What Sugar is Doing to Your Skin

You’ve probably read a lot about sugar lately – the impact that it has on your waistline and health is a hot topic. But did you know that your sugar intake could be pressing fast-forward on your wrinkles too? Here’s what you need to know, and how to take charge.

The impact of a high-sugar diet tends to show from the age of 35, when skin loses collagen faster than it creates it. The science is this: Sugars from your diet, grab on to the proteins in your skin cells via a process called glycation. This causes skin cells to become stiff, weakened and yellow in colour. And what does that look like on the surface of your skin? Wrinkles, sagging skin and a dull complexion – the tell-tale signs of ageing.

But not only does sugar damage collagen, it impacts the type of collagen your skin creates too. It transforms strong, long-lasting collagen into weak, more fragile collagen, which is more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the environment, including sun damage – the worst ager of them all!

Just to be clear: if you have normal levels of glucose in your blood, then glycation is a normal process that will happen over time – it’s natural. What isn’t natural is a high-sugar diet that accelerates the glycation process.

There’s the obvious sugars found in sodas, cakes and cookies, and – of course – adding sugar itself to your tea and coffee. But you should also steer clear of simple carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta, too. Lookout for hidden sugars, such as corn syrup, which has been shown to increase the glycation rate by 10 times!

The recommended daily sugar intake is six teaspoons – about 100 calories a day – and it should be used wisely. Natural sugars include fructose and lactose, and are good for you. These are found in fruit and vegetables and dairy products, and give you the skin-healthy fibers, vitamins and antioxidants that your body needs.

The best anti-ager in this instance is diet control; reduce on the calories and avoid high sugar foods.

Try incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into your diet. Drink green tea, snack on fresh blueberries and walnuts, and eat red peppers; antioxidants fight free radicals (like sugar) and stop them from attaching to the protein in your skin cells in the first place.

Aside from diet, the cosmetic industry is beginning to formulate products to target sugar’s harmful effects, but it’s still early days. In the meantime, combat the process of glycation with collagen-boosting skin care products that fill in fine lines – we love Ecollagen. Or, if you’re already experiencing sagging skin, try a skin care routine that’s been designed to add bounce (like NovAge Ultimate Lift). And – most importantly - wear SPF daily to protect your skin cells from further damage.

Words by: Photographs by: Getty Images