#SkinSchool: How to Sugar-Proof Your Skin

The not-so-sweet truth about glycation (and how it’s ageing you). By Bridget March

Jonas Bresnan for Harper’s Bazaar UK

Forget weight gain, it’s the sticky relationship between sugar and your skin that may make you want to curb your sweet tooth. Sugar is responsible for a process called glycation, which isn’t pretty. To understand why it happens and how your sugar habit might be showing on your face, we spoke to the experts.

What is glycation?

“Glycation is a process where sugar molecules attach themselves to other molecules, for example proteins and fats,” explains Dr Stefanie Williams, dermatologist and author of Look great, not done! The Art & Science of Ageing Well. This can cause the molecules to become stiff and inflexible, explains nutritionist Shona Wilkinson. “One of these affected proteins is collagen, which results in loss of the skin’s elasticity.” We’re afraid that’s not all. “Glycation also causes free radical formation, oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which accelerate ageing,” Williams adds.

Why glycation can cause both wrinkles and breakouts

We’re familiar with the fact that compromised collagen production equals skin sagging (and therefore wrinkle formation), but sugar is also a powerful dehydrating agent. “It not only boosts sebum production but also affects water binding,” Wilkinson explains. “This can make your skin look less bouncy and greyish, adding to those unwanted dark circles around your eyes.”

Meanwhile, the white stuff can also contribute to blemishes in two ways. Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar says that sugar and refined carbohydrates cause a surge of the hormone insulin, which “can then increase your levels of testosterone and in turn can contribute to acne”. Secondly, as it can stimulate sebum production, pores can get clogged more easily and inflammation can occur. This means “you could be also subjected to a sensitivity flare up,” adds Debbie Thomas, celebrity facialist and founder of D.Thomas Clinic.

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How to avoid sugar face

1. Sleep more: “Sleep deprivation is also known to impair insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance,” says Williams, which means that glycation is more likely. Make sure you are getting a minimum six to eight hours of sleep per night.

2. Stress less: Williams says, “stress increases free radical regeneration and oxidative stress throughout our entire body which is a key factor when it comes to ageing”. Stress can also lead to raised levels of cortisol, which also degenerates collagen.

3. Become a sugar detective: Sugar in cake is pretty obvious. Sugar in yoghurt not so much – or in soups, sauces, condiments and salad dressings. Also, sadly, you should consider your fruit consumption. Williams explains, “fructose is more active in glycation than glucose! So, don’t drink fruit juices regularly and try to moderate your consumption of fruit”.

4. Stop snacking: Williams also suggests we stop grazing. “We are often advised to eat throughout the day ‘to avoid sugar lows’, which suggests that we are supposed to keep our sugar levels high throughout the entire day! However, the higher blood sugar levels are, the quicker we age. So, to keep blood sugar and insulin levels, oxidative stress, glycation and inflammation processes down, we should avoid grazing”. Reach for protein-rich foods which break down more slowly and stay in the stomach longer, making you feel fuller.

5. Go low: Nutritionist Kim Pearson says following a low GI diet can be beneficial for your skin. She says, “if you enjoy an occasional meal based on high glycaemic carbohydrates [such as those high in sugar], also use a natural supplement such as Tribitor, which can help reduce the glycaemic effect and subsequent cravings”.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK

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