Mmmmmm, sugar, you’re so sweet! But, what’s sweet on your tongue isn’t necessarily sweet on your skin. As you consume excess sugar, your body responds with an inflammatory process that reduces your body’s ability to fight skin damage. Does this mean you have to go raw vegan? No, but cutting out excess sugar found in junk food, sweets and white bread can go a long way in keeping your skin as young as possible.
What happens when sugar metabolizes in your system is a process called glycation, where the sugar attaches to proteins, forming new molecules called advanced glycation end (AGE) products. These glycation end products destroy proteins like collagen and elastin. When collagen and elastin are destroyed, skin becomes thinner, discolored and sags.
Our dermis, the layer of skin that supports the epidermis (our outer layer of skin) is made up of proteins collagen and elastin, which keep skin plump and firm. The dermis also manufactures new skin cells regularly to replace the old skin cells. Because of glycation, glycated collagen can’t regenerate effectively, slowing down new skin cell growth, making your skin sag and wrinkle. To make things worse, AGEs (advanced glycation end products) also make your complexion more vulnerable to skin attackers such as UV light and cigarette smoke.
Though you can’t stop glycation—since even good carbs like brown rice and whole grains get converted into sugar—you can avoid white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other simple carbs like white flour, which increase glycation 10 times more than the good carbs.
So what can you do other than avoid brownies and soda? Green tea, whether you drink it or use green tea-infused serums or moisturizers, helps disrupt the glycation process, as well as stimulates collagen production. And retinoids (retinol and Retin-A are two types of retinoids) also build new collagen. So replace that Coke with iced green tea, and add retinol to your skin care regimen to avoid the sweet havoc sugar can wreak on your skin.
In this day and age where there’s an app for everything there’s also every type of food imaginable. It’s easier than ever to change your diet and lifestyle for something healthier. While some diets require giving up a lot of the things we love, that can be discouraging so it’s best to start with one thing at a time. For those of you really looking to make a change for the betterment of your skin, eliminating or at least limiting your sugar intake is the first step. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here are the 3 steps, I took to phase unhealthy sugars out of my daily diet.
1. Cut Soda
This was really hard but cutting soda out cold turkey was one of the things that made a huge difference. I thought it would be the hardest thing to do since I usually drink a coke with lunch and dinner but from day one I noticed how different I felt. I was less bloated and full after each meal and it felt good to actually feel good so it was easier than I thought to keep up. I learned I still need a carbonated fix, so I now opt for mineral water with lots of lemon, which I add myself. After two weeks of feeling good, I also noticed that my skin was looking good too. I had fewer breakouts and my skin just looked brighter and less dull. Cutting out the sugar and upping my water intake was a game changer.
2. Stop Buying Processed Foods
Now this step is usually the hardest to truly commit to. I, myself haven’t fully embraced this because sometimes it’s just not realistic. We all get busy and don’t always have the time to plan for healthy choices but I can say that I’m much more aware of what I’m eating and where it comes from. I find that once you start paying attention to what it is you’re eating, your standards for health become more of a priority and better decisions are the result. I make a huge effort to not buy processed stuff anymore, especially those frozen pre-made dinners. I like knowing what I’m eating and that I’m in control of my health and how my skin looks. I now make the effort to meal prep on Sundays so that I know I have food to eat all week and I’m not tempted to eat out as much or reach for something sugary and unhealthy. I don’t do traditional meal prepping, because eating one or two recipes all week is boring to me. Instead I prep ingredients separately like grilled chicken, quinoa, roasted veggies, and other things that can be mixed and matched to create different meals all week. This keeps things interesting and keeps me on the right track!
3. Don’t Keep Temptation in the House
Some people have amazing self control and can have things in moderation; they’ll bake cookies have just one cookie and be satisfied. Others, like myself and I’d like to imagine many others, can’t just have one cookie and put away the rest. If I know there’s delicious treats in the house, all it takes is a little stress to send me running straight for those cookies. So instead of challenging my willpower on a daily basis, I decided to eliminate my temptations all together. No more cookies or processed sugary snacks at my house! I now make sure to keep healthier options on hand. Instead of processed snacks like chips, I have sliced fruit or veggies and some fresh hummus. And when I really need a sweet dessert, I make a small batch of something. My favorite thing to make is frozen bananas dipped in dark chocolate rolled in nuts. Another easy option is frozen mangos with a little chili powder. My skin feels healthier and looks healthier thanks to these little changes.
Focusing on these three steps has guided me so much on my quest for better skin and a healthier life. If you really want to take your skincare seriously it’s not just about the products you use. Skincare products are helpful aids and tools but it’s important to make sure our biggest benefactor to great skin doesn’t take a back seat. Any goal requires small and consistent efforts so even if you just take one of these steps, that’s a great starting point to your best skin and a better you.