Watch out, saccharification! What is glycation?

It is well known that sugar is bad for the teeth, kills the figure and also promotes diabetes. However, very few people know that too much sugar also damages the skin and is one of the main causes of premature skin aging, acne, rosacea and eczema. The destructive biochemical process that slowly saccharifies your skin is called glycation. In this article you will find out everything you need to know about saccharification of the skin - and tips to avoid it and even reverse its consequences.


Glas voller Zucker





Collagen and elastin are two structural proteins that ensure that the skin is wrinkle-free. At a young age, your body produces more of it than it needs. However, around the age of 30, anti-aging substances become increasingly scarce. Your skin loses its elasticity, gets fine lines and eventually wrinkles.

This condition is promoted by various factors: a lot of stress, UV radiation, alcohol, nicotine, too little sleep and an unhealthy diet are real accelerators for skin aging. When talking about an unhealthy diet, it is mainly because of too many saturated fats and too many single and double sugar molecules in the form of

  • Fruit sugar (fructose)
  • Grape sugar (glucose)
  • Milk sugar (lactose)
  • Simple sugar (Galactose)
  • And table sugar (sucrose) meant.

In addition, saturated fatty acids, from fatty meat and processed foods, for example, damage the body and therefore also the skin. Table sugar in gummy bears, lemonades, ketchup and the like also reduce skin health.

By the way: On the ingredient list of foods, sugar is not only hidden behind names such as fructose, glucose, etc., but also behind names such as dextrose, malt sugar, corn starch, syrup and maltose.


It is the nightmare of anti-aging: glycation. The term "glycation" refers to the saccharification of the tissue fibers of the skin. There is an external and an internal saccharification of the skin. The natural aging process of the skin then speeds up due to the supply of sugar molecules and unprotected sunbathing, smoking or smog.


We are familiar with external glycation from processes in the kitchen: the brown bread crust, the crispy roast skin, but also the burnt brown milk are the results of glycation caused by intense heat. Burnt milk was also the reason for French biochemist Louis Maillard to investigate the chemical process of the reaction of protein and fat molecules with sugar molecules in 1912. In doing so, he recognized that these form a non-degradable, long-chain compound and glycate - i.e. saccharify. The findings of the Maillard reaction, however, were limited to food chemistry. In the middle of the last century, people realized that the same processes also take place in our bodies - only much more slowly because the temperatures in our bodies are lower. There are three main triggers for the external glycation of your skin:

  • Air pollution from exhaust gas
  • Smoke
  • UV radiation from sunlight


Internal glycation takes place in the bloodstream. Our body generates the sugar molecules required for metabolic processes and the formation of valuable hyaluronic acid with a minimal intake of sugar. If the blood is supplied with too much sugar in the form of refined industrial sugar, fructose or other carbohydrates, the blood sugar level rises rapidly because the body cannot excrete all excess through the kidneys. The body stores the excess sugar molecules and reacts with the body's own proteins (collagens) and fats (lipids) without involving enzymes. The sugar molecules attach themselves to the protein and fat cells and irreversibly bond with them. This process is called glycation or saccharification. The resulting sugar-protein structures are called AGEs (Advanced Glycation End Products).


AGEs connect to the RAGE. This acronym stands for "receptor for AGE". These are specialized cells that react to dangers with inflammation and are put into a permanent state of emergency by the AGEs, which severely affects the skin cells. AGEs can also cause the formation of free radicals, which damage the skin even more and stimulate RAGE production again, creating a vicious cycle of inflammation and cell damage, which, in turn, causes the skin to age even faster.


The AGEs that result from the saccharification of the skin cause the skin and connective tissue to harden and lose their ability to regenerate healthy cells. The body can no longer compensate for fine lines and wrinkles on its own due to the rigid connections; they remain visible. Due to the damage to the structural proteins collagen and elastin, the skin can hardly store moisture and can no longer properly regenerate itself. Fine cracks appear in the dried out and inflexible skin, offering the perfect conditions for inflammation. The skin gradually loses its tension, elasticity as well as its natural glow. This result in those affected older, paler and tired appearance. From the initially fine lines, wrinkles finally form and the notorious sagging sets in - the visible loss of elasticity of the skin which manifests in a sagging cheeks, for examples. All of this happens much faster than biologically intended: the skin ages almost at top speed.


  • Loss of resilience and elasticity leading to sagging
  • Hardened cracks
  • Decreased cell regeneration
  • Moisture loss
  • Thinner skin and dull complexion
  • Skin inflammation with associated cell damage
  • Formation of permanently visible lines and wrinkles


It is not only the skin that has to cope with the consequences of glycation due to excessive sugar consumption: The saccharification can also clog your arteries and cause cardiovascular diseases. Glycation can be trigger for diabetes; AGE concentrations can also be found, for example, in the eye lenses in cataracts and increasingly in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Glycation also plays a role in bone loss (osteoporosis), chronic kidney disease (glomerulosclerosis) or arthritis.


Does this mean that the fructose found in fruit is really harmful to the skin? And doesn't hyaluronic acid, which binds moisture and stabilizes connective tissue, also consist of sugar molecules? The answer is yes and no. Of course, fruit is healthy because its vitamins help the skin. Our body also needs sugar for various metabolic processes, including the formation of multiple sugars, including hyaluronic acid. But here, too, it is the same as always: it depends on the quantity.

The World Health Organization recommends a maximum sugar intake of 5 percent in the calories you eat daily. For an adult with a “normal” diet, that would mean two apples, for example. If you only eat one, you still have room for 100 grams of berries, 200 grams of whole grain rice and the like without exceeding the limit at which the harmful saccharification of your skin begins.


It is not too late to prevent or avert your cells from becoming saccharified! Below you will find out how to proceed and what you have to pay attention to.


  • Stop smoking.
  • Keep your alcohol intake low.
  • Use sun protection with sun protection factor 50+ daily and all year round (also indoors).
  • Support your skin with high-quality and effective skin care.
  • Pay attention to your diet.


To prevent glycation, you should ideally take the following measures. Essentially, eat fruit and juices in moderation, reduce your carbohydrate intake (carbohydrates are also sugar) and avoid lemonades and gummy bears as well as sweets in general.

Instead, opt for vegetables, salmon, chicken, nuts, green tea, and dark chocolate (in moderation). Eating foods containing sugar and protein separately also helps the body avoid the formation of new AGEs. There are a few delicious dishes with little sugar that even have what it takes to become your favorite dish.

If you have consumed too many sugary foods, blood sugar-lowering foods will help to neutralize some of them again. These include products containing oats or onions, leek vegetables, chili and nuts.


With an effective anti-aging care every morning and evening, paired with healthy nutrition and an appropriate lifestyle, you can make existing fine lines disappear again and stop premature skin aging. Your skin can regenerate, it will look more youthful and fresher and will regain its elasticity. With these simple means you can pull the chemical emergency brake and age at normal or reduced speed. A nice side effect: You will prevent many diseases and also do something for your figure!

Dr. Miriam Rehbein

Dr. Miriam Rehbein

Dr. Miriam Rehbein is a licensed specialist in dermatology as well as the founder and product developer of Doctor Mi! medical skincare. As a recognized expert in skin care, she not only passes on her specialist knowledge to colleagues at congresses and training courses, but also treats patients in her Munich practice. Based on her many years of experience in dealing with patients, Miriam Rehbein has created a care line with DoctorMi! medical skincare that pursues one goal in particular: to help the skin to help itself.