The Skin Grinch

The Skin Grinch

Hate to be the skin Grinch but…


Some of your favorite holiday foods may be harming your health and your skin. The culprit is eating large amounts of sugar.


There’s a new study out from Massachusetts General Hospital.  Here’s the summary:

Cutting 20% of sugar from packaged food and 40% from beverages could prevent 2.48 million cardiovascular disease events (such a s strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests), 490,000 cardiovascular related deaths and 750,000 diabetes cases in the US.

Highly processed foods are often the source of huge amounts of sugar that you probably don't even realize is there.

What are ultra processed or highly processed foods?

Things like:

  • Salty snack foods
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Meat molded into nuggets, strips or other shapes
  • Mass-produced, highly refined breads and sweets
  • Microwaveable dinners and frozen pizzas

The more you can cut ultra processed foods (thee source of a lot of hidden sugar), sugar and sweentened beverages from your diet, the better your chances for health.

And guess what? Reducing the amount of sugar and ultra processed food in your diet  also  helps your skin be healthier and look better.

This is because of a process called glycation

Here’s what happens:

Glycation occurs when sugars attach themselves to protein or lipid molecules forming advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which cause protein fibers to become stiff and malformed.

When these sugar molecules bind to the collagen and elastin in your skin, those important proteins are unable to do their job of  supporting the structure of the skin, which leads to wrinkles and other signs of accelerated aging.

The sugars that are most often the culprits  in this process are glucose and fructose, both of which are quite high in ultra-processed foods and sweetened beverages like sodas, juices, and sweetened drinks (look for high fructose sugars). If you have a Christmas cookie or two, it’s not as bad as a can of coke or a packaged pastry.

High sugar consumption isn’t the only cause of glycation. Some glycation happens as you get older as part of the normal aging process. But eating a lot of sugar, having high blood glucose levels caused by chronic stress, oxidative stress caused by the sun, air pollution, or poor lifestyle habits can make it a whole lot worse.

What glycation damage looks like on your skin:

In your skin, the main thing that glycation does is to inhibit the process of cell regeneration. It interferes with collagen and elastin production by making these proteins “sticky”.

On your skin, this looks like:

Dryness, along with a dull complexion and sometimes a yellow/brown tinge to your complexion

Inflammation and breakouts

Deep wrinkles-collagen and elastin are harder and harder to make enough of as you age. Eating a lot of sugar makes the problem worse.

Noticeable pigmentation- high sugar levels make the melanocytes (cells responsible for the pigment in your skin) go into over drive.

Can you reverse glycation?

You can’t stop glycation altogether but you can slow it and down and maybe even reverse its effects.

The first step is to reduce  your exposure to the things that cause glycation (lots of sugar, UV damage, and chronic stress).

Maybe only take one cookie instead of a handful or have a square of anti-oxidant rich dark chocolate instead.

Skip the sweetened drink and sip on some water or green tea.

Wear your sunscreen every day.

Take some time outs to reduce your stress. Bonus points if you can get outside in nature.

There is some evidence that anti-oxidants can help slow and maybe even reverse the effects of glycation. This means antioxidants on your skin like vitamin C, resveratrol, COQ10, Kaduku plum, and many more.

In your diet, the same anti-oxidants work really well too. Plus lots of fresh veggies and fruits in all colors and shades.

This seems like a no brainer to me. Cutting out ultra-processed foods and sweetened bevarages and replacing them with fresh, healthy foods and drinks like water and green tea are small steps that will pay off big time in terms of better health and better skin.

It’s ok to have a few treats around the holidays. No one expects you to skip all your favorite foods. If you can eat fresh, healthy foods 80% of the time, that leaves 20% for those special holiday indulgences. That way you won’t feel deprived or like you’re missing out.

Don’t tell the Grinch, I said so.



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