Sugar, Skin & Senescence — The Non Sugar coated Truth

Who doesn’t want to look forever youthful and fresh? — No wrinkle takers here right? Well I am not promising you a sip from the fountain of youth today. Instead, all I am offering here is a life choice that can keep you off of the fast track to wrinkle-ville. It might be a bitter pill to swallow my shuga lovin’ pals, but research has laid it out very clearly for us that sugar is a serious culprit that sabotages the body, making it age faster. If you’re born with a sweet tooth that you can’t curb, it is ultimately going to turn into very sour news for your skin. Let’s deliberate.


Crumbling The Sugar Aging Cookie:The technical course to blame here is a natural process known as glycation, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion. Proteins most vulnerable to this damage are collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic. Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body, once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. According to a study published in theBritish Journal of Dermatologyin 2007, these aging effects usually start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that.


Sucrose The Collagen Destroyer:The most abundant collagens in the skin are types-I, II, and III, with type-III being the most stable and longest lasting. A high-sugar diet not only damages collagen proteins in general, but it also affects what type of collagen your body has which indirectly serves as an important factor in how resistant your skin is to wrinkling. Glycation transforms type-III collagen into type-I, which is more fragile. When that happens, the skin starts to look and feel less supple. The final blow comes when the AGEs deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving you more vulnerable to external factors of aging like sun damage, smoking, pollution, oxidative stress etc.


Diabetic Citation:One group that is all too familiar with sugar’s ravaging effects is people with diabetes. People who suffer from years of undetected high blood sugar often show early signs of skin aging. Depending on how well the disease is controlled, diabetics can have up to 50 times the number of AGEs in their skin compared to those who don’t have diabetes and we can see the negative effects in their skin very clearly. Ladies and gentlemen — Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!

sugar skin 2

Kicking The Habit:A little sugar won’t kill you or completely ruin your skin, but most antiaging experts do recommend eliminating most of your sugar intake. Here are some easy tips to make it happen.


  • Step It Up — exercise helps to reduce tension, boost your energy level and decrease the need for a sugar lift.
  • Supplement —nutrient deficiencies can make cravings worse and the fewer nutrient deficiencies, the fewer cravings. Certain nutrients seem to improve blood sugar control e.g. chromium, vitamin B3 and magnesium.
  • Substitute —adding spices like coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom will naturally flavor foods and reduce the craving to add sugar.
  • Sleep —ever notice that the more tired you are, the more likely you are to grab something sweet? Pack in 7-8 hours of sleep every night to avoid the cravings.


Silver Lining To The Saccharine Cloud:The good news about sugar-damaged skin is — It’s never too late to turn back the clock (Yes you can rejoice in your sugar rehab). It’s as simple as avoiding sugar in your food and start using collagen boosting skin products. One sure fire way to build new collagen is using products that contain retinoids—look for retinol in Over The Counter (OTC) serums and lotions or prescription creams such as Retin-A, Renova, Avage, and Differin. But, remember to keep this new collagen supple and stable, it’s important to nip the evil AGEs in the bud by taking sweet abstaining steps and eliminating sugar and carbs (secondary source of sugar) from your diet.

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Shazia Ali
A certified dermatologist, Skincare guru to the who's who of the Middle East, Dr. Shazia knows the secrets of anti-aging, the insider tips and tricks on how to achieve healthy, beautiful radiant skin and everything in between. Currently the brand Ambasador for University of Westminster, and the head Dermatologist at Tababa Clinics.

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