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Why Artificial Sweeteners are Bad For Your Skin (And Your Health), According to Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe


Dr. Whitney Bowe, renowned dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Feeling Radiant From The Inside Out was a self-proclaimed fake sugar “junkie.” But once she began researching the effects of artificial sweeteners on her body and her skin, these fake sweeteners just didn’t seem as sweet as before. While these additives may satisfy our sweet tooth in the short term, the long term effects of artificial sweeteners on the body can cause a lot of harm, including increased sugar cravings, weight gain and skin problems. Here’s why Dr. Bowe tells all her patients to cut out the artificial sweeteners completely.


My dermatology patients are often surprised when I ask them about artificial sweeteners in their diet because they still believe that fake sweeteners are somehow better for them than their real sugar counterparts. I certainly thought so too and used artificial sweeteners regularly for a long time. But the proof comes when I put my patients on a low-sugar diet that includes no artificial sweeteners. They are almost always rewarded with clearer, calmer, smoother skin!

Now that I’ve kicked my sugar-junkie habits to the curb, it’s fascinating to look back on what used to be my normal eating habits. I’d start my day with a mild blend of coffee, at least one packet of aspartame and a tablespoon of sugar-free hazelnut powdered creamer—the sweeter the better! I was also totally addicted to a specific diet and I had up to three sweetened iced teas a day. I craved that diet iced tea in a bad way. I’d become grumpy if I didn’t have it! And then to make matters worse, throughout the day, I would put sweetener on foods that had no business having sugar on them, ending with my typical nightcap of a diet soda.


What’s Wrong With Artificial Sweeteners?

I wasn’t the only one who thought that artificial sweeteners were fine to use and better than sugar. For a long time, scientists believed that artificial sweeteners had no effect on the body and that sugar substitutes such as saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (Equal) did not have harmful effects on the body.

But here’s the shocking truth. While it’s true that these artificial sweeteners don’t have calories, adding fake sugar into our diet can absolutely have an impact on our bodies, and even cause the same metabolic disorders that real sugar causes. In fact, today, we have a lot of research that proves that artificial sweeteners have the power to disrupt our gut’s microbial inhabitants, and as a consequence negatively affect metabolism and blood sugar balance. This cause lead to skin issues including acne and rosacea!

Now we understand that as artificial sweeteners pass through our digestive system, they can trigger temporary rises in insulin levels and change the composition of bacteria in our gut—our microbiome—to favor an unhealthy metabolism. Studies are emerging to show that the gut bacteria of people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners is very different from those of people who do not.

This explains why eating artificial sweeteners has been linked to weight gain, a higher fasting blood glucose level and an elevated risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, there are many well-designed studies that include tens of thousands of people that have shown without a question that fake sugars can actually increase your risk for being overweight with serious metabolic disorders over the long term. One study revealed that women who drank artificially sweetened drinks over the course of 20 years had double the risk of developing diabetes than women who drank beverages sweetened with real sugar.


Artificial Sweeteners Are Not Kind To Your Skin

So what does all of this have to do with skin? It’s simple. When your gut is unhappy, so is your skin, and artificial sweeteners make your gut fairly unhappy!

Because these diet foods and beverages not only increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, but they can also trigger skin disorders such as acne or rosacea that develop as a result of inflammation. This is because artificial sweeteners disrupt the balance of the body’s blood sugar, leading to hormonal imbalances and….acne.

So while consuming these sweeteners doesn’t actually provide any additional calories, the sweet taste of fake sugar triggers some of the same biological responses that actual sugar does when we eat it. And it can have a worse effect on your body that real sugar.

That’s why I suggest doing what I did and eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet completely to erase the negative effects on your body.  I’ll be honest. It was not pretty, and it was hard. But if I can do it, I know you can too! And your hard work will pay off once you see the difference in clearer, healthier looking skin!


If you want to learn more about how artificial sugar, real sugar and how your entire diet impacts your skin and your overall health, check out my book—The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Feeling Radiant From The Inside Out  or visit my website.


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15 thoughts on “Why Artificial Sweeteners are Bad For Your Skin (And Your Health), According to Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe

  1. Benny Hom

    For 2 years I’ve had a awful itchy burning rash all over my body. Went to 2 dermatologist and a allergist. They found nothing that caused my rash. A friend mentioned she had the same rash and her her doctor recommended she give up artificial sweetener. Cleared up in a week. I tried her advice for the last 4 days and my skin alt feels better.

