Glycation - The Relationship Between Sugar & Fine Lines - Beach Beauty Bar and Acne Clinic
image of a pie with text sugary sweets and premature aging

Glycation – The Relationship Between Sugar & Fine Lines

Tis’ the season for the sweets and sugary treats! Do you indulge in pastries and candy? Have you ever heard the saying, “A moment on the lips equals a lifetime on the hips” – Oh, those holiday thighs! This is the phrase that rings in my head this time of year but there probably aren’t many of us who worry that eating sugar might also cause wrinkles—and that’s not a sweet story either. Sugar can cause wrinkles and other signs of premature aging through a process called Glycation.

What is Glycation?

Do you want clear skin?

The science is this: When you have sugar molecules in your system, they bombard the body’s cells like a meteor ­shower, glomming onto fats and proteins in a process known as Glycation. These molecules that result from glycation are called “advanced glycation end products” or AGEs.

AGEs have been likened to the rust in a car. Just like a car will develop corrosion if exposed to too much water and salt, our cells will experience a buildup of cellular debris in the form of AGEs if we over-eat refined sugar. AGEs damage cellular machinery, inhibit the ability of cells to perform basic housekeeping functions and make them behave as if they were much older.

Wrinkles & Breakouts Caused by Glycation

The proteins in skin which are most prone to Glycation are the same ones that make a youthful complexion so plump and springy – our collagen and elastin. When those proteins hook up with sugars, they become discolored, weak, and less supple; this shows up on the skin’s surface as wrinkles, sagginess, and a loss of radiance.

The presence of AGEs also compromises the complexion making it more vulnerable to bad-news assailants such as UV light and cigarette smoke. Not only does glucose make the cells abnormal in the skin it also creates free radicals within your body. So you get a double whammy when it comes to aging.

Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause a surge of the hormone insulin, which increase your levels of testosterone and in turn can contribute to acne. Higher levels of testosterone stimulate sebum production causing your pores to get clogged more easily allowing inflammation to occur.

Signs of skin Glycation

The external signs of Glycation show up around the age of 30 or 35, when a perfect storm of built-up sun damage, environmental oxidative stress, hormonal changes, and the development of AGEs begins to result in, well, a-g-e.

When you’re younger, your body has more resources to ward off damage and you’re producing more collagen. When you reach a certain age, these sugar by-products begin to build up at the same time that your threshold for damage is getting lower.

How to Avoid Glycation face

Get enough sleep

Not sleeping enough impairs insulin sensitivities and causes glucose intolerance. We need to be getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night. During sleep, the body releases human growth hormone, a necessary ingredient for collagen production—the protein that gives people shiny hair, strong nails, and glowing skin. Skimping on sleep raises cortisol levels, which can interfere with collagen production.

Stress less

This is probably a no-brainer but it’s easier said than done sometimes. High stress levels increase free radical regeneration and oxidative stress on the body.

Research the Sugar content in food and beverages

Sugar in cake is pretty obvious but sugar in yogurt, not so much. Make sure what you’re eating and drinking has a low to no sugar.

Yes, fruit contains sugar, but it also carries with it a host of other constituents which naturally block glycation processes in the body. Cookies, cakes, and pies do not contain the phytochemicals which naturally inhibit glycation.

And even if we could completely eliminate all types of sugar from our diets, we shouldn’t: It’s an essential fuel for cells and energy metabolism, critical to survival. For most people with normal levels of glucose, the glycation process is something that happens gradually over the course of a lifetime, and it’s really not that big of a deal.

Diet and lifestyle choices

These can affect how quickly glycation can be seen on the skin. One of the tell tail signs of glycation is the yellowing of skin often seen prematurely in smokers. Smoke reduces antioxidants in skin, leaving smokers’ vitamin C and E to be used up trying to take care of all the oxidation that’s caused by smoking.

It’s not just sweets that increase blood sugar. Remember that many foods like white bread, white rice, white potatoes and similar items break down quickly in the body, spiking blood sugar levels. These are foods that rate high on the glycemic index. Choose foods on the lower end – they take more time to break down, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you satisfied.

Slowing the Glycation Process

To an extent, glycation is a fact of life. It’s happening right now, to all of us. However, there are ways we can combat the aging process that sugar causes.

Superstar multitasker green tea has been proven to significantly interfere with the glycation process while stimulating collagen synthesis – so if you’re using a product containing green tea (or drinking it regularly) you’re already protecting your skin.

Healthy diets, low in refined sugar and high in things like beans, greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains can put the brakes on glycation, reduce the production of AGEs in the bloodstream, and help to protect skin cells from damage. Many plant foods contain co-factors which also prevent the formation of AGEs and promote long-term health.

Skincare Products to Minimize the Effects of Glycation

Years of exposure to the sun, pollution and other skin stressors can take their toll on the skin, although there are a few key ingredients that you can look for in your anti-aging skincare products to help improve the overall appearance of skin tone and texture. These may include:

Topical treatments such as these aim to reduce and reverse skin glycation from the outside in. Applying skincare products with the above key ingredients help to improve collagen synthesis in lower dermal layers improving blood flow, reducing signs of wrinkling and generally brightening the skin.

Final Thoughts

Glycation is one of the many processes that can affect the appearance of your skin. Unfortunately, past sun damage or exposure to pollutants may have already accelerated this process but the good news is that by nourishing your skin with the right ingredients, you may be able to see a significant reduction in the common signs of aging.

Pair an excellent anti-aging skincare routine with healthy lifestyle choices such as avoiding unprotected sun exposure, not smoking and eating a balanced diet to help improve the overall look and feel of your skin for years to come.

We are open for in-clinic appointments. It’s a great time to freshen up your skin and your home care routine before the holidays. If you are breaking out after being clear for some time, schedule an appointment with us so we can identify exactly what is happening. There is always a reason for breakouts. Always.

Cheer to clear!


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