Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Written by: Rebecca Marroquin, L.E
What is AGEs?
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are proteins or lipids that become glycated as a result of exposure to sugars.
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. Glucose is a vital cellular fuel. However, based on the accelerated rate of aging seen in diabetics, chronic glucose exposure has long been known to affect how the body ages by a process called glycation.

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.


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.2 A specific receptor for AGEs, called RAGE, has even been found to be expressed in skin fibroblasts that are responsible for synthesizing collagen,5 which further compromises skin integrity.

Glycation not only impairs the assembly of collagen macromolecules, but it keeps type IV collagen molecules from forming a normal network-like structure.  It also degrades collagen types I and III.  After the age of 35, women naturally suffer a decline in collagen type IV, further exacerbating these changes.


  • In addition to environmental factors, intrinsic factors such as glycation-induced aging threaten to diminish the skin’s youthful appearance.
  • Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are formed when sugars react with proteins such as collagen, an essential component of healthy skin.
  • AGEs threaten healthy skin by reducing the collagen’s regenerative ability and increasing collagen breakdown. The result is wrinkling, creping, and sagging skin.
  • Topical nutrients such as growth factors, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid can help protect against the damaging effects of glycation and oxidative stress on the skin.
  • The result is improved skin texture, decreased wrinkles, more elasticity, and protection against ultraviolet-induced damage.
  • Given the prevalence of AGE-inducing factors we encounter every day, such as dietary sugars and foods cooked at high temperatures, comprehensive topical protection against damaging glycation is a crucial factor in maintaining a youthful appearance.
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