Sugar is in the news for what it does to the waistline and overall health, but it’s also making headlines in the skincare arena. Glycation is this year’s buzzword, as it represents the process by which a sugar molecule, either fructose or glucose, bonds to a protein or a lipid molecule. “It is a natural process in which the sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs,” says Celeste Hilling, founder, CEO, and product formulator of Skin Authority. “As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins permanently and do not detach. The more sugar we eat, the more AGEs we will develop.”
Hazardous to the skin, these AGEs not only damage collagen and elastin but also cause inflammation to the skin. “Glycation is the sneak attack on the body’s structures by sugar,” says Jimmy Moss, education director of North America for [ comfort zone ]. “When we consume white sugars, high fructose corn syrup, or refined carbohydrates, the body turns them into glucose. These high levels of blood glucose in turn create sugar-coated proteins that go on to form AGEs.” Needless to say, skincare companies are taking note with products that address the harmful effect sugar has on
Of course, prevention tops the list. “The best and really only way to stop glycation is to reduce or eliminate the intake of sugar in the diet,” says Elliott Milstein, president of Biopelle. “Some new skincare products actually now include sugar in the list of ingredients. Nothing could be worse for the skin.” That’s why now is the time to jump on the anti-sugar bandwagon, which is exactly what many skincare manufacturers are doing by focusing on ingredients that can help reverse the damage caused by glycation. For example, alpha-lipoic acid, alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, epidermal growth factors, kombucha black tea ferment, omega-6 essential fatty acids, peptides, and turmeric all show promise as anti-glycation ingredients. According to Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, soy and its derivatives are also proving effective in smoothing skin and stimulating elastin and collagen synthesis. “Soy isoflavonoids act as anti-glycation agents to fight collagen cross-linking and also reduce inflammation and protect against UV-induced photodamage,” she says.
Although you’ll be hard-pressed to find anti-glycation services on many treatment menus, it is an area of research that is definitely growing. The link between sugar and aging may still be news to many spa-goers, but for industry insiders, it’s a major piece in the anti-aging puzzle. Game-changers in promoting health and wellness, spas are poised to open the lines of communication, as they transform their anti-aging campaigns to include products that address glycation and conversations on the relevance of diet and sugar intake. “Glycation is important to the skin, because it causes aging,” says King. “But we can help prevent it.”