The thing we love but our skin hates

Is that donut staring you straight in the eye? 'Eat me, eat me now!' But, it's even sinful doughy circles where you find your skin's arch nemesis. Unless you're a label reading freak (I'm guilty) it will sneak its way into you life without you even realising it.

The new research is shocking. It has shown sugar to be highly addictive, as addictive as some other drugs, minus the party, 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.'

You know the damage sugar can have on your body but perhaps what is not so widely known is the ravaging effects it has on your skin.

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
Adult acne

Think of this list the next time that donut is giving you the bedroom eyes.  

Why sugar damages your 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, the more proteins they damage.

Sugar, collagen, and the protein connection

The building blocks for collagen and elastin are proteins. It’s why by damaging your proteins that sugar directly undermines collagen.

Without healthy proteins, collagen production is interrupted reducing your skin's firmness, elasticity, and overall health.

High amounts of sugar also affect types of collagen. 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 skin’s structural strength and stability.

Sugar also switches off your natural antioxidant enzymes, the body's natural defense against free radicals. This leaves skin more prone to environmental damage caused by pollution, blue light, UV rays, and toxins.

When does this all become visible?

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 these changes can occur quickly. It won't happen overnight but it will happen! 

So that’s the bad news on the sweet stuff. The good news is that there are many ways to prevent sugar damage and even reverse some of it.

Preventing and reversing sugar damage

Cut Back On Sugar

A no brainer right. 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.

Personally I just don't rely on my will power being stronger than the salted caramel vegan ice cream so 9 times out of 10 I just don't have it in the house. 

Increase Water Intake

Water helps your body carry out key functions that support healthy skin. It 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, chia seeds 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 neutralise free radicals. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which is essential for skin development and maintenance, can be found in chickpeas, pinto beans, and sunflower seeds.


Antioxidants your protection from free radicals. These naturally occurring vitamins and minerals stop glycation by preventing sugar from attaching to proteins. Boost antioxidants naturally by eating foods like acai, blue berries and plenty of leafy greens.

High-quality skincare

You can help your body to naturally up-regulate its own collagen production by topically applying the right nutrients. Natural vitamin C helps your skin to produce collagen and maintains the strengthen existing collagen. Skincare full of active antioxidants helps the skin to combat and neutralise free radical damage.

Clean Collagen was designed for just this. 

Skin Detox

Pair your food detox with a skin detox. A skin detox stimulates a healthier environment 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. Basically just give your body the things it was designed for. 

Our liver is key in detoxing your body, for more on our liver’s role in detoxification see here.


One of your best beauty secrets is to get enough sleep. 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. 

That donut doesn't love.