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How Sugar Is Aging Your Skin

There’s just no way to sugarcoat it—you’re aging.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop aging altogether, but it is possible to slow and diminish the physical signs of aging.

As with your waistline, sugar is not so sweet when it comes to your skin. It may, in fact, leave a bitter taste to learn that sugar is actually aging your skin.

Although there are many factors that prematurely age our skin, sugar is one of the worst offenders. Sugar, and refined carbohydrates are responsible for a process called glycation, which isn’t pretty. Here’s a closer look at how sugar is impacting your skin.

The Effects of Sugar on Your Skin

Sugar damages your skin through a natural process called glycation. The sugar in your bloodstream permanently attaches to cellular proteins leading to the formation and build up of harmful free radicals called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As AGEs accumulate (with the more sugar you eat), they damage the proteins around them leading to the typical signs of aging such as delayed healing, distortion of skin vasculature, pigmentation (age spots), and increased laxity – also known as the “Sugar Sag” as well as other conditions such as acne and skin tags.

1. Damages Collagen & Elastin

The proteins that are most vulnerable to damage are those that serve as the building blocks for your skin: Collagen and elastin. These proteins keep skin firm and elastic and are responsible for the plump and bouncy characteristics of a healthy and youthful complexion. AGEs cause your collagen and elastin to become stiff, dry and brittle, zapping them of strength and spring. The effects are reflected in your complexion this in the form of fine lines, sagging and wrinkles.

2. Affects the Type of Collagen You Have

A high-sugar diet also affects the type of collagen you have. Your skin contains three primary types of collagen (aptly named Type I, II and III). The stability and resilience of collagen build with each stage: Type I is the weakest and Type III the strongest. Glycation degrades Type III collagen into Type I, thereby diminishing your skin’s structural strength and stability.

3. Deactivates Natural Antioxidant Enzymes

In addition to damaging your skin’s essential proteins, AGEs deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes. Without protection from antioxidants, your skin is more vulnerable to the free radical damage caused by environmental assailants like UV rays, pollution, and blue light. Left to roam (and bind to your skin’s structural proteins), free radicals trigger oxidative stress that contributes to premature aging of your skin.

4. Causes Insulin Spikes

Hormones play an integral role in acne formation – especially adult acne. Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause a surge of the hormone insulin. Elevated insulin concentrations have been shown to stimulate oil gland formation, increase oil production, and raise androgen hormone levels – all factors that contribute to acne.  This is all in addition to the added inflammation known to be caused by the effects of sugar on the body’s immune system.

Signs that Sugar is Aging Your Skin

The visible effects of glycation tend to emerge for women around age 35. By this time, the accumulation of oxidative damage, hormonal changes and AGE development compound. Your skin, unable to counteract the oxidative damage done with sufficient collagen and elastin synthesis, begins to show wear and tear. Here are the tell-tale signs on your face that sugar is the culprit aging your skin:

  1. The surface of your skin looks hard and shiny.
  2. Deep, crosshatch lines appear along your upper lip.
  3. Discoloration and hyperpigmentation mark your skin.
  4. Deep crevices appear, especially around the laugh line area.
  5. The skin around your jowl area is sagging.
  6. Increase or worsening of acne.
  7. Slow healing of wounds, cuts, scrapes, etc.


10 Ways to Prevent Sugar Damage of the Skin

The good news about sugar-damaged skin: It’s never too late to prevent the visible signs of aging. One way is to build new collagen is with products that contain retinoids—look for retinal (as opposed to retinol) in serums and lotions or prescription creams (such as Renova, Avage, and Differin). To keep this new collagen supple, prevent AGEs from forming by taking steps to minimize the damage sugar causes to your skin.

Here, 10 steps to combat the destruction and keep your skin looking its youngest:

1. Cut Back On Sugar

It’s not necessary (nor is it realistic) to completely eliminate sugar from your diet. Even whole grains, fruits, and vegetables turn to glucose—the type of sugar that fuels glycation—when digested. But limiting added sugar can help. Some guidelines: Keep added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. If you’re a 45-year-old woman of average height (5-foot-4), that’s 160 calories (or 10 teaspoons) from added sugar—about the number in one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola. By comparison, the average American consumes 31 teaspoons per day of added sugar, or the equivalent of 465 calories.

Watch for hidden sugar in food. Many prepared foods contain hefty amounts of sugar—but it’s hidden under aliases—including barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, and turbinado—on ingredient panels. The key is determining how many teaspoons of sugar each serving contains. Doing this is easy: Check the nutrition label for sugars, which are listed in grams under total carbohydrates, and then divide that number by four (each teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4g) to convert it to teaspoons. For example, if sugars are listed as 12g, you’re getting three teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Avoid high fructose corn syrup. This type of sweetener, which is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose (another form of sugar), is believed to produce more AGEs than other types. Because HFCS extends the shelf life of foods and is sweeter and cheaper than other sugars, it’s a popular ingredient in soda, sweetened yogurt, salad dressing, and packaged foods such as breads, granola bars, and other snacks. You can spot it in ingredient lists on nutrition labels. New research has also shown that high fructose consumption exponentially increases your risk of obesity by increasing the body’s ability to absorb dietary fats as they pass through the digestive tract and is yet another reason to avoid it.

