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The surprising impact of sugar on your skin

October 11, 2016

Cookies, soda, candy, pasta — just some of the edibles filled with sugar. They are delicious, yet addicting. We know that sugar can have a negative impact on the waistline, but did you know that it may be making us look older, too? Today, we will examine the relationship between sugar and your skin.

Sugar and the skin — my personal story

I am going to share something personal with you first. My own skin is the perfect example of sugar’s impact on the skin. Over the past few short years, I have shed dozens of pounds and maintained most of that loss.

I already ate pretty well. I didn’t drink beverages with sugar, nor did I eat processed foods. Plus, I exercised several times per week. I have a sluggish metabolism, though, and I found it exceptionally difficult to drop the pounds after having two children 21 months apart. At my heaviest, I was sitting at 227 pounds on my 5’8″ frame. 

Three years ago, I broke up with grains and sugar. Wheat, corn, rice — they all were giving me digestive woes, despite testing negative for Celiac Disease. My doctor did say that I am gluten sensitive, so I decided to cut all grains from my diet.

To lose weight, I already was adamant about getting rid of sugar. Eliminating the grains was not so hard. Reading labels and avoiding sugar was another story. Sugar is in everything from pastas and breads to cereals and “diet” foods. My “healthy” granola and yogurt were  both sugar-laden. The first 2 weeks were rough. After that, though, I began to feel different — no more afternoon hunger or headaches. In addition to dropping 3 sizes and feeling energetic, the esthetician in me could not help but notice the difference in my skin.

I do not think I realized the difference until people started remarking how much younger my skin looked. My skin has become so much brighter.  I can wear a tinted moisturizer over sunscreen instead of traditional foundation. The tone is more even. Of course, I can attribute much of that to having a consistent skin care routine, but the only thing truly different has been my diet.

As time has gone on, I have not been as rigid with the diet. Stress impacts my eating. My son was just on the hospital for 4 days with a severe allergic reaction. Next to the children's hospital, there is a yummy cookie place that delivers until 3am. I ate lots of double chocolate mint cookies. I had flavored  mochas and macciatos. I had ice cream. I am human. Overall, though, I am very mindful of my sugar intake.

I am going to step outside of my comfort zone and show you the difference, using my own photos. The picture on the left was taken in March 2009 at my heaviest weight when I was truly addicted to sugar. The photo on the right was taken a two days ago doing a selfie with my son on Sunday at the hospital after three days without sleep. I have gotten 7 years and 7 months older since the photo on the left was taken. I have not had any "work" done to my skin. My skin has improved and the lines around my eyes have diminished greatly. 

Seed moisturizer helps fight glycation

The cause of this change?  Decreasing the amount of sugar from my diet and sticking to a healthy facial skin care regimen. In the before, I can look back now and see that was skin was exhibiting evidence of aging -- sallowness, uneven texture, hyperpigmenation spots, fine lines, etc.

Sugar damages skin cells.

Let’s look at the science. Excess sugar is linked to both inflammation and glycation. Both processes have a negative impact on the skin.

  • Inflammation is believed to be one of the leading causing of aging. Experts believe that surges in blood sugar raise the level of cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. The more sugar in the blood, the more likely you are to experience inflammation.
  • Glycation makes you look older.  According to Dr. Nicholas Perricone, “When blood sugar goes up rapidly, sugar can attach itself to collagen in a process called “glycation,” making the skin stiff and inflexible. Losing this elastic resilience of young skin will give you deep wrinkles and make you look old.”
  • AGEs are Advanced Glycation Endproducts.These molecules linger in our bodies after consuming high glycemic foods. The more AGEs that are lurking in the body, the more we will age, as they cause both collagen and elastin to ultimately deteriorate.

Finally, more than speculation — there is a science supporting the claim that sugar can make your skin look older.

Ingredients to fight the effects of sugar on the skin

There are ingredients that may help repair the signs of glycation and prevent further skin cell damage. Choosing anti-aging products with these ingredients may be just what your skin has been craving —  not those sugary treats.

  • Fight inflammation with Alpha Lipoic Acid. Andrew Weil, MD, renowned naturopathic doctor, author and founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine has long been a proponent of the use of Alpha Lipoic Acid to fight inflammation. You can find this ingredient in our new  Advanced Botanicals Facial Moisturizer.
  • Sunflower Seed Oil is antioxidant-rich and contains lysine, which is believed to significantly halt the glycation process as it may promote collagen synthesis. Choosing facial care products formulated with Sunflower Seed Oil can help fight glycation and minimize the signs of skin aging  caused by sugar consumption. Find this in our cleanser and moisturizer.
  • Vitamins C & E are also believed to help fend off glycation. Find both in our moisturizer.


So what do you think? Are you ready to cut back on goodbye to sugar? Have you eliminated sugar from your diet before? I’d love to hear your story.


Melpomeni Peppa, et al., “Glucose, Advanced Glycation End Products, and Diabetes Complications: What is New and What Works,” Clinical Diabetes, October 2003; 21(4): 186-187, http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/21/4/186.full.

Masamitsu Ichihashi, et al., “Glycation Stress and Photo-Aging in Skin,” Anti-Aging Medicine, June 13, 2011; 8(3):23-29, http://www.anti-aging.gr.jp/english/pdf/2011/8(3)2329en.pdf


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