4 mins


We are all well-versed in warning our clients about the dangers of sun exposure and the way it can prematurely age the skin. Food entrepreneur and The Pure Package founder Jennifer Irvine says, as one of the worst offenders for ageing your face and body, why we should also be discussing the effects of sugar

Excess sugar in our bodies can cause irreversible ageing of our skin through a process called glycation. Glycation takes place when the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins and produces harmful free radicals called advanced glycation end products (commonly shortened, appropriately, to AGEs). The more AGEs you accumulate the more they damage the proteins in your body.


Collagen and elastin, which are the building blocks for skin firmness and elasticity, are the most at risk of being damaged by AGEs, as they cause the collagen fibres to become stiff. Consequently, skin becomes dry and skin strength is reduced, which can threaten the youthful, plump and dewy look of your skin. A diet high in sugar can also affect the type of collagen in your skin; this causes the skin to lose stability and structural strength, increasing visible lines and wrinkles.


Unfortunately, AGEs are also responsible for deactivating your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, which makes your skin more vulnerable to free radical damage from environmental factors, such as pollution, UV rays and blue light. This triggers oxidative stress on your skin, contributing even more to premature ageing. All fruits and vegetables, as well as things like dark chocolate and tea, have powerful antioxidants that help to protect cells from glycation. Foods such as blueberries, pomegranate and white tea are super antioxidants. Advising your clients to get a regular supply in their diet will help save their skin from the effects of AGEs.


The visible signs of glycation on the skin tend to start emerging around the age of 35, once the accumulation of oxidative stress, hormonal damage and AGE builds up. During this time, wear and tear will begin to start showing on the skin leading to:

• the surface of the skin looking hard or shiny

• deep crosshatch lines appearing along the upper lip and under the eyes

• discolouration and hyperpigmentation marks on the skin


Not all sugars are the same Firstly, even if we could eliminate all types of sugar from our diets, we shouldn’t; they are an essential fuel for cells and energy metabolism, critical to survival. The UK Government guideline daily amount of ‘total sugars’ (both naturally occurring and free sugars) for the average adult is a maximum of 90g per day.

Those consuming too much sugar should not only cut back on their sugar intake but be especially aware of the types of sugars in their diet. Advise your clients to be especially wary of high GI foods and processed sugars. Studies have shown that highly processed foods such as white sugar, and corn syrup (often used in processed foods and soft drinks) increase the rate of glycation by 10 times, compared with glucose. Be mindful of hidden sugars including synthetic ones – a diet coke is no better for you; in fact, it’s probably worse than a full-fat coke, when it comes to your skin.

Hydration is key

You should advise your clients to drink plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated. Good hydration not only helps to counteract the ageing effects of glycation on the skin, but it also supports our natural detoxification processes.

Vitamins are vital

Studies have shown that vitamins B1 and B6 help to inhibit the formation of AGEs. Ensure your client incorporates plenty of nuts and whole grains rich in vitamin B1 into their diet. Fruit and vegetables such as bananas, oranges and peas are excellent sources of vitamin B1. Foods such as oats and poultry like chicken or turkey are excellent sources of B6.

Vitamins C and E will help aid collagen and elastin production too. Foods such as citrus fruit, strawberries and tomatoes are good sources of Vitamin C and avocados, red peppers and nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin E.

It might also be worth advising clients to apply their vitamins topically. A vitamin C serum in the morning will help to brighten and restore free radical damage, while a vitamin A serum in the evening will help to boost cell turnover. Peptides are also essential; these amino acids are key in supporting collagen production.

Get enough sleep!

Sleep is essential as it allows the skin time for regeneration. This is the time when our skin repairs from damage done during the day. Studies show that a lack of good quality sleep can increase fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone and contributes to less elasticity in the skin.

Eat your collagen 

Eating collagen-rich foods or foods that boost collagen production may also help to beat ageing skin. I always have a pot of collagen-boosting bone broth on the go, and I regularly advise my clients to do the same. Egg whites have large amounts of proline, which is one of the amino acids necessary for collagen production. You can also try adding an extra clove of garlic to your food - garlic is high in sulphur, which is a trace mineral that helps to synthesise and prevent the breakdown of collagen.

Properly planned nutrition can be vital in the battle against skin ageing. Services like The Pure Package can be a real saving grace with tailor-made packages to suit your skin goals. Discover more at

Jennifer Irvine is a food entrepreneur, author, spokesperson, and founder of The Pure Package, which she launched in 2003, having recognised that those leading a busy modern life in London often found it impossible to source and prepare the best, nutritionally balanced food. Her unique concept has developed into an award-winning business, and, in January 2013, she successfully launched The Pure Package’s sibling, Balance Box. Jennifer is also the creator and chair of The Wellness Awards, which she established in 2016, designed to honour and celebrate the British health and wellness industry.

This article appears in November 2022

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November 2022
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