Is sugar the love of your life? If it is, I am right there behind you (although I should probably mention I also have a ‘love of my life’ man who proof-reads all these posts for me.. it’s ok, there can be two *winks*).
If you’re a sugar and sweetness fiend like me, then you’ve probably heard a ton of rumours that sugar is crazy bad for you. It gives you a quick blood sugar energy high, and then literally leaves you high and dry, it’s more addictive than a drip feed of cocaine (up to 8 times – how insane is that!) and there’s a lot of recent scientific evidence that shows your body speed-processes excess sugar to fat.
…but it still tastes so good ‘eh! I will not be giving up sugar anytime soon, but I will be pacing myself on the ‘girls night in’ gorge sessions *winks*.
When it comes to skin, eating more sugar than your body can handle causes ‘stuff to happen’ that wouldn’t normally happen. Sugar gets some chemistry a’happening with your body called glycation. Glycation is why eating too much sugar can cause you premature skin aging.
Here’s what the heck is a’happening and what you can do about it…
What The Heck is Glycation?
You know those relationships that are love:hate, well, this is one of them. We love the sugar when we see it, we love the sugar when we eat it (oh yes!) and we get a rush of all those feel good hormones that make us want to really commit to this love:hate relationship. But right now it all seems like love: love ‘eh!
What is this sugar dude hiding behind his Mr.Perfect image?
If all that love, love, keeps you a’reaching for more of the sugary stuff than your body can handle, you’ll get a blood sugar spike high enough to rival an adrenaline junkies dream rollar-coaster.
When that happens, you are visiting Glycation comfort town. It’s where glycation feels at home *winks*.
Glycation is when excess sugar reacts with the proteins in your body. When these guys ‘get their loving on’ they make something called an advanced-glycation-end-product, that’s AGEs for short. oh the irony in that acronym ‘eh *winks*.
Why Does Glycation Cause Premature Skin Aging?
Glycation is kinda like baking bread. It’s exactly the same chemistry that happens in your body. Ohmygosh – freshly baked bread – how yum is that. But food porn aside, why does glycation cause premature skin aging?
When you pop a loaf in the oven it’s all springy and soft right… that’s kinda like our skin when it’s young. All our ‘in it’s prime’ collagen and elastin keep our skin springy and soft. Then you put that loaf in the oven and wait while the bread scents tease you, that is when some chemistry is a’happening.
Part of that chemistry means you get that crunchy outer shell that goes a yummy tasting brown colour. That my friend is Glycation, ‘n when it happens it causes that bread to toughen up, just like when glycation happens in our skin it causes damage to collagen and elastin that causes skin to lose its springy softness.
Here is the skin deal – eating too much sugar, causes your body to make AGEs. Those AGEs are like a visiting cowboy walking into a local bar… every one stops and stares at the newbie! Things your body sees as foreign usually make it push a big ‘eject seat’ button in the name of protection, ‘n one of your bodies reactions is inflammation which is just plainly known as skin-stress. So first up AGEs can cause premature skin aging because they aren’t ‘in with our skin’…
Then they can go another step further. AGEs can stick to your collagen (the stuff that is like scaffolding to your skin) and elastin (the springy stuff). It’s like leaving the lid off a pot of sugar and getting those ‘sugar clumps’ forming.
(… oh and did I mention collagen and elastin are proteins too… there’s some full circle stuff going on here!)
Eating a lot of sugar stacks up a domino train… do ya know that ones I mean? Where you try to stack a whole pack of dominos so you can flick just one and the whole train will Mexican-wave at you!
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 10 May 2016
Too much sugar than your body can handle -goes to- the spike of your blood sugar rollercoaster -which goes to- glycation comfort town –which goes to- AGEs – which end up sticking to your skins- collagen & elastin.
What Can I do to Limit The Effects of Glycation on my Skin?
If you want to stop your glycation domino train in its tracks *winks* then you came to just the right place. These are all the things you can do to limit your body from even reaching glycation comfort town…
- Diet. I thought I’d give the obvious the number 1 spot ‘eh. Keeping your blood-sugar level constant and in healthy range is a big key to avoiding glycation station. The obvious move is to avoid sweets and sugary snacks, but there are also sneaky hidden foods you wouldn’t expect to give you a blood sugar spike, like Russet potatoes, Instant oatmeal (the ground up stuff) and white pasta. The higher a foods GI, the more likely your blood sugar will spike, get your eyes on this GI food chart to give you an idea of the good, the bad and the on the fence foods. Pro-tip: Nuts, pulses and beans (not the Heinz kind unfortunately *winks* are all super low).
- Cut Down on Fried Foods. When you fry food it actually causes AGEs to be made and your body absorbs up to 30% of ’em.
- Be Savvy With The Sunscreen. AGEs get speed-birthing around UV light, no jokes. A nice dose of UV light is all the help these guys need to start being born in young skin. One more reason to get stretching for the most cost effective anti-aging cream you could ever buy.
- Add Some Spice to Your Life. Ginger, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and green tea (oh and rosemary, tarragon and cloves) have all shown a lot of promise to be able to hold a Spice Girls ‘stop right now’ hand up to Glycation. Try getting some more of these into your diet to get sassy with glycation.
- Get a good helping of antioxidants. In your diet and skincare. Specifically Vitamin E, Vitamin C and niacinamide have been shown to help boot your skin out of glycation station.
With all that diet advice said, I also feel like it needs saying that treating yourself is SOOOOO absolutely ok & you completely deserve it! A small sugary treat here and there isn’t going to bust out your skins wrinkle making team. Balance the treats out with lovely healthy foods and you can have the best of both worlds *smiles*.
So that my lovely that is the real deal when it comes to sugar, your skin and premature aging. Had you heard about glycation being a key cause of premature skin aging before?
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who is more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She is founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.