon. I wish I had your self-control haha! It’s when you stop losing that self-control that things start to go downhill. Nutritionists start to talk about addiction to sugar, and I know that that’s what I suffered from.
This article was written for acne sufferers who think that their acne might be caused by their intake of sweet treats, and who are trying to get off the thing for now.
Now, I can only speak from my experience. I’m not a nutritionist or a licensed GP, and I know that stopping sugar was crucial in healing my skin. It’s up to you to decide what to do with the info I put in this article.
Lots of love to you!
Hi Tracy and Celine,
Sugar is such an interesting cause of acne. As anyone knows who has studied biology/physiology/chemistry to a higher level our bodies run on glucose and excess glucose is stored as glycogen. Even if someone is on a high protein (Atkins type) diet the end result is that the chemical pathways our bodies use always results in the formation and “burning” of sugar for energy.
That’s not to say that all sugar is the same though. As Celine has noted, using alternative recipes and ingredients that avoid table sugar (mostly sucrose) and using ingredients like fruits and maple syrup elicits a lower glycemic response. Which has the knock on effect of more of a “slow burn” effect of insulin being released over a period of time.
For me, I get horrible back acne and diet is one of the factors I know that causes it. In saying that, you’ll find it hard to get me away from cheesecakes, doughnuts and ice cream 🙂 after dinner. My solution is not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach and not buying sugary items in the first place. It seems to work but I do slip up.
Hi Jess! Thanks for your thoughts. Yes staying away from sugar is not easy at all, it’s kind of like heroin. But yes, very good strategy, as you mention, is just not buying sugary stuff in the first place. That will definitely eliminate a lot of it. And just hope you don’t live with someone who’s also a sugar fiend! 😉
Yay! Thank you for your comment!
I definitely agree – if you find it hard to stay away from cheesecakes, doughnuts, and ice cream (and a part of you actually wants to), you could try the healthier alternative? My husband makes me a nutritious cheesecake for my birthday, and I just couldn’t go back to the standard version now. It’s just the transition that’s hard haha
I do agree with eating before going grocery shopping; that tip was a life-saver for me.
And it’s OK to slip up – you’re doing your best, and that’s all you need to do. I do slip up as well, especially since hubby eats cane sugar more often than I’d like him to! He brings the temptation into the house! 😉
Lots of love xx
I would have appreciated images of fruits and vegetables instead of a picture of perfectly delicious looking glazed doughnuts. You had me up until that pic of doughnuts… and now they are all I can think about and I found it hard to focus on the rest of the article. How about a pic of a carrot?
Haha you’re right! Focus on the bigger picture – is it in your highest and best to go to the bakery, and get a doughnut? Is it what your body needs/wants? If the answer is ‘yes’, go for it, and eat it with pleasure.
I don’t think sugar is evil in itself, but it’s our relationship to it that we need to pay attention to. A little bit of everything in moderation, that’s what I say 🙂
Sorry, my bad, sometimes finding interesting stock photos is a pain in the butt!