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To address skin aging we first need to understand how skin ages and what factors influence and speed up aging process. All aging mechanisms occur as part of either intrinsic or extrinsic aging.

Intrinsic, or chronological aging, is the inevitable process of growing older. While intrinsic ageing is determined by our individual genetic clock, it can be influenced and slowed down by our daily choices as our lifestyle determines the level of degenerative effects of free radicals and the body’s (in)ability to repair their damage.

Extrinsic aging is aging caused by external factors most of which we can minimize by protecting our bodies or avoiding/neutralizing negative effect of external skin aggressors.

Glycation – intrinsic aging accelerator

One of the most visible signs of premature aging occurs in the skin, where once firm, healthy collagen strands give way to wrinkling, dryness, and looseness. While external factors such as sun exposure can accelerate extrinsic skin aging, scientific evidence points to another culprit: glucose-driven intrinsic aging by a process called glycation.

Once sugars enter the circulation, they attach themselves to the amino groups of tissue proteins such as collagen to slowly rearrange their youthful structure into the main culprits of damage, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGE molecules are particularly destructive since they can undergo extensive cross-linking with other proteins to form strong chemical bridges. As a result, once healthy collagen fibers lose their elasticity, becoming rigid, more brittle, and prone to breakage. This assault on the skin’s structural support system contributes to the aging of tissues, and have widespread consequences for the skin, such as thinning, discoloration, loss of elasticity, and tendency to rashes and infections.


To better understand how the skin is affected by glycation we need to understand its structure. Our skin consists of two layers: an outer layer called the epidermis and the layer below that is called the dermis. New cells are generated by the dermis and are continually being pushed upwards to replace old cells, providing essential support to the epidermis. The dermis itself consists mainly of an extracellular matrix comprised of proteins, especially collagen fibers, elastin, and various glycoproteins, all of which are synthesized by major skin cells called fibroblasts.

Healthy collagen metabolism is a complex process that requires balanced synthesis and degradation to maintain the firm appearance of young, healthy skin. As skin ages, however, it becomes especially vulnerable to glycation, because collagen comprises up to one-third of the body’s proteins and has a slow turnover rate. Once glycated, collagen fibers have reduced regenerative ability, leading to the wrinkles, creping, and sagging that characterize skin aging.

There are several different types of collagens in the body. The major structural components in the skin are collagen type I (about 70%) and type III (about 15%) which provide the dermis with tensile strength and stability. Another type of collagen, type IV, is responsible for the mechanical stability of the skin’s structures that connect the epidermis to the dermis.

Glycation not only impairs the creation of collagen (type I and III), but it keeps type IV collagen molecules from maintaining a normal, healthy skin structure. A number of studies show that glycation of collagen increases with age when cells are exposed to not only high levels of glucose, but also to normal levels for a long enough time. And that’s not all! It is not only collagen being affect by glycation but also fibroblasts (cells responsible for collagen synthesis) as they also have a specific receptor for AGEs, called RAGE, which then affects collagen synthesis and further compromises skin integrity.

Once formed, AGEs can be self-perpetuating, inducing the cross-linking of collagen even in the absence of glucose while glycation directly increases the secretion of MMP-1 enzyme to further degrade collagen I and III.

Powerful Nutrients That Fight Glycation

Fortunately, while the effects of glycation may seem unrelenting and unavoidable, a number of oral and topical nutrients have been scientifically shown to protect against the destructive effects of glycation and help boost the skin’s healing capacity and show down intrinsic skin aging.

Topical nutrients such as blueberries, pomegranate, vitamin C, tea blends, and hyaluronic acid can help protect against the damaging effects of glycation and oxidative stress on the skin.

Blueberries: Enhancing Skin Renewal

Blueberries possess supercharged antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers and are packed with phytonutrients called anthocyanins that are responsible for their deep color. Anthocyanins avert glycation-induced damage by stabilizing the collagen matrix, promoting collagen biosynthesis, and improving microcirculation. Anthocyanins in blueberries reduce the production of the collagen-breakdown enzymes which are major mediators of skin’s structure, an effect that is believed to decrease overall extracellular matrix degradation.

The anti-inflammatory properties of blueberries also have a valuable role to play in preventing direct damage to skin cells, which occurs when glycation directly activates inflammatory mediators and cytokines that break down collagen. You can simply think of blueberries activating endogenous (internal) systems to halt the breakdown of collagen.

