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What are AGEs?

We mostly think of free radicals and sun damage when we try to defend ourselves against skin aging but there are other factors that should be strongly considered. One of these is Advanced Glycation End Products which is aptly referred to as AGEs.

You've often heard me talk about how excess sugar can lead to premature aging as well as acne breakouts and a variety of health concerns, but do you understand why sugar is a problem for skin aging? First of all, sugar can be consumed in many forms, not just candy and desserts. Bread, cookies, crackers and even high glycemic fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates that turn into sugar almost immediately in your bloodstream. If there is too much sugar in the body, protein molecules can cross-link with sugar molecules. Imagine a ladder. Your collagen fibers are the side rails, sugar molecules are the horizontal rungs. The collagen proteins become inflexible and rigid when the rungs are formed by certain sugars (non-enzymatic). The skin becomes dull and leathery and the inflexibility of these fibers pull on the skin creating deep lines of expression and eventually wrinkles. Once this cross-linking process has occurred, the new sugar/protein molecules are called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). Our bodies do not recognize AGEs as normal, and start to produce antibodies that cause inflammation in the skin. This inflammation is a major promoter of oxidative damage (free radicals) which is a primary factor in the Free Radical Theory of Aging. While this is not the sole reason for aging, I believe this is a huge piece of the puzzle.

As people age, more proteins become damaged through the introduction of AGEs. The more sugar you eat, whether it is processed or natural, the more AGEs are produced. When the body is overwhelmed with AGEs, collagen itself becomes compromised. Effects of the glycation process at the cellular level of the skin’s structure may result in wrinkling, loss of elasticity, stiffness, accelerated aging and compromised barrier function. Additional conditions appear when microcir­culation is affected and cell turnover slows down. This results in a loss of volume in the face and a redistri­bution of fat. You want fat where it used to be... when you were a kid.

Research has also shown AGEs can cause abnormal melanin production that leads to the formation of brown spots and mottled skin discolorations. Although sugar is certainly a major culprit in the skin-damaging effects of AGEs, so is something called the Maillard Reaction. The Maillard Reaction is what happens when you brown or blacken foods using high heat. That means steaming or sautéing food without browning is far healthier for your skin and body. And chargrilling foods, especially meat, at high heat is even worse. AGEs from browning also come from frying and even toasting foods, anywhere where high heat is used to brown the food.

What you can do:

Red algae (hypnea musciformis), found in shallow, shaded, subtidal reefs, provides dual matrix protecting action against glycation (AGEs). It limits cellular as well as tissue damage that weakens and destroys the skin’s firming proteins. In-vivo studies show that after 28 days, red algae reduces the level of AGEs and glycated collagen, and restores the organization of the collagen matrix to promote restoration and overall firmness. This is not a perfect solution. You need to also avoid exposure that creates AGEs from sugar, browned food and heat from the sun. Here is another case where being out in the sun can cause premature aging. You are effectively browning your skin when you get a tan which leads to the damages caused by Advanced Glycation End Products.

You also want to build and support the tissues to mitigate damage. This means protecting your skin from the sun with sunscreen. Besides sunscreen, internal (eating fresh fruits and veggies) and external use of antioxidants is essential. If you are regularly exposed to AGEs you may want to up your game by adding superfruits to your diet (coffee berries, acai berries, gogi fruit, noni fruit, mangoes and pomegranates). You can also add them to your skincare regime in the form of a serum containing these ingredients. Try cutting inflammation with regular consumption of polyphenol rich green tea. Peptides in your skincare program are essential as they are cell signalling molecules that stimulate repair. The most researched of these cell signalling peptides is Matrixyl, a facial architectural peptide that supports skin rebuilding essentials for a firmer matrix, and a smoother, stronger, volumized skin.

If you have questions or comments please let me know and I will try to answer them promptly.


Elizabeth believes in "Longevity Skincare", the idea that beautiful skin can endure throughout one's lifetime when utilizing the best that science and nature has to offer. LONGEVITY is a science-based skincare line that appreciates skin of all ages. LONGEVITY by Elizabeth Renee provides hydration, nutrition and protection from environmental aging. Your skin will receive high performance ingredients to help energize and repair its cells, resulting in a healthy skin with an enduring, vital glow.

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