It may only take a few minutes of brisk walking to work off the calories from that teaspoon of sugar in our morning coffee, but the damaging effects of sugar on skin can persist for much longer. While the body uses sugars as the nutrient source for energy and maintaining cellular health, sugar has a dark side, combining with proteins, fats and even DNA through a chemical reaction called “glycation”.
What is Glycation — and Why Does it Age Skin?
During diabetes research, it was discovered in skin that sugar molecules can bind to proteins such as collagen and eventually form advanced glycation end products (appropriately termed AGEs). These AGEs can abnormally crosslink collagen molecules, making them less flexible and ultimately contributing to aged skin. Glycation causes damaged collagen to accumulate as we get older, leading to wrinkles and loss of suppleness. In addition, UV exposed skin speeds up the formation of AGEs.
So what to do? Although it’s impossible to completely remove sugar from one’s diet, there are now skin care products that fight glycation that our office can recommend, as well as visually analyze the skin to see if it has been effected. You can also Google search “glycation” and learn more about it.
Wipes are convenient; there is no getting around it
…whether it be baby wipes or facial wipes, they can make life a lot easier. But are they really doing what we think they are?
Facial cleansers and wipes typically contain the same active ingredients (surfactants, stabilizers, alcohols and emulsifiers) that dissolve makeup, oil, debris and dead skin. However, wipes are missing the vital step of rinsing with water to flush away the grime. Instead, they use chemicals that often leave a residue of unfinished business, despite the clean feeling afterward. Over time this build-up can be irritating and dry, especially with sensitive skin, and lead to premature aging. In addition, the rubbing motion needed to lift makeup can irritate the skin, especially around the eye area.
Packages of facial wipes are a breeding ground for bacteria, requiring potent preservatives and anti-microbial agents to extend shelf-life up to 18 months. Many brands say they are biodegradable, but are they really? I just received a notice from our local waste-water district warning about wipes clogging household pipes and sewer lines; even wipes claiming to be flushable. Also keep in mind that if you use two wipes a day (morning and evening), in a month’s time that would be 60 wipes into the landfill!
Despite their misgivings, you may just really need a facial wipe! Besides feeling too tired at night to wash your face, they are great for the gym, camping, and on-the-go.
If you love using wipes, here are some tips:
- Rinse with water afterward to remove the chemicals left behind
- Apply moisturizer after using your wipe.
- Look for wipes without too many preservatives or chemical sounding names.
- Wipes with fragrances may cause additional irritation.
- Use wipes to remove makeup then follow with a cream cleanser that can also moisturize and condition the skin.
Spots on the skin and dark spots on an apple, are they related?
The answer is yes, both are forms of “oxidation”; the same oxidation as rust on your metal lawn furniture. Oxidation is due to unbalanced oxygen molecules seeking balance by joining with another substance, sort of like a romantic breakup with both people on the rebound searching for another soul mate. Unlike the lonely person looking for the perfect lover, the unbalanced oxygen atom (referred to as a “free radical”) isn’t too choosy and will bind to anything that is attracted to oxygen. This isn’t just infatuation, but real chemistry causing dangerous changes to what it binds with, especially within our bodies.
When this happens, healthy cells are changed into sick ones, even disrupting DNA to cause cancer. We can witness free radical damage to the skin from the sun’s UV rays by age spots, premature aging, and wrinkles. So we may not really be aging after all, we’re just oxidizing!
Oxygen is all around us and our bodies require oxygen, so there is no escape. Free radicals are produced as oxygen’s bi-product of metabolism, even from breathing and exercise. But they are also in our environment from pollution, radiation, drugs, pesticides, fried foods, alcohol, and tobacco smoke, just to name a few.
So, are we fighting a losing battle with this invisible force? Not at all! A secret weapon does exist, called “antioxidants” that bind to a free radical and render it harmless, so oxidation doesn’t take place. You’ve seen the evidence when using lemon juice to keep an apple fresh. Our body has the capability to make antioxidants from the food we eat, but loses this ability as we age. Therefore, it is a good idea to eat foods with high antioxidant content, take antioxidant supplements, and use skin care products containing antioxidants to keep your skin looking bright!