Mmmmmm, sugar, you’re so sweet! But, what’s sweet on your tongue isn’t necessarily sweet on your skin. As you consume excess sugar, your body responds with an inflammatory process that reduces your body’s ability to fight skin damage. Does this mean you have to go raw vegan? No, but cutting out excess sugar found in junk food, sweets and white bread can go a long way in keeping your skin as young as possible.
What happens when sugar metabolizes in your system is a process called glycation, where the sugar attaches to proteins, forming new molecules called advanced glycation end (AGE) products. These glycation end products destroy proteins like collagen and elastin. When collagen and elastin are destroyed, skin becomes thinner, discolored and sags.
Our dermis, the layer of skin that supports the epidermis (our outer layer of skin) is made up of proteins collagen and elastin, which keep skin plump and firm. The dermis also manufactures new skin cells regularly to replace the old skin cells. Because of glycation, glycated collagen can’t regenerate effectively, slowing down new skin cell growth, making your skin sag and wrinkle. To make things worse, AGEs also makes your complexion more vulnerable to skin attackers such as UV light and cigarette smoke.
Though you can’t stop glycation—since even good carbs like brown rice and whole grains get converted into sugar—you can avoid white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other simple carbs like white flour, which increase glycation 10 times more than the good carbs.
So what can you do other than avoid brownies and soda? Green tea, whether you drink it or use green tea-infused serums or moisturizers, helps disrupt the glycation process, as well as stimulates collagen production. And retinoids (retinol and Retin-A are two types of retinoids) also build new collagen. So replace that Coke with iced green tea, and add retinol to your skin care regimen to avoid the sweet havoc sugar can wreak on your skin.