The efficacy of an oral formulation blueberry extract, glycosaminoglycans, and micronutrients on skin aging in 62 women aged 45-73 years old skin elasticity increased by 9% after just six weeks, while skin roughness was lowered by 6% after 12 weeks of treatment compared with the control group.

The efficacy of a topical preparation containing 4% blueberry extract as one of its constituents in 63 women aged 45-61 years significantly improved cracking, creping, and thinning of mature skin when it was applied daily for three months. 100% of test subjects showed a significant improvement in one or more of five distinct signs of intrinsic aging. A dermatologist’s clinical evaluation also showed that by week 12, there was a 98% improvement in skin smoothness and a 30% improvement in wrinkles.

Pomegranate: Powerful Antioxidant Support

While pomegranate has become increasingly renowned for providing a multitude of health benefits, it also possesses powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been investigated for boosting the skin’s healing capacity.

Rich in phenolic compounds such as ellagic acid, topically applied pomegranate promotes skin health in several ways. Pomegranate extracts increase dermal cell proliferation and collagen synthesis by providing nutritional support for fibroblast cells in the skin’s dermis as well as inhibiting MMP-1enzyme production. Researchers have also shown that pomegranate helps reverse visible signs of aging by promoting a thickening of the skin’s outer layer—the epidermis. In addition to supporting the skin’s underlying structure, pomegranate helps protect the skin against the age-accelerating threats of ultraviolet light and inflammation, which can help result in younger-looking skin.

Hyaluronic Acid: Essential Skin Hydration

The daily attack from protein-sugar glycation reactions does not stop at collagen, it also depletes the skin of its natural moisturizer called hyaluronic acid, which can cause dry and sagging skin. Replenishing the skin with hyaluronic acid counteracts the loss of skin volume and fullness that occurs with glycation and aging and increases cell renewal, helping to tighten loose areas of the skin.

Vitamin C: Reviving Aging Skin

Vitamin C is an essential component in the body’s production of collagen and a potent antioxidant that can help rejuvenate aged and photodamaged skin. Although it is an important nutrient for overall health, little reaches the skin when vitamin C is orally ingested. As levels in the skin decline with age, replenishing vitamin C levels directly in the skin can help combat collagen degradation and oxidative stress.

Results from clinical trials show that when applied topically, vitamin C promotes collagen formation, which helps improve skin firmness and elasticity, and mitigates the effects of age-promoting free radicals, which can help promote youthful-looking skin.

Antioxidant Tea Benefits

The benefits of any topical nutrient can be complemented with potent natural antioxidants found in white, green, black, and red tea extracts, which help protect skin from the aging effects of inflammation and oxidative stress. Red tea (e.g., hibiscus) is a powerful source of antioxidants, while green tea provides the protective strength of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) to guard skin against the dangers of UV exposure and DNA damage. Tea extracts are also excellent sources of vitamin C activity and improve both the tone and structure of the skin.

Glycation accelerates the body’s intrinsic aging process by limiting the skin’s capacity to produce and regenerate high-quality collagen. While the best thing you can do is avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates, that is not always possible in the real world. Alarmingly, the rate of AGE formation on intracellular proteins occurs up to 10 times faster in the presence of fructose compared with glucose.

Fortunately, a topical application of scientifically validated nutrients can help rejuvenate skin by protecting against the stiff sugar-protein bonds that accumulate as we get older. The superior anti-glycation benefits of blueberries coupled with the antioxidant power of pomegranates and tea extracts are complemented with hyaluronic acid and collagen-strengthening vitamin C to help protect and rebuild collagen, preserving the skin’s youthful appearance and helping maintain its structural and functional integrity.

“Some level of glycation is natural part of aging and while it can`t be completely stopped there are things you can do to significantly slow it down. No matter what skin condition we are always more successful with prevention then with reversal of damage that has already occurred.

Key bio-chemical marker you want to keep in check is blood glucose/insulin resistance. Aside from embracing a low-sugar diet, you also want to move away from high-glycemic index food - best way is to check your levels using home device like Keto Mojo this way you know for sure how specific food affects your glucose level. Adding more anti-oxidants to your diet either via food or supplementation, anti-oxidative red and green teas, and improved hydration are all important part of the prevention.

Combining lifestyle changes with proper home skin care and targeted treatment plan you are sure to cover all routes of glycation process."

Natasha Samardzic Zahorodni, LE, CFNC @StudioPortal



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