It's that time of year: Candy corn, chocolate kisses, and other sweet stuff starts cropping up around my office like mushrooms. If the promise of a slimmer waistline doesn't keep me from grabbing a handful, my desire for smooth skin will.
Experts now believe that a lifetime of overeating sugar can make skin dull and wrinkled. Blame a natural process that's known as glycation, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules (called advanced glycation end products or, appropriately, AGEs for short). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. Most vulnerable to damage are collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic. Prevent those pesky AGEs from forming by following these 4 steps:
1. Cut Back on Sugar
Obvious, but it's not easy to eliminate it completely. Even whole grains, fruits, and vegetables turn to glucose-the type of sugar that fuels glycation-when digested. But limiting sugar can help. Some guidelines: Keep added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. If you're average height (5-foot-4), that's 160 calories (or 10 teaspoons)-about the number in one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola or six Hershey's Kisses.
2. Take 1 mg of B1 and B6 a day
These vitamins proved to be potent AGE inhibitors in a number of published studies, according to David J. Goldberg, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and a clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. B1 and B6 are plentiful in food, but take a multivitamin-most of which deliver at least 1 mg of both Bs.
3. Wear broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every day
Significantly more AGEs occur in sun-exposed skin than in protected skin, according to a British Journal of Dermatology study. Slather on rain or shine (or sleet or snow) and reapply if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
4. Wear-and eat-your antioxidants
These free-radical fighters help keep sugar from attaching to proteins. There are two ways to replenish their supply and save your skin: by eating more antioxidant-rich foods like cranberries, walnuts, and red bell peppers, and by applying products that contain topical antioxidants such as green tea and vitamins C and E. According to Goldberg, this dual approach helps antioxidants reach the dermal layer of skin, where collagen and elastin are located.
More tips for younger, more glowing skin from Prevention:
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