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Surprising Side Effects Carbs Have On Your Skin, Says Science

This could be the reason you're repeatedly popping pimples.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

We've all had acne at some point in our lives, however, some people have a more severe case than others. And while hormonal changes and medications appear to be the biggest culprits for flare-ups, diet may also play a role.

Aside from acne breakouts, certain foods may even dehydrate our skin or worse, tamper with collagen. Below, we lay out how four different types of carbs could aggravate your skin. And after, don't miss Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.

Eating refined carbs can cause flare-ups.

white bread

Sugary foods such as donuts, cakes, candy, and other less-sugary refined carbs like white bread may be irritating your skin more so than you think. As cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green recently pointed out to Eat This, Not That!, while the relationship between diet and acne remains controversial, there's a growing body of evidence that would suggest the two are connected.

"People with acne tend to consume more refined carbohydrates than people with little or no acne," she said. "Foods rich in refined carbohydrates include bread, crackers, cereal, pasta (all made with white flour), white rice, noodles, sodas, sweetened beverages, cane sugar, maple syrup, and honey or agave."

Regularly eating refined and processed carbs can cause your blood glucose (sugar) levels to increase rapidly, which then signals the pancreas to release insulin, causing the body to produce more oil which then leads to the development of acne.

Drinking cow's milk could worsen acne.

conventional dairy milk

There are about 12 grams of carbs in an 8-ounce cup of 1% cow's milk, per the USDA. Lactose, which is the naturally occurring sugar and main carbohydrate in cow's milk, may cause people to have a skin breakout. Some 65% of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, which could be the reason why your skin reacts poorly to dairy.

Additionally, the two main proteins in milk, whey and casein, stimulate growth hormones in calves. The beverage may also yield the same effect in humans, as well. However, when our bodies try to break down these proteins a hormone called IGF-1 is—and it's known to trigger skin flare-ups. Interestingly, skim milk appears to be the biggest culprit for breakouts, according to a 2014 review in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.

Drinking alcohol could dehydrate your skin.

group of friends toasting with glasses of beer

Drinking too much alcohol, such as beer (which contains the most carbs out of any alcohol) can cause a slew of health complications over time, however, it may dry out your skin almost immediately. In fact, it may even cause your skin to prematurely age, especially if you're routinely drinking alcohol and not drinking enough water.

"Alcohol has the ability to speed up the aging process and cause changes to skin's texture, especially in females if it is not consumed moderately. This is because alcohol acts as a diuretic, it draws out liquid from the body," Green said.

"Less fluid can lead to dehydration and take away moisture from the skin, contributing to dryness. This can make fine lines and wrinkles appear more pronounced."

Candy could be damaging the collagen in your skin.


We all love a sweet treat now and then, however, if you find yourself reaching for a bag of Skittles or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups often, you could be damaging the collagen in your skin—aka, the protein that keeps your skin strong and may even promote elasticity and hydration. In fact, foods that comprise white sugar contribute to the formation of what's called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which form when protein or fat combines with sugar and ultimately damage collagen. Protect your supple skin by avoiding the candy aisle!

Now, be sure to check out 25 Healthy Foods That Give You Glowing Skin.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne
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