Effects Of Sugar On Skin — Is Glycation Aging You?

what to do after a sugar binge

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting your sugar intake to 10% of the total calories you consume everyday. But let’s face it — our sweet tooth often has us crossing this limit.

You probably know doing so is not healthy for your body, but did you know there are also negative effects of sugar on skin? The most notable of these is skin glycation, contributing to saggy skin with wrinkles. 

Keep reading for the ultimate guide on the effects of sugar on skin, and stick around till the end for helpful FAQs!

Signs That Sugar Is Aging Your Face

Studies prove that the first signs of glycation appear for women near the age of 35. This means the sugar you consume in the early years may not show up immediately, but will make its ugly appearance sooner or later. Here are a few signs that sugar is the culprit aging your skin:

  • The skin loses elasticity and suppleness.
  • Deep lines appear along your upper lip.
  • The skin beneath your jawline begins to sag. 
  • The skin becomes flaccid as tissues begin to sag.
  • Discolored patches can be seen on the skin. These may be light, dark, or some other color, such as red.
  • Hyperpigmentation is clearly visible in the form of darkened patches and uneven tone.
  • The epidermis (outer layer of the skin) appears glossy and hard.
  • Crevices can be seen on the face, especially around the mouth and laugh lines.
  • The overall glow of skin is affected, acne breakouts may occur, and there is a generally tired appearance.
  • Sugar intake may trigger symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. 

What Is Glycation?

Having an excess of glucose in the skin fibers causes skin glycation. This stimulates a chemical reaction in which sugar molecules (such as glucose and fructose) stick to the collagen and elastin proteins throughout the body, especially the skin. The new molecules formed are called advanced glycation end products (or AGEs). 

Collagen and elastic are essential to keep the skin firm and elastic. When they are transformed under the reaction, they lose their original functionality and are unable to maintain the suppleness of the skin. This accelerates signs of aging.

As such, glycation is one of the effects of sugar on skin. It, in turn, affects the skin in many different ways. Keep reading to learn more about these.

Effects Of Sugar On Your Skin

effects of sugar on skin

Sugar on skin has more effects than one. The scary part is, we consume sugar in ways we don’t even realize. The most obvious sources are sweet treats and fizzy drinks. But beyond that, we take sugar through juices, salad dressings, tomato sauces, and more. Below are the most notable sugar effects on skin — and solid reasons why you should control your intake today!

Harms Collagen And Elastin

The building blocks of a firm epidermis, collagen and elastin, are heavily damaged in the skin glycation process. When these link with sugar, they become weaker, making the skin drier, less elastic, and dull.

Accelerates Aging

Because collagen and elastin are responsible for keeping the skin springy and supple, sugar effects on skin and the glycation process contributes to saggy skin, wrinkles, and fine lines. This accelerates the process of aging, causing the skin to lose its youth.

Contributes To Oily Skin

Sugary foods may increase your blood sugar levels and activate enzymes that stimulate sebaceous glands to produce more sebum (oil). While we need a controlled amount of oil to stay moisturized, an excess may lead to oily skin that is tough to manage.

Affects Collagen Type

Your body contains three types of collagen — type 1, type 2, and type 3. Type 3 is the strongest of these, while type 1 is the weakest. Glycation breaks down the the strongest type into the weakest, thereby reducing the strength of the skin.

May Result In Acne Breakouts

Too much oil production means oil may get trapped in your skin pores. As a result, your pores become clogged. While these look unneat on their own, they may also lead to acne breakouts.

May Cause Facial Hair Growth

The more sugar you consume, the more likely your body is to develop insulin resistance. This comes with its own side effects, such as hair growth on the face (hirsutism) and dark patches on the skin throughout the body.

Compromised Barrier Function

The skin’s protective barrier retains moisture and helps keep harmful allergens out. It is comprised of lipids, and when sugar molecules attach to these lipids in the process of glycation, they are damaged. As a result, the protective barrier is unable to perform its functions, resulting in possible dehydration and skin irritation.

Inflammatory Skin Conditions

When we consume sugar, our pancreas produces insulin to absorb it. With an excess of sugar, the pancreas struggles to keep up with insulin formation, causing inflammation. As a result, inflammatory skin conditions may develop, such as acne, rosacea, and dermatitis. The symptoms of these conditions are especially exacerbated in people with a history of chronic inflammation.

High Sugar Foods To Avoid For Better Skin

how does sugar affect the skin

It is recommended to avoid sugary foods and foods with a high glycemic index (these readily convert to sugar) for better skin. Examples of such foods in Western diets include:

  • Sugary and fizzy drinks
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • White bread
  • Sugary cereals
  • Baked goodies 
  • Alcohol
  • Chips
  • Donuts

Fast food is also discouraged, as the processed sugar (carbs) can lead to acne breakouts. According to dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, “Aside from ‘McDonald’s acne,’ which is common with people who operate fryers, it’s not the fat in fast food that seems to cause breakouts; it’s the processed carbs,”.

How To Eat Less Sugar For Better Skin

Many of the high sugar foods you consume contain processed sugars, which have been stripped of their nutritional value. Famous examples of such foods include candy, soda, and baked goodies. And let’s face it — we’ve all munched on these once in a while.

is sugar aging you

A suitable approach is replacing processed sugars with foods containing natural sugars. For example, replace your candy with a fruit or bunch of berries. Eating a date in place of a chocolate brownie is another good way to replace artificial sugar by its organic counterpart. You may also consider using honey and maple syrup as natural sweeteners while putting together meals.

Additionally, replace white rice with brown rice and white bread with wholegrain bread. These contain less glucose — and release it at slower rates. White mulberries are also ideal for adding to your diet; they help slow down the breakdown of sugars (contributing to lower absorption levels). 


Can you reverse sugar damage to skin?

Glycation, a form of sugar damage to skin, cannot be stopped altogether. However, you can slow it down and reverse its effects — and potentially prevent them in the future. Our bodies naturally contain antioxidants that combat the effects of glycation, but this alone may not be enough when it comes to advanced AGE formation. 

To reduce the effects of sugar on skin, begin by reducing your sugar intake to the recommended amount (or lower). Bonus points if you minimize exposure to chronic stress and UV rays, too. Complement this with the right skincare treatment, including barrier-repair moisturizers and anti-aging products, such as hyaluronic acid. Anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as aloe vera and argan oil, are ideal for helping with any itching or irritation. Finally, carnosine supplements — a type of amino acids — also provide substantial protection against glycation.

How much sugar will affect your skin?

Consuming more sugar than 10% of your calories per day will begin to have adverse effects. If your diet constitutes 2000 calories, this means consuming no more than 200 calories of sugar per day. This equals roughly 50 grams (or 12 teaspoons).


The effects of sugar on skin are enormous, with skin glycation being a prominent one. With excess sugar intake, you can expect premature aging, inflammation, and reduced elasticity. But the good news is, you can control these ugly effects of sugar on skin by monitoring your intake, adopting the right skincare, and consuming a healthy diet. Giving a thorough read to this article will have you educated on the topic — and make you more informed decisions about your diet and sugar intake!



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