Together with sun exposure, sugar consumption is one of the biggest risk factors for premature aging of the skin. Science is showing that the entire aging process, skin included, is accelerated by high glucose levels.
More about your skin
Your skin consists of three layers, the epidermis (the visible part), the dermis (middle layer) and the hypodermis (deepest layer). The dermis, made up of collagen and elastin, makes up 90% of your skin’s thickness and provides its support structure. The health of your collagen and elastin, therefore, has a large impact on the firmness, elasticity and appearance of your skin.
How consuming sugar affects your skin
When you consume sugar, it leads to a process called glycation. Sugar molecules combine with proteins in your body to produce harmful molecules known as Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). These AGEs lead to inflammation, free radical damage and oxidative stress, by damaging the proteins around them. You may have heard of the good anti-oxidant effects of colourful whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. These phytochemicals are the good guys, while free radicals and oxidation that result from sugar metabolism are not.
These AGEs cause cross-linking between collagen molecules, preventing them from repairing efficiently or at all. Collagen and elastin are the most abundant proteins in your body. They are damaged by AGEs.
Unfortunately, sugar glycation affects both the appearance of our skin as well as its health. AGEs slow down healing, induce inflammation and contribute to the development of moles, freckles, skin cancer, acne, cellulite, and more. Sugar glycation also impacts how collagen is formed and is believed to contribute to conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Lipedema, both serious conditions affecting joint mobility and how fat is deposited.
The effects of AGEs are accelerated by exposure to ultraviolet light, so it’s a double whammy if you indulge in both excess sugar and excess sun exposure. Like the browning that happens when sugar meets heat and light in food (think bread crusts), processed sugars cause our skin to get crusty, spotty, flabby, wrinkled, more easily sun damaged, and so much more. Let’s just say, excess sugar consumption, beauty and healthy aging are not compatible.
Can I undo the damage?
Sadly there’s no way to turn back the clock, to completely undo the damage sugar has done. Although swift, significant and sustained high-quality self-care can go a long way!
“If you are looking to improve the health of your skin, focus on eating sugar-free (as best you can, rare exceptions aside). That is job #1,” states Florence Christophers, The Kick Sugar Coach and a former sugar addict. “Followed by getting enough exercise, sufficient sleep, adequate hydration, time to relax, wearing natural sunscreen for prolonged exposure, etc.”
“These self-care actions all require a serious lifestyle upgrade and self-discipline,” Florence continues. “But it will pay off down the road in ways that you cannot fully appreciate at this time. Immediate improvement in your skin (as wonderful as that will be) will pale compared to the long-term benefits.”
We all want to have glowing skin, that is soft, blemish- and wrinkle-free. We want it to heal quickly when injured and hold up well over time without undue sagging, cellulite, lymphatic blockages due to collagen damage, and age spots.
How our skin looks is deeply tied to our self-esteem. Doing what we can to stop further damage, heal what damage we can, and optimize our skin health, is vitally important to slow the aging process and to feel good about how we look as we age.
Reduce your consumption of sugar right now
Many of the items you consume daily may be packed with added sugar (many of them hidden behind sneaky names).
80%+ of all packaged and processed products have sugar added to them. If it has a label, it likely has sugar in it. This can include all of the following and more:
- Pasta sauces, curry sauces, tomato sauces, creamy sauces, sauces of all kinds
- Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, pickles, mayonnaise, etc
- Tonic water, sparkling natural-flavoured water, kombucha, tea, etc
- Sports and energy drinks
- Fruit juices, fruit roll-ups, etc (even those without added sugar)
- Yogurt with fruit in it
- So-called healthy protein or granola bars
- Bread, buns, crackers, chips, etc.
The secret to avoiding sugar is to learn to cook your own food. Yes, it is more work but it is also an essential life skill. Instead of relying on expensive, packaged food and take-out, spend time in the produce, meat, bulk beans and grains sections, experiment and enjoy. Every part of you will love you for it, including and especially your skin!
If the thought of giving up sugar seems daunting or overwhelming, consider attending the FREE online Kick Sugar Summit October 16-23, 2023. 50+ world experts will share more information about how to reduce your sugar consumption and the many benefits of doing so including how to NOT accelerate aging.