Sugar, it’s everywhere. Hidden in all processed foods, even ones you would assume are sugar free. Unless you are constantly checking labels it can sneak its way into our lives without us even realising it.
What is shocking is new research which has shown sugar to be highly addictive, as addictive as some other drugs and is processed by our brains in a similar fashion.
'A highly cited study in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews found that sugar—as pervasive as it is—meets the criteria for a substance of abuse and may be addictive to those who binge on it. It does this by affecting the chemistry of the limbic system, the part of the brain that’s associated with emotional control.'
We all know the damage sugar can have on our body but perhaps what is not so widely understood is the ravaging effects it has on our skin.
Some of the tell-tale signs that sugar is damaging your skin
The surface of your skin can appear and feel hard and shiny
Discolouration and hyperpigmentation
Deep, crosshatch lines may appear along your upper lip
Deep crevices especially around the laugh line area
The skin around your jowl area can start to sag
Why sugar damages your skin
Sugar damages our skin through the process of glycation. Glycation is when sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins that go on to produce harmful free radicals called, 'Advanced Glycation End Products’ or ‘AGEs’ in short. As AGEs accumulate (think of that icing-covered cake), the more proteins they damage.
Sugar, collagen, and the protein connection
Proteins are the building blocks for collagen and elastin. It’s why by damaging our proteins that sugar directly undermines our collagen.
Without healthy proteins, collagen production is interrupted reducing our skin's firmness, elasticity, and overall health.
High amounts of sugar also affect our types of collagen. Our skin is comprised of three primary types of collagen - Type I, II, and III. The strength of collagen grows with each type: Type I is the weakest and Type III the strongest.
Sugar degrades Type III collagen into Type I, diminishing your skin’s structural strength and stability.
Sugar also switches off our natural antioxidant enzymes, our body’s natural defense against free radicals. This leaves our skin more prone to environmental damage caused by pollution, blue light, UV rays, and toxins.
At what age do we start to see the damaging signs of sugar?
According to the British Journal of Dermatology, the visible effects of glycation tend to emerge around age 35. By that many spins around the sun, the compounding accumulation of oxidative damage and AGEs suddenly begin to show on our faces. With our skin unable to counteract the oxidative damage and combined with the decrease in collagen production such changes can occur quickly.
So that’s the bad news on the sweet stuff. The good news is that there are many ways to prevent sugar damage on your skin and help reverse some damage that has already been caused.
Preventing and reversing sugar damage
Cut Back On Sugar
Let's start with the most obvious thing. We need to stop causing damage in the first place.
Not all sugar is equal. Sugar wrapped in fiber, for instance, fruit, is processed drastically different from high fructose corn syrup which is the type of sugar found in soft drinks, sweetened fruit drinks, and many packaged foods.
It’s near impossible to eliminate sugar completely from our diet, but there are ways to cut back. Steer clear of the obvious ones like highly processed foods, soft drinks, fruit juice, and certain wines.
Increase Water Intake
Drinking water helps your body to carry out the key functions that support healthy skin. Water is essential to the production of collagen and elastin, and keeping your body hydrated can improve its ability to counteract the ageing effects of glycation.
For more on all things hydration see here.
Don’t just drink water but also incorporate water-rich foods like cucumber, tomatoes, and watermelon into your diet to maintain hydration.
Eat a diet high in B vitamins
A number of published studies cite Vitamins B1 and B6 as AGE inhibitors. You can find B vitamins in many foods. Vitamin B1 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.
Antioxidants neutralise and protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. These naturally occurring vitamins and minerals throw a wrench in glycation by preventing sugar from attaching to proteins. Your body produces antioxidants naturally, but you can also find them in everyday foods like berries and leafy greens.
You can help your body to naturally up-regulate its own collagen production by topically supplying it with the right nutrients. Natural vitamin C helps your skin to produce collagen and maintains the strength of existing collagen. Skincare full of active antioxidants helps the skin to combat and neutralise free radical damage.
Clean Collagen was designed for just this.
Pair your food detox with a skin detox. A skin detox stimulates a healthier environment for the skin and can encourage increased production of collagen and elastin. It will help increase cell turnover and improve the skin barrier overall. There is a lot online about skin detoxing.
In short, you want to avoid any skin products that contain chemicals, ideally avoid makeup altogether, eat clean plant-based unprocessed foods and drink lots of water.
Our liver is key in detoxing your body, for more on our liver’s role in detoxification see here.
One of our best beauty secrets is to get enough sleep. Our skin goes into overdrive while sleeping, regenerating, and repairing the damage done during the day including counteracting the ageing effects of sugar. Studies show that lack of sleep contributes to more fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and less elasticity.
It’s all about the quantity of sleep than the quantity. To learn more about how to improve your sleep see our recent article here.
No cake feels as good as healthy skin.