We all know that when it comes to sugar, its best kept at a minimum for the sake of our health and waistline. But did you know that sugar is guilty of another crime: causing premature skin aging?
What is glycation?
When our body has excess sugar, a process called glycation occurs. During glycation, sugar bonds with proteins to create advanced glycation end products, commonly referred to as AGEs. Because our body does not recognize AGEs, it produces antibodies to attack them, causing inflammation. This stiffens and disfigures collagen and elastin, the connective tissues that make skin plump and supple. When we are younger, our body produces enough collagen and elastin to offset the effects of AGEs; however, as collagen production slows, the AGE buildup begins to show as wrinkles, loss of elasticity, loss of plumpness, and weakened barrier function. Besides affecting the skin, AGEs also play a role in many other health problems.
AGEs and how to stop them
How do we stop AGEs from prematurely aging our skin? You would think that steering clear of refined sugar in foods would keep your skin safe; however, AGEs are produced through the digestion of healthy foods too such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods produce glucose, a less damaging form of sugar, making it impossible to avoid AGEs completely.
Besides changing our diet, we can offset the effects of AGEs through skin care as well. Look for products with hydrating, anti-inflammatory ingredients. Green tea, vitamin E (tocopherol), white willow, licorice root, horse chestnut, olive, and oat beta glucans are great anti-inflammatories that disrupt the glycation process. Hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, jojoba oil, and shea butter are great moisturizers to reinforce skin’s barrier function. One we love to combat glycation is Dermalogica Age Smart Antioxidant HydraMist. The lightweight mist helps prevent the signs of aging caused by AGEs. It encourages firmess and elasticity and creates an instant firming action to lift and tighten the skin. Antioxidants are infused into the skin to protect against environmental agressors, or free radicals.
Another way to fight back against the damaging effects of AGEs is to use products which stimulate new collagen production such as retinols. Eventually damaged collagen breaks down and new collagen can take its place.