In this article, we discussed the important role and benefits of antioxidants in the fight against sun damage, along with a powerful sunscreen. But how are antioxidants working correctly? Why is it so important to include this extra step in your skincare routine? What are antioxidants, more importantly?
When speaking about free radicals, one can not think about benefits antioxidants. Free radicals are unstable molecules with one or more unpaired electrons that are highly reactive. They attack stable molecules to gain stability, triggering a chain reaction that damages healthy cells. Antioxidants operate by “scavenging” lose electrons to prevent them from causing damage. Our bodies often deliberately create free radicals to neutralize bacteria and viruses.
Nevertheless, we also get free radicals from environmental factors such as heat, pollution, radiation, smoke from cigarettes and other toxic chemicals. Our bodies usually are built with sufficient antioxidants to counteract free radicals. However, there is an imbalance (called oxidative stress) when there are more free radicals in the body than the body can accommodate.
So what does your skin’s oxidative stress mean? Oxidative stress breaks down collagen, hinders the natural process of healing skin, and causes inflammation — and you see it in fine lines, wrinkles, loose skin, acne breakouts, and a blotchy skin tone. Antioxidants can help prevent and correct these visible signs by scavenging free radicals and give skin a more youthful glow. This is where antioxidant supplementation comes in.
The 4 Main Benefits of Antioxidants on Your Skin
1. ANTIOXIDANTS HELP PREVENT SUNBURN.
“By definition, all antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Dr. Magovern. “They blunt your skin’s inflammatory response to the sun’s harmful rays, preventing sunburn and providing enhanced protection against sun damage and photoaging.”
2. ANTIOXIDANTS CAN HELP IMPROVE SIGNS OF DAMAGE.
Inflamed skin impedes the skin’s rejuvenation process. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants allow skin to repair itself and correct visible damage. “Some antioxidants, like vitamin C, can also stimulate collagen production, which is vital for youthful skin,” adds Dr.
3. ANTIOXIDANTS BRIGHTEN YOUR SKIN TONE.
Free radicals and frequent sun exposure can also trigger changes in our skin’s melanin production, causing dark spots and uneven skin tone. By reducing photodamage, antioxidants can help prevent abnormal skin pigmentations. Some antioxidants (again, like vitamin C) also work as a tyrosinase (an enzyme that stimulates melanin production) inhibitor.
4. ANTIOXIDANTS CAN HELP PREVENT CERTAIN KINDS OF CANCER.
Some antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, have anticarcinogenic properties and may help prevent skin cancer.
The Best Antioxidants for You
Antioxidants aren’t all cast in the same mold. While they’re all designed to protect the cells from UV light, pollution and other environmental elements that produce damaging free radicals, some are found to be more potent than others.
1. VITAMIN C
A favorite among dermatologists, vitamin C is one of the most studied antioxidants available on the market. Other than being a free radical scavenger, vitamin C has other skin benefits, like boosting collagen production and fading dark spots. But beware,vitamin C is inherently unstable and can lose its potency when exposed to light or air. “It’s probably best to store it in a cool, dark drawer or cabinet,” advises Dr. Magovern. “Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, or THD, is a form of vitamin C that is inherently more stable, and it’s lipid soluble, which means that it can better penetrate into the deeper levels of the skin to stimulates collagen production. Some prefer this formulation, which tends to be a bit velvety and creamy rather than serum-like.”
2. RETINOL (VITAMIN A)
If there’s one anti-aging ingredient that’s been proven time and time again to help turn back the clock on aging skin, it’s retinol. A derivative of vitamin A, this ingredient is particularly effective due to its small molecular structure, giving it the ability to penetrate deep enough into the skin that it can effectively stimulate collagen production and accelerate cell renewal and repair, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin tone in the process. Whether it’s the over-the-counter or prescription-strength kind (tretinoin), retinol is a powerful antioxidant for fighting environmental aggressors that cause premature skin aging.
“Retinol has truly stood the test of time as one of the most studied ingredients, with scientific data to back up its claims,” shares shares board-certified plastic surgeon Stafford Broumand. “What is great about retinol is that it is a multifunctional ingredient that can
stimulate cell regeneration, rebuild collagen and reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well age spots. It also exfoliates the skin to refine the texture, minimize pore size and even the skin tone.”
3. VITAMIN E
Vitamin E is an important vitamin required for the proper function of many organs in the body, including the skin. Aside from being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is widely recognized for its ability to accelerate the skin’s healing process. No wonder it is often found in moisturizers, creams and lotions formulated to treat dry skin as well as products designed to reduce stretch marks.
A chemical compound found mostly in the skins of fruits like grapes and berries, peanuts, tea and red wine, resveratrol serves as the plant’s defensive armor. It’s an antimicrobial substance produced by plants to protect themselves from air pollution, infection, intense UV radiation and extreme climate changes. Some studies also vouch for its cancer-fighting abilities. As for how this antioxidant does this may have something to do with the way it boosts the activity of mitochondria, the cells’ powerhouses, promoting longer cell life in the body.
If you know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, chances are you’ve heard of idebenone. Idebenone—a man-made ingredient similar to coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)—is a powerful antioxidant, capable of protecting a wide variety of cells from oxidative damage.
4 tips to maximize the benefits of Antioxidants
1. It’s never too early to start
If you want to kickstart your anti-aging regimen, but you aren’t ready for more potent ingredient like retinol that may be initially irritating, antioxidants are the best place to start.
2. You can use it on your body too
Aside from your face, feel free to slather your antioxidants cream on your neck, hands and forearms because these part are exposed to the sun regularly and show signs of age and sun damage.
3. You can combine antioxidant products
“As long as you don’t experience skin irritation, I don’t see why not” explains Dr. Magovern. “We know that vitamin C and E work better together, and studies have shown that ferulic acid, another antioxidant, may actually stabilize vitamin C and allow it to work more effectively”
4. Don’t forget your diet
Aside from typical creams and serums, the best way to increase your antioxidant reserves is by consuming antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. “Brightly colored foods are an easy way to know if you are eating well. One of my mentors, Dr. Howard Murad, taught me this,” shares Dr. Magovern. “If you can eat your fruit and vegetables raw, even better. I am also a believer in oral supplements, such as vitamins C, D, E and B, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, resveratrol and CoQ10, among others. Make sure they are coming from good sources to ensure efficacy. An integrative medicine physician or a well-versed nutritionist or dietician can help you choose the right supplements.”