Glycation Is The New Skincare Buzzword To Know (And Avoid)


via Giphy

Our skin is a robust organ, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t susceptible to damage. You already know allll the ways in which the sun can wreak havoc, and you might’ve even heard a thing or two about free radicals and even blue light.

But there’s another, all-too-common substance that’s no bueno for our dermis. We’re talking about sugar. Sounds crazy, right? But we’re 100% serious, and we’re not talking about sugar and inflammation, rather sugar and premature aging. In fact, there’s a growing category of skincare products that aim to counteract the premature aging damage done by this sweet (but actually not so sweet) substance.

What’s So Bad About Sugar?

Usually, sugar gets a bad rap because of its high caloric content, but science has found a direct correlation in the amount of sugar we consume and signs of aging, such as wrinkles and laxity.

For example, in 2015 a study was published called Sugar Sag: Glycation and the Role of Diet in Aging Skin. Researchers found that sugar consumption, and specifically an imbalance in sugar levels, resulted in something referred to as “advanced glycation end products,” or AGEs. To that end, researches learned that AGEs in human tissue can seriously impact our skin, among other serious issues such as renal disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Essentially, what happens is that sugar molecules attach themselves to other molecules, like the proteins that help produce our collagen and elastin. After attaching, this changes the structure and function of those important molecules.

“This turns into a vicious internal cycle affecting your skin, and your body [struggles to] fix the issue on its own,” explains Dr. Ava Shamban, a board-certified dermatologist in California. “When our cells can’t repair, produce, or perform the key functions they need in order to keep us in cellular shape, the cells in our dermis will act and look older than they really are.”

In addition to signs of aging, other signs of glycation include sudden hormonal acne changes and acne flareups in general, excess sebum output or dehydration, yellow and dull skin, and skin inflammation.

What’s a Sugar Lover to Do?

Fortunately, you’ve got a couple of options when it comes to remedying the glycation issue. The first is diet (and this is like 80% of the equation) and the second is to incorporate anti-glycation skincare products into your regimen.

Check Your Diet

“Hidden sugar in our diet is usually the culprit and it certainly shows in our skin. I recommend eliminating [or reducing] processed foods, simple carbs, sugars, and fructose. Replace them with leafy greens, fish, and blueberries,” says Dr. Shamban. She adds, “Cinnamon and oregano are both good AGE inhibitors, so shake-shake-shake your spices. Garlic cloves and ginger are also good inhibiting foods, too.”

Basically: cut out a good portion of the junk and incorporate more AGE-inhibiting ingredients. These foods (and the topicals we include below) contain compounds which prevent sugars from binding to your collagen and elastin. They can also harness antioxidant and collagen-restoring powers to help repair existing damage and further support anti-glycation.

Try Topical Products

anti-glycation products

Though a smaller part of the equation, there are definitely topical products you can apply that boast anti-glycation benefits. This category is starting to really gain traction in the skincare industry.

Dr. Shamban says there are three main anti-glycation ingredients to look for: aminoguanidine, alisin, and carnosine. These have the most research backing them. She adds that caffeine, green tea, lemon balm, licorice, linoleic acid, and rosmarinic acid – all of which fight free radicals – can be very helpful, too.

One of our favorites is SerumKind’s Black Blossom Drop, $53, which contains carnosine along with niacinamide and ceramides to bolster the skin’s barrier for a hydrated, stronger, healthier complexion. The Naruko Taiwan Magnolia Brightening and Firming Lotion EX, $24, is another goodie. Not only is it formulated with carnosine, it uses magnolia flower water to hydrate, tranexamic acid to brighten, tripeptides to bolster your skin barrier, and vitamin C to ward off free radicals.

Ceramiracle’s NoAGEs Skin Booster Serum, $26.10, is also an anti-glycation booster that harnesses the power of all-natural ingredients and botanical extracts. Hero ingredients include caffeine-loaded green tea, lemon balm, and hibiscus flower extract.

Final Note

We know this is a lot to take in, especially if you’ve never even considered the fact that sugar could bother anything but your waistline! The reality is that accumulated sugar in your body can lead to a chain reaction that ultimately expedites the aging process in your skin, not to mention general inflammation in your body. Continue to be mindful of what you’re eating (especially those sneaky hidden sugars), eat foods that inhibit AGEs, and consider incorporating anti-glycation topicals into your skincare regimen if you’re a sugar-holic!