It’s all over the news! Sugar is bad for your waistline, sugar is addictive, sugar is the devil, sugar makes you fat, sugar gives you diabetes and renal problems. Not to forget sugar also contributes to Alzheimers and gives you cardiovascular diseases. Yes, it’s true, unchecked sugar consumption can set you up for a lifetime of perhaps avoidable health problems. We know all these things, but do you know what sugar does to your skin, the largest organ of your body?
When there is too much sugar in the body, the excess attaches itself to protein cells. Together a sugar protein called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) is created. The body does not recognise AGEs and treat them as abnormal cells (they are, as they really shouldn’t be there). Therefore antibodies are produced to attack them. All this attacking is hard work and inflames the skin.
AGEs also attack collagen and elastin – the skins scaffold. Healthy collagen strands have the ability to slide over each other to keep skin elastic. When AGES attach to collagen it creates stiffness and rigidity, taking away the skin’s ability snap back into its proper form. This damages underlying structures, causes wrinkles, loss of elasticity, dark circles, loss of facial contours, puffiness and compromises the integrity of the acid mantle. Leading to increased pore size, more breakouts including acne, slower healing spots and more inflammation.
However, glycation IS a fact of life. It cannot be avoided and is constantly happening. The only thing that can be done is to slow down the rate and avoid foods that unnecessarily flood the body with excess sugar. It’s not just raw sugar to be aware of, because even carbohydrate based food converts into sugar during the digestive process. The trick is in eating healthy carbs that break down slowly and are less likely to flood the body with glucose.
In a world where a lot of our food is unknowingly laced with sugar how does one avoid consuming excess sugar?
Quite simply it comes down to dietary vigilance. Look at the ratio of processed versus fresh food you are eating. Sometimes processed food is easier, more convenient and more practical depending on what you have going on in your life. Therefore there will be occasions where sugar is unavoidable. Celebrations would be so boring if we couldn’t have a slice of cake!
To avoid excess gylcation completely food has to be as fresh and unaltered as to the day it was pulled from the ground, brought in from the field or fished from the sea. Again, not always possible or practical but by being more vigilant and paying closer attention to food labels it is possible to avoid over doing sugar. There is no way that sugar can be avoided completely, but if there are more biscuits in your shopping basket than fresh food, then you aren’t doing yourself any favours.
Remember sugar isn’t always called sugar.
As they say, the devil comes in many disguises and so does sugar. Dextrose, frutose, glucose, invert sugar, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sorbitol, dextran, honey. There are over 200 variations of sugar that manufactures can use in food production, so it pays to be aware.
When do the effects of glycation show up?
Typically at some point during your 30’s (even earlier depending on bad things are) you will start to notice some of the effects of glycation. This is the point at which years of unknown damage to the deeper layers of skin start revealing themselves. Generally the time where a combination of hormonal changes, environmental stresses, sun damage, free radical oxidisation also in the body show up. Basically it can be a situation, where everything shows up at once and it’s a time to reassess old habits and skincare regimes. Earlier in the summer, I kept getting repeated break outs which I know had something to do with sugar, because when I paid more attention to what I ate, break outs disappeared.
Since glycation is a constant, how does one improve their odds?
Better food selection
Positive changes to your diet is the best action you can take. Eating more fresh and wholesome food is good not only for your skin, but for your entire body. Foods with a low GI (glycemic index) release sugar slowly and are less like to cause an inflammatory response in the body. Combined with being more active and good skincare habits and there will be visible differences. Exercise will burn up extra calories which may otherwise be stored as excess sugar and fat in the body.
Step up your supplements
There are supplements you can take that will help ease the effects of gylcation. They work by slowing down the ageing effects of excess dietary sugars. Studies have shown the inclusion of vitamins B1 (Benfotiamine) and B6 can alleviate some of the damage. Carnosine is an amino acid that maintains a status of being an excellent anti ageing aid. Alpha Lipoic Acid contributes to the normal working of every cell in the body and reduces the amount of sugar available for AGEs to form. Blueberries and Pomegranates contain high levels of polyphenols which work in as anti oxidants to rid the body of free radical damage. These can also be taken as supplements when they are out of season. It’s important to seek medical advice from your GP before embarking on new medication, including supplements.
Glycated skin is already compromised skin, therefore it doesn’t need any aggressive treatments. Its fragility means you want to hydrate and cocoon so it can build up strength and rebuild proper barrier function. You need gentle washes and exfoliators that don’t strip or scratch the skin and masks that reinforce skins resilience.
You will find life in chirally correct Cosmedix CPR Skin Recovery Serum. It’s blend of antioxidants and vitamins quickly calms and soothes irritated and inflamed skin. It’s great for any skin type.
Skinceuticals A.G.E Interrupter is a rich emollient to hydrate extremely dry and compromised skin. Blueberry extract, Proxylane and Phytosphingosine are the key ingredients that make this product pretty powerful!
ARK Skincare have the Antioxidant SkinResponse serum with White Tea, Blue Lotus and Gojiberry which are powerful and proven to slow down the signs of ageing.
It pays to love your skin even more at night with a rich, luxurious and absorbing oil. Spend some time gently massaging the oil into your skin to bring fresh oxygen and nutrients and remove toxins.
SPF is even more important for skin showing signs of glycation because the protective function of the skin is already been compromised. Therefore it is more at risk of sun damage. Be it included in your skincare or a separate sunscreen it pays to put some on.
In the words of the founder of Perricone Skincare –
‘I am not exaggerating when I say that sugar can rob you of your youth, health, and beauty.’ Dr Nicholas Perricone – Dermatologist, Healthy Ageing Expert and so much more.
I completely agree!