The Wembley Medispa


The Effect of Glycation on the skin

Friday 6 March 2015


Protein glycation is one of many natural aging processes that occur in skin. Caused by a reaction between a sugar (glucose) and proteins such as collagen, glycation leads to the formation of irreversible and highly-detrimental Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs). An increase in AGEs results in undesired cross-linking of collagen, ultimately causing wrinkles and a sallow/yellow appearance. Anti-glycation is considered an important ant aging step in the maintenance of healthy, youthful skin. In order to prevent the formation of AGEs, some cosmetic compounds function as antioxidants/chelators. The Bionic Acids, including Lacto bionic and Malt bionic Acids, and the Polyhydroxy Acid, Gluconolactone, have antioxidant and metal chelation properties, and have been shown to reduce glycation, as well to improve the appearance of sallow, photo aged skin.

 Glycation (sometimes called non-enzymatic glycosylation) is the result of typically covalent bonding of a protein or lipid molecule with a sugar molecule, such as fructose or glucose, without the controlling action of an enzyme. All blood sugars are reducing molecules. Glycation may occur either inside the body (endogenous glycation) or outside the body (exogenous glycation). Enzyme-controlled addition of sugars to protein or lipid molecules is termed glycosylation; glycation is a haphazard process that impairs the functioning of biomolecules, whereas glycosylation occurs at defined sites on the target molecule and is required in order for the molecule to function. Much of the early laboratory research work on fructose glycations used inaccurate assay techniques that led to drastic underestimation of the importance of fructose in glycation.

It is already known that excess sugar can lead to a variety of health concerns, but what most forget is that too much sugar can also affect the skin. Sugar can be digested in many forms, including the consumption of carbohydrates and can even be formed via meal preparation. If there is too much sugar in the body, protein molecules can cross-link with sugar molecules.1 once this cross-linking process has occurred, the new sugar proteins are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The human body does not recognize AGEs as normal, and will produce antibodies that cause inflammation in the skin. Once formed, AGEs tend to gravitate toward dermal collagen and elastin.

As people age, proteins in the body can become damaged through the introduction of AGEs—one of the key factors in aging of the skin. The more sugar you eat, whether processed or natural, the more AGEs are produced. When the body is overwhelmed with AGEs, collagen 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. Other conditions that appear when microcirculation is damaged and cell turnover slows is a loss of volume in the face due to redistribution of fat. Although the development of lines and wrinkles is normal as clients age, it is difficult to see clients in their 20s resemble a person in their 40s, which is more frequently being witnessed in treatment rooms.

AGEs have been connected to several different health challenges. The oxidative conditions that arise from the formation of AGEs can lead to Alzheimer’s2, cardiovascular disease3 and renal failure4. The amount of AGEs present increases in certain situations involving hyperglycemia and oxidative stress, such as diabetes.5 Diabetics—whose ability to process glucose is at the root of the disease—have an especially difficult time with glycated sensitive skin issues, including neuropathy and scleroderma. The number of people being diagnosed with diabetes and or pre-diabetes is increasing year by year. Intake forms are extremely valuable when dealing with health-challenged skin. Questions about other health challenges can be added in order to potentially determine why glycation issues can vary, especially if diabetes or other conditions are in the picture.


There are several types of AGEs that are autofluorescent at certain wavelengths of light. Skin autofluorescence is a noninvasive measure of the level of tissue accumulation of AGEs, representing cumulative glycemic and oxidative stress. The noninvasive autofluorescence reader (AFR) that measures skin AGE concentrations uses a sample area of unblemished skin and hair to test. The unit then shines a variety of light wavelengths on the sample area. The light that is reflected from the fluorescing AGEs is analyzed to measure the percentage of AGE concentration in the client’s skin. The use of the AFR has led to predicting potential diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Many pieces of equipment such as this started in the hands of physicians and have been reconstructed to be utilized in the skin care industry, so skin care professionals may have access to AFR in the future.

Scientists have established that anything that causes a rise in our blood sugar results in inflammation on a cellular level, and I believe that inflammation is at the basis of virtually every disease process such as cancerAlzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and wrinkled skin. In addition, when our blood sugar goes up rapidly and continually, the sugar can actually attach to the collagen in our skin, making it stiff and inflexible. There is a scientific term for that: glycation. When your collagen is cross-linked by sugar, you end up with stiff and sagging skin. I believe that 50% of aging of the skin is the result of this glycation reaction. Beginning with lack of sleep, when we do not get enough sleep it results in elevation of a hormone called cortisol. Now cortisol, even though it is an essential hormone in the body, in excess quantities is called the “death hormone.” It has a lot of negative side effects. It actually breaks down tissue. For example, it can break down muscle tissue, thin our skin, decalcify our bones, and elevate our blood sugar. Of course, when blood sugar is elevated we are in an inflammatory state. On the days we do not get enough sleep, we tend to crave carbohydrates, and that’s because cortisol raises blood sugar and insulin levels, setting up this craving.

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