Sugar is often blamed as the bad guy for diabetes, tooth decay and weight gain, but did you know that it is also a known culprit for making skin look older? You may have heard how important collagen and elastin are to the smooth, youthful appearance of skin. It turns out that too much sugar actually causes damage to both collagen and elastin, making skin appear wrinkled, sagging and dull. Arm yourself with the best tips to reduce your sugar intake and repair the damage, and your skin will thank you.
When sugar enters the bloodstream, a process called glycation begins. Glycation is when those sugars attach to proteins and form a harmful substance named “advanced glycation end products,” or, appropriately enough “AGEs.” People who eat more sugar form more AGEs, which in turn causes their skin to look older, due to the damage caused to the skin’s collagen and elastin fibers. The effect, especially after age 35, is skin that begins to wrinkle and sag. Another related effect of a diet high in sugar is that it changes the type of collagen in your skin from the strong Type III collagen to the fragile Type I collagen, essentially changing the look and feel of your skin. As if that weren’t enough, sugar also affects your skin’s resistance to sun damage, which can have devastating effects on the health of the skin.
Now, here’s the good news: the damage done to skin from eating a high sugar diet can be undone by taking some simple and smart steps. The best step you can take is to limit the amount of sugar you eat…which is better for your overall health and your skin but admittedly hard to do. The average American eats 31 teaspoons of added sugar a day, as compared to the recommended amount of 6 teaspoons for women daily and 9 daily teaspoons for men! Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, anti-oxidant rich foods and whole grains will help. Also, avoid packaged foods with “hidden sugar” such as corn syrup, dextrose, maple syrup, turbinado, barley malt or maltose. High fructose corn syrup is also a no-no, as this ingredient is shown to produce more AGEs than other types of sugar.
There are other simple ways to fight back against sugar damage in addition to choosing a healthy, lower-sugar diet. Creams and lotions containing retinoids, which help build new collagen, are available in both over-the-counter and prescription forms. Make sure you are getting plenty of vitamins B1 and B6, which are shown to prevent AGEs. Although you can get these vitamins with a proper diet, taking a daily multivitamin will ensure you get the recommended daily amount. Finally, wearing a good sunscreen of SPF 30 or more everyday will help, as skin with sun damage has been shown to have more harmful AGEs than skin that is protected.
It turns out the effects of too much sugar aren’t sweet…for your body or your skin. Limiting your sugar intake and protecting your skin from damage will have tremendous anti-aging benefits, and the benefits are longer lasting then the temporary high you get from a sugary treat.