2. Stop snacking.

We are often advised to eat throughout the day ‘to avoid sugar lows’, which suggests that we are supposed to keep our sugar levels high throughout the entire day! However, the higher blood sugar levels are, the quicker we age. So, to keep blood sugar and insulin levels, oxidative stress, glycation and inflammation processes down, we should avoid grazing. Reach for protein-rich foods which break down more slowly and stay in the stomach longer, making you feel fuller.

3. Pendulum.

Research shows there are three components to managing blood sugar levels: diet, exercise and the microbiome. This helps explain why diet and exercise are often not enough to keep blood glucose under control.

Pendulum is a groundbreaking probiotic containing unique strains of beneficial bacteria and which is clinically shown to manage sugar metabolism and reduce blood glucose spikes.

Pendulum delivers targeted beneficial bacterial strains to the gut microbiome to help restore lost functionality of metabolizing fiber into butyrate.

Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid critical to digestive health, a healthy metabolism and healthy blood glucose levels. Over 5,000 research studies have shown that butyrate plays several important roles in the gut. It’s a major fuel source for cells lining the large intestine and is involved in improving immunity and reducing inflammation. Butyrate also plays a role in stimulating GLP-1 (a hormone produced by the gut) secretion, which helps maintain a healthy balance between insulin and glucose levels.

4. Increase Water Intake

The average American gets 30-40% of their daily sugar intake from drinks (like soda, fruit juice, and flavored coffees). One very easy way to massively trim sugar from your diet is to swap out these types of sugary beverages and drink more water instead. If you’re not a fan of plain water, you can always add a bit of flavor with a squeeze of fresh fruit, like lime or lemon.

Drinking water has the added benefit of helping your body to carry out the key functions that support healthy skin more effectively. Water is essential to the production of collagen and elastin, and keeping your body hydrated can improve its ability to counteract the aging effects of glycation. Drink plenty of water and incorporate water-rich foods like cucumber, tomatoes and watermelon into your diet to maintain hydration.

5. Supplement Your Diet

A number of published studies cite Vitamins B1 and B6 as AGE inhibitors. Vitamin B1 (thiamin) can be found in green peas, sesame seeds and spinach, and has powerful antioxidant properties that help in the fight against free radicals. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which is essential for skin development and maintenance, can be found in chickpeas, pinto beans and sunflower seeds. We recommend Pure Encapsulations Ultra B-Complex w/PQQ as a B-Vitamin Supplement.

6. Employ an inside-outside approach to antioxidants.

These free-radical fighters help keep sugar from attaching to proteins, so replenishing their supply—both by eating more antioxidant-rich fruits, nuts, and vegetables, such as cranberries, walnuts, and red bell peppers, and by applying topical antioxidants such as green tea and vitamins C and E—is a real skin saver. Vitamins C and E help collagen and elastin hold their shape and maintain their strength for your skin. Employing this inside-outside approach is the best way to ensure that they reach the dermal layer of skin, where collagen and elastin are located.

7. Use new ingredients that protect skin from sugar.

A growing number of products contain compounds like aminoguanidine and alistin, which have been shown to block the formation of AGEs. Aminoguanidine attaches to molecules that start the glycation process and prevents them from binding to collagen and elastin. Alistin acts as a decoy, so it gets damaged instead of the proteins in your skin.

8. Wear broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every day.

Significantly more AGEs occur in sun-exposed skin than in protected skin.

9. Stress less.

Stress increases free radical regeneration and oxidative stress throughout our entire body which is a key factor when it comes to ageing. Stress can also lead to raised levels of cortisol, which raises blood sugar levels and also degenerates collagen.

10. Sleep

One of our best beauty secrets is to get enough sleep. While you’re sleeping, your skin goes into overdrive, regenerating and repairing any damage done during the day. Studies show that lack of sleep contributes to more fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone and less elasticity. But, it comes down to more than the quantity of sleep; just as important is quality. Your body does the most work during deep sleep to counteract the aging effects of sugar and other stressors.

Share The Beauty… Earn Rewards!

At PLEIJ Salon+Spa, we offer a simple and easy referral program to our existing clients (and even non-clients). When you refer a friend who is new to PLEIJ, we’ll give them a 20% OFF GIFT to use towards any service. To say thanks, we’ll give you a 10% OFF GIFT to use toward services or products!

Be sure to learn everything about this awesome program and even send out referrals.

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