Sugar and spice and everything nice? Well, actually not so nice — that is, if you’re paying attention to the FDA’s recommendations to cut back on sugar. The dietary guidelines suggest only 10% of daily calories should come from added sugars, which severely cramps the number of candy bars and cocktails and other crave-ables you can consume. But you’re waist will thank you and you’re also less likely to suffer skin damage.
Leading, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger weighs in on the science behind the sugar rush when it comes to skin health. “A high-sugar diet can affect your skin from the inside out,” he told The Cheat Sheet. “Sugar molecules attach to collagen and elastin proteins in the skin through a process called glycation. This process produces advanced glycosylation end-products, or AGEs for short.”
Those are some big words, but the short answer is that sugar could lead to premature aging and a compromised complexion, which is never a good look. “The damage from the AGEs is seen in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, and dull, sallow skin,” Dr. Schlessinger confirmed. “AGEs can also interfere with the production of new collagen and elastin, preventing your skin from naturally repairing itself.”
Studies also have shown eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as candy, cake, white bread, pasta, and soda can cause breakouts. This type of food spikes your blood sugar thereby also triggering hormones that stimulate oil production and lead to acne.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom for all of you cookie monsters. It’s more about the science behind smarter choices.
While cookies will probably not serve you well, you can find other decadent treats that are a bit more skin-friendly. “If you’re going to eat sweets or candy, it’s best to stick to a dark chocolate bar with a high cocoa content that is low in sugar,” suggested Dr. Schlessinger. “The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.”
“Alcoholic drinks that are high in sugar are going to be worse for your skin than other beverages,” he also said. “This is because in addition to the visible effects of alcohol, your skin is going through the glycation process. Mixers, including tonic water and fruit juices, usually contain more sugar while dry spirits tend to have less sugar. If you want a glass of wine, opt for red instead of white. Red wine has less fructose.”
Sneaky, hidden sugars also should be monitored. “There are seemingly healthy foods that are high in sugars, such as canned fruit and flavored yogurt,” Dr. Schlessinger added. “Always check the labels to make sure the food you’re eating doesn’t have high amounts of sugar. Watch out for added sugars on the ingredient list like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.”
Of course, if sugar is your Achilles heel, you may want to consider bringing in some additional reinforcements in the way of skin care products that will help fight those pesky AGEs. SkinCeuticals has just the right solution with the A.G.E. Interrupter, which the company says is an advanced treatment that fights the visible signs of aging caused by advanced glycation end-products. This anti-aging cream is formulated with an unprecedented 30% concentration of Proxylane, 4% blueberry extract, and 0.2% phytosphingosine to help restore the loss of visible skin firmness caused by the glycation process. SkinCeuticals also has an A.G.E. Eye Complex specifically made for the eye area to fight the appearance of dark circles, puffiness, and crow’s feet.
MEG21’s Antioxidant Boost is another all-around good idea for your face, as it is formulated with Supplamine, which is a patented ingredient that intercepts and reverses glycation, inflammation, and metabolic oxidation caused by sugars in the skin. It also features comfrey root, grape seed and gooseberry extracts, evening primrose, Vitamin E, and soy protein for a powerful antioxidant boost with additional moisturizing benefits.
So, with these potions, you can have your cake and eat it, too — in moderation, that is.