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angela jia kim brown spots

The Surprising Truth Behind Sugar + Sunspots That Our Korean Mamas Told us

Written by: Angela Kim



Time to read 4 min

This past weekend, a friend and I chilled all day watching silly Korean reality TV shows and discussed everything from hormonal imbalances to yoga to nutrition. She shared her mom's best advice: "Eating sugar will give you sun spots."

I laughed because my mom used to say the same exact thing (is it a Korean mom thing?) While the advice is oversimplified, our moms were giving us sensible advice. Our skin mirrors what’s going on with us on emotional, spiritual, and physical levels; and brown spots have a fascinating connection to eating too much sugar.

A high-sugar diet can exacerbate inflammation and reduce the skin's ability to heal and defend itself against environmental stresses, including UV radiation from the sun.

This weakened state makes the skin more vulnerable to developing sun spots. When the skin is damaged by UV rays, it responds by producing melanin, which can cluster and form visible brown spots.

Sun spots, brown spots, age spots, and hyperpigmentation are small, flat darkened areas on the skin. They appear on areas exposed to the sun.

The Science Behind Sugar and Sun Spots

1. Glycation

When you consume sugar, it binds to proteins, such as collagen and elastin, in your body, forming harmful molecules called AGEs (advanced glycation end products).

Collagen provides structure to the skin, while elastin helps it snap back into place. When these proteins are damaged by AGEs, the skin become less firm and elastic, leading to wrinkles and sagging, as well as an increased likelihood of developing brown spots.

2. Inflammation

Inflammation is your body's response to injuries or infections; extra blood and immune cells are sent to help heal the area. Sugar overload can trigger this reaction throughout your body, making your skin more sensitive to sun damage, which causes or worsens brown spots.

3. Hormonal Imbalance

Eating excessive sugar can lead to spikes in glucose and insulin levels, which disrupts your hormones. This imbalance leads to an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone can lead to increased oil production, inflammation, and a breakdown of collagen, which contributes to pigmentation issues.

Mom's Remedies for Sun Spots

1. Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen!

There’s a reason why sunscreen is considered one of the most important skincare products to use daily. UVA rays cause skin aging, while UVB rays cause sunburn, so it’s important to find a broad-spectrum SPF for full protection.

I love using our Radiance Sun Milk, which offers mineral SPF 50+ broad-spectrum protection. It also hydrates and plumps the skin with hyaluronic acid, while 2% niacinamide helps to keep sun spots at bay.

2. Use a Collagen Cream

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Since sugar can break down collagen and elastin, which leads to aging factors like brown spots, I’m very excited about the upcoming launch of our seasonal Radiant Rose Collagen Cream.

This creamy moisturizer has been boosted with 2% collagen and 2% peptides to plump the skin and protect the pores for a glass-like skin texture. It has a sensual, subtle aroma and is packed with rose hip oil to help fade hyperpigmentation, rose otto for soft and supple skin, and evening primrose to strengthen the skin barrier. 

3. Up Your Vitamin C

Vitamin C antioxidants are one of the best ways to fight free radicals and stop the glycation process that leads to brown spots. You can apply topical skincare products high in Vitamin C, like Pomegranate Peptide Serum, Pumpkin Seed Serum, and Yuzu Lemonade Peel.

The most powerful way to fight the brown spots is to eat unheated foods that are rich in Vitamin C, such as:

  • Citrus (oranges, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit)

  • Bell peppers

  • Strawberries

  • Tomatoes

  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower)

  • White potatoes

4. Try Green Light Therapy

Green LED (Light Emitting Diode) therapy gently reduces sun spots and hyperpigmentation by targeting melanocytes, the cells deep in the dermis responsible for melanin production. 

By decreasing the activity of these cells, green light therapy helps to lighten areas of excessive pigmentation for a more even and radiant skin tone. It's a gentle, non-invasive treatment that is also soothing and relaxing! 

You can enjoy the benefits of this effective treatment integrated into one of our signature facials at Savor Beauty + Spa in NYC.

5. Eat This 3-Ingredient Breakfast!

I've been experimenting with a high-protein breakfast to reduce sugar cravings, and here’s my new favorite recipe with just 3 ingredients: cottage cheese, cashew butter, and sautéed strawberries or blueberries.

Sautée strawberries or blueberries in ghee. Put half a cup of cottage cheese in a bowl, add a dollop of cashew butter, and drop in the warm strawberries on top to melt the butter.

Voila, a delicious, filling breakfast that keeps your sugar cravings and sun spots at bay. Our (Korean) mamas would be proud!

strawberries to combat sun spots
angela jia kim

Angela Jia Kim, founder of Savor Beauty and author of Radical Radiance: 12 Weeks of Self-Love Rituals, lives in New York City with her teen daughter, mini golden retriever, and philanthropic partner. She embodies a radiance lifestyle through mindful skincare, Kundalini Yoga, mat Pilates, and chakra cleansing rituals. 💞