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Sugar and Aging Skin: The Truth About Glycation

Sugar ages skin, called glycation
November 14, 2013 Reviewed by Marta 2 Comments

As with your waistline, sugar is not so sweet  when it comes to your skin. It may, in fact, leave a bitter taste to learn that sugar is actually aging your skin, in a process called glycation. The more scientists learn about this process, the more innovation there is in the anti-aging battle against skin-aging glycation. You'll want to stay ahead of the trend, as I have, by knowing which anti-aging serums best defeat glycation. But first, what is it?

What Is Glycation?

Glycation is the process of sugar molecules in your body interacting with fats and proteins. This interaction leads to advanced glycation end products (or, most appropriately, AGEs) which accumulate in collagen as we age. AGEs affect proteins in your body and the extracellular matrix (ECM), also known as "your skin," including collagen turnover and elasticity. It also increases skin inflammation. 

Glycosylation of collagen is the "sugar and aging effect" that will make your skin less elastic and as crumpled as a deflated balloon.

What Causes Glycation?

Needless to say, eating too much sugar isn't going to do any good for any part of your body. That said, a key glycation trigger is high heat cooking. You’ll be glad the BBQ season is behind us, because grilling produces a particularly toxic chemical reaction between the fat and protein in meat, which combine with sugars to create AGES. The reaction happens in other foods, too, but not as acutely in those with less fat and protein.

Apart from kicking the grilling habit, what’s a person to do? Look out for beauty products with anti-glycation agents, such as carnosine, noni fruit and, also, cranberry, which gives us a very good reason to be thankful Thanksgiving comes post-grilling season.


Recent research suggests carnosine can limit cross-linking to protect cells from AGEs and rejuvenate aging skin tissue. Carnosine extends the ability of cells to reproduce to just over 60 times, making it a real anti-ager. Here's where you can find carnosine:

Noni fruit

Noni (Morinda Citrifolia) is a member of the coffee family and native to Malaysia. It is also high in compounds called iridoids that are not only antioxidant, but can lower a person’s AGE levels. Find noni in:


Cranberries are also an amazing source of AGE-zapping iridoids, plus more phenols and radical scavenging abilities than most other fruits. Where to find cranberry:

  • April 11, 2014

    by Marta

    Hi Naheed, the short answer is that I don't know if topical application of honey would exacerbate glycation. All the literature refers to the consumption of sugars (including honey) in excess. But I doubt very much whether a touch of honey in a cream would have much of an adverse effect.

  • April 11, 2014

    by Naheed

    Nice article Marta! But what about the products like Royal Nector Mask or other products with honey? Do they promote glycation? I am a big user of honey so would like to know.

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