Quite apart from the serious risks of type 2 diabetes, sustained high blood sugar levels also have an impact on how your skin looks. Read on to find out how it happens.
There must be a zillion and one different face creams on the market, designed to do a variety of things, from hydrating to supposedly turning back time on wrinkles.
However, no skin cream is ever going to be able to make up for, or undo, a lifetime of eating sugar and high-carb foods.
But it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf and make healthy dietary changes to reduce the damage done, not only inside your body but on the surface.
How sugar ages your skin
It’s important to address what is going on inside, at a cellular level, if you want a radiant complexion. ‘When it comes to diet, a high carbohydrate diet, or one that contains a lot of sugar, leads to cellular ageing,’ says Dr Emma Cunningham, an aesthetics and skin expert (dr-emma.co.uk).
‘In general, what sugar does to the skin in terms of ageing is a process called glycation,’ she says. ‘Glycation is an important mechanism of skin ageing during which sugar molecules, such as glucose and fructose, attach to other molecules, such as the collagen in your skin. This forms tissue-damaging cross-links called
advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short.’
Collagen gets more brittle
These cross-links make your collagen stiffer and more brittle, reducing its ability to perform the primary function of supporting your skin structure. It stands to reason then that eating lots of sugar will greatly increase this process of glycation.
‘Some studies show there is accelerated ageing in people with sustained high blood sugar levels,’ adds Dr Cunningham. ‘It’s also known that hyperglycaemia (raised blood sugar levels) has been shown to reduce something called growth factor release, which has skin rejuvenation properties.’
But glycation causes other destructive reactions, such as free radical formation, oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which result in premature ageing through the encouragement of collagen breakdown, ultimately affecting your skin structure and integrity, resulting in lines and wrinkles.
Skin loses its bounce
‘Collagen and elastin proteins, which give skin its buoyant structure, become impaired, while sebum production and dehydration become ramped up,’ says Dr Cunningham.
And if you add in stress, as well as lack of sleep, this speeds up the ageing process. ‘Stress triggers the release of cortisol, which can also impact collagen synthesis and lead to a loss of elasticity and skin thickness,’ says Dr Cunningham.
So far, so not good for sugar! It’s best to keep it for the outside of your body – such as in a sugar scrub to buff away dry skin. And if you feel your face has already undergone an onslaught from eating too many carbs, our product recommendations can help it regain that glow…
Give your skin a treat
While cutting down on sugar will do your skin the world of good, there are some topical products and vitamins that can help it regain a more youthful glow.
As an overnight treatment, apply Green People Age Defy+ Hydra-Glow Sleep Mask (£34, greenpeople.co.uk), which boosts collagen and moisture while you sleep. green macro algae stimulates collagen production, while caesalpinia spinosa delivers intense skin hydration. this creamy mask is suitable for mature and sensitive skins. for maximum efficacy, use after exfoliating.
New _faace Dull Faace Creamy Cleanser (£24, wearefaace.com) can be used as a cleanser or, if you have time, can be left on for 10 minutes as a mask. it contains, among many great ingredients, vitamin c, green tea, turmeric and vitamin e to fight free radicals, plus citric acid (aha) for gentle exfoliation.
Save sugar for the outside of your body! We love Zoe Bee Coffee & Clay Scrub (£27, zoebeebeauty.co.uk), which contains sugar as well as coffee grounds, sunflower seed oil, clay and essential oils to give your face and limbs a good polish!
Vitamin C has brightening effects, helping to counteract the oxidisation caused by inflammatory free radicals. It also stimulates collagen synthesis and restores bounce and suppleness. Wild Science Labs Root + Fruit Power Smoothie Skin Polish (£35, wildsciencelab.com) has stabilised vitamin C in the formula and is perfect for sloughing away dirt, debris and pore-clogging pollutants. Try the brand’s Juice Boost Brightening Serum (£38), which is also packed with stabilised vitamin c, as well as hyaluronic acid, betaine, gardenia florida fruit extract and organic aloe vera.
The new brightening range from Sukin contains Australian Kakadu plum, which is one of the world’s richest sources of vitamin C, making it great for your face. The range also contains elements of pineapple, mango and papaya to exfoliate and brighten. Try the Sukin Radiance Gel Cleanser (£9.99, sukinnaturals.co.uk) and Sukin Illuminating Moisturiser (£17.99).
Dr Cunningham’s lifestyle advice for beautiful Skin
- Swap your carbohydrates for more leafy green vegetables. Eat whole, unprocessed food.
- Avoid shop-bought fruit juices and smoothies, which contain high levels of sugar.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Increase your antioxidant intake – these neutralise and protect the skin from the damaging effects of free radicals.
- Use skincare products that contain vitamins C and E, which help collagen and elastin hold their shape and maintain their strength.
- Adopt a good skincare routine and include a daily SPF.
- Get enough sleep. this is when your body can put all its energy into cellular repair, rejuvenating and renewing your skin.