Our skin health can be a visual indicator of our overall wellness. With the quest for radiant skin, looking and feeling younger than our years, it is powerful to recognize that there are many choices we can make that will positively influence our appearance. These fall into the category of extrinsic aging. There are two types of aging, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic aging includes our chronological age and genetics, which affect our natural aging process and there is not much we can do to impact this. However, with extrinsic aging, there are many contributing factors including diet, stress and external influences that contribute to our appearance and overall wellbeing. What we do consistently, especially our diet, has a major impact.
A diet high in sugar is linked to inflammation and has long been the antagonist in teenage skin health, blamed along with fluctuating hormones for certain inflammatory acne conditions. However, it goes much deeper than that with the premature aging of the skin. Prematurely aged skin is characterized by looking older than our years, with skin that sags, is gaunter, and shows wrinkles. In contrast, youthful skin is marked by fullness from collagen and tightness from elastin. Sugar accelerates skin aging through a chemical process called glycation, that attacks collagen and elastin.
In glycation, the excess glucose in your system binds and overlaps the proteins in the collagen and elastin fibers, rendering them rigid and causing breakage over time. To truly understand the ramifications of a diet consistently high in sugar that causes glycation, it is important to understand how collagen and elastin contribute to our appearance.
Through intrinsic aging, our natural process, our production of both collagen and elastin starts decreasing in our 20s. Collagen is a building block of skin, muscles, cartilage, and tendon, making connective tissue, and comprising the extracellular matrix, which is the area between cells mainly comprised of proteins. Collagen provides firmness and structure to the skin, along with many other benefits. Optimal quantities are needed to provide the structural support to skin, which maintains a fuller, more youthful appearance.
Elastin is one of the most abundant proteins in the body that provides the skin with stretch and recoil, giving the collagen matrix flexibility. Elastin is in the dermis layer which lies just below the visible epidermis. Modern-day diets are not collagen and hyaluronic acid rich like those of our ancestors. We do not eat all the parts of the animals that are rich in collagen and hyaluronic acid.
Supplementation helps support these factors that we are not naturally producing as we age or consuming in our modern-day diet. Studies have shown that consistent supplementation with collagen both supports collagen and encourages production. An antioxidant rich diet and supplementing with hyaluronic acid can help support your skin elasticity.
To further your beauty efforts, eliminating or reducing sugar is one of the most effective actions you can take to support your skin health. Aging gracefully and beautifully can feel like an uphill battle. But it really comes down to our habits, what we do consistently, that has the biggest impact on our health.
And when that sweet craving strikes, our top tip is to choose berries. Not only will they help your skin with their antioxidant properties, but also not contribute to the harmful effects of sugar. And as you start decreasing your consumption of sugar, your gut microbiome will change, which should help minimize your cravings.