How does sugar affect your skin? We explore the myths

How does sugar affect your skin? We explore the myths

5 minutes
Whilst many of us consider reducing our sugar intake for health or diet reasons including diabetes or weight loss, it can also have a noticeable impact on your skin.

Sugar consumption has more than tripled worldwide in the past 50 years and in Europe alone, people on average are consuming 100 grams of sugar a day – a far cry from the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of no more than 25g of sugar per day (equal to 6 ¼ teaspoons of 1 ½ bars of chocolate).

Although the biggest culprits of our sugar consumption include fizzy drinks and sweet treats, hidden sugars in our diet often surprise us. For example, we feel we are being healthy when enjoying a fresh fruit juice or don’t consider the high levels of sugar within a glass of wine. Whilst on their own, these little indulgences may seem insignificant yet the overall amount of both hidden an added sugars in our diet can have an effect on our insides, but on our skin too.

How does sugar affect our skin?

Excess sugar in your bloodstream can cause Glycation, a natural chemical reaction which happens when sugar levels in the bloodstream spike beyond what our insulin can handle. Glycation affects the part of our skin that keeps it ‘springy’ – collagen and elastin. When these two proteins link with sugars they become weaker and when these essential skin building blocks are impaired, the signs of ageing become more apparent; skin becomes drier and less elastic, causing wrinkles, sagging and a dull skin appearance.

The more that glycation occurs in our body, the quicker our skin ages. This is particularly prevalent for people with diabetes as they have a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar levels and scientists have found they tend to age faster than those without high blood sugar (3). Further research analysed the age people were perceived to be and related this back to their blood sugar levels. Results showed that those with higher blood sugar levels were perceived as older than those with lower levels (4).

How to reduce the effects of sugar on your skin

Whilst we are not suggesting to cut out sugar completely, it is advisable to look at your sugar intake within your diet and try to have no more than the recommended amount (25g) as this is what the body is able to handle without adverse effects. Added sugars should make up no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake, to help you manage this, Olay advise you do the following:

  • Know how much sugar per day you are having. Read food labels and make healthier choices when buying processed foods. Often supermarket brands operate a traffic light labelling policy to help steer you to make healthier choices.

  • Know your sugars – honey, fruit juices and alcohol all contain high amounts of sugar.

  • Drink water – replace fizzy drinks, juice and energy drinks with water and be aware that flavoured waters often include hidden additional ingredients.

  • Get your beauty sleep – scientists have found that the sleep hormone melatonin can reduce glycation damage by up to 50%.

  • Relax and unwind – stress causes spikes in the level of the hormone cortisol, which increases the effects of glycation by up to 20% (5).

There are many benefits of cutting out sugar. Olay scientists advise that the smarter way to improve your skin’s future and delay the visible signs of ageing, especially when feeling stressed or having long days, is to skip the sweets and favour a good night’s sleep (6).

Learn more about the best food for healthy skin here.

Reference notes

  1. Olay SHNB Sugar Infographic here

  2. 2014 CINCINNATI internal Olay assets

  3. Ulrich P, Cerami A, “Protein glycation, diabetes, and aging,” Recent Prog Horm Res, 2001

  4. Raymond Noordam, et al., “High serum glucose levels are associated with a higher perceived age,” AGE, February 2013; 35(1):189-195

  5. Olay SHNB Sugar Infographic here

  6. 2014 CINCINNATI internal Olay assets