  2. John H

    What is the science and mechanism of action for Sucralose and the Erythritol causing inflammation?
    I believe in natural whole foods but get tired of people making things up without any proof. Artificial sweeteners are lumped with sugar. These are two different substances. I would like to see the results of patients that only used artificial sweeteners. I had a friend who started on an expensive vitamin the same time she gave up all processed food and gluten. She gave credit to the vitamin and not giving up the manufactured processed food.

    1. Recipe Team

      Hi Larry: Thanks for reaching out. You should definitely try cutting out the sugar substitutes to see if there is any change in your skin. Good luck!

  3. Char schindler

    I have been losing my hair, could these sweeteners be causing this to happen? I also have an enbalance in my stomach but I don’t use many sweeteners usually, but found out that my melonintonin I am taking at night has the sweeteners initial for which I was not aware of.. we have been trying to find out what my stomach trouble is for months.
    Thank you
    Char Schindler. Evansville, indiana

  4. Lesley Van Niekerk

    Can aspartame give skin allergies Dr said she has JSJ Cortisone help but cant live on it She drink alot of coke light can that be the problem

  5. Steve Van Duyn

    I have tried to limit my use of any sweetener, except stevia. Often there are many other ingredients in leading name brand stevia. Trying to hydrate all day, I use white tea and hibiscus, blackberry tea with 100% chocolate organic powder added. Yet even with only the Stevia, I still break out. Now I’m dropping all sweeteners. Then watching for the same reaction. I don’t eat anything containing high amounts of lectins, such as, peppers, certain nuts, beans or grains. I don’t eat night shades. I don’t eat anything with sugar. I eat omega 3 rich foods at predominately a one to one ratio with 6. Along with supplementing omegas. I try to get organic grass fed, free range, pastured animal products. I poach, roast, or bake only. I eat alittle dairy products, made from raw certified sheep, goat or type 2 milk. I supplement completely and colloidally. I’m well nourished and lean, with only light belly fat. One by one I’ve eliminated the possibilities, in the last 9 months. I’ve never had rashes in my life, except when the season changes to freezing, and a little appears annually near scar tissue. Understandable, so I apply a small amount of moisturizer when wet immediately after bathing. I’ve had my suspicions, that it was a sweetener, or one of the consistent supplements. I can tolerate and accommodate the loss of sweetness. Gut science, and its links to the immune system are the poster boys of nutrition today. Your reference to the gut, caught my attention. I dropped sugar, years ago. I take no recreational or prescription drugs.

  6. Mary Ellen Lavelle

    I am a sweetener/creamer junkie with my 2 cups of coffee every day for decades. I’m now 88 years old and this year suddenly having a battle with eczema and itchy eyelashes and eyebrows. Have been eliminating all sorts of foods with minor results. My daughter sent me your article and I am convinced that I should try doing without sweeteners and creamers. for a month to see what results occur Certainly worth a try. Thanks a bundle for your website.

  7. Gavin Bree

    I’ve had to give up on Artificial Sweeteners as well, it causes me to get a rash across my forehead which goes dry and flaky (I assume its psoriasis), I do suffer from rosacea as well but this does not seem to be triggered by sweeteners however.
    I have read all sorts of stories about sweeteners being linked to Cancer and Alzheimers and I just think if its something you can do without why would you take the risk, sugar may not be great but I would rather take my chances with something that has been around for centuries and try to maintain a low sugar diet where I can.

  8. Andre Denson

    My name is andre I’ve been drinking 2 or more cups of coffee 4 the past 19 years now i nothice my skin started to develop redness dryness acne I’m pretty sure it’s because of the sugar i now have diabetes since 2008 acid reflux and an inflame liver i have been wanting to cut the sugar out 4 years now it’s really hard

  9. Patrick Allen

    I recently quit artificial sweeteners (AS), and the results were dramatic. I had two lymph nodes that were swollen and my tonsils. Well, the lymph node in the front of my neck is normal now. The one on the back of my neck is almost normal, and my tonsils have decreased. I also got many shaving bumps, and I found that my facial hair would just pull out like it was not attached to anything. These shaving bumps would cause sores that were slow to heal, and my facial hair is hard to pull out now. After stopping ASs, the sores heal quickly. I also had restless legs and was tired a lot. These have also stopped also. I have used products with ASs for 30 years, and I quit them all.


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