Perhaps you have heard about both free radicals and antioxidants but do not understand what it means when it comes to skincare. In a nutshell – our skin is constantly under attack from outside sources which create free radicals. When we use skincare products with antioxidants in them, we protect our skin from free radical damage.
What Are Free Radicals
Before explaining how to stop free radical damage to your skin, it is important to understand precisely what free radicals are.
Free radicals are molecules or atoms that have an extra electron. That unpaired electron makes the atom or molecule unstable. These unstable molecules then go around looking for electrons to steal to become stable again. Free radicals are the byproduct of the metabolism process that occurs naturally in our bodies and has to happen in order for our bodies to function properly.
The problem is when the process of unstable molecules looking for extra electrons continues on and on without stopping. This chain reaction of free radical production eventually changes molecules’ function and structure. When free radicals run amuck, they can cause damage to cell DNA which in the worst-case scenario can cause cancer.
Free radicals in the skin come from the sun, pollution, smoking, stress, and a poor diet. Our skin shows free radical damage in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots (pigmentation), even dull and dry skin. Also, free radicals can trigger skin inflammation which also contributes to the breakdown of collagen and skin aging. In the very worse case, free radicals can cause skin cancer since they can damage cell DNA.
How Antioxidants Stop Free Radicals
Antioxidants stop free radicals by supplying the unstable molecule with the electron they are looking for. This means that antioxidants can stop the free radical damage before it gets worse. You can eat antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, dark leafy green vegetables, dark chocolate, olive oil, and drink green tea in order to protect your health and skin, but another effective way to protect your skin from free radical damage is to apply skincare products with antioxidants in them to your skin on a daily basis, especially before you spend time in the sun.
When using antioxidant-rich products keep in mind that they need time to start working and repair skin damage. Don’t expect overnight miracles when it comes to our skin.
There is an ongoing debate about which antioxidant is best for protecting our skin from free radical damage. With so many antioxidants to choose from many skincare products actually, include a few antioxidants in one product that then work together to provide your skin with needed protection from free radicals. Many companies include antioxidants in their sunscreens in order to boost the protection you are getting from their product like Prevage Triple Defense Shield Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50 which has the antioxidant Idebenone. It’s great to have antioxidants in your moisturizer according to Dr. Jeannette Graf in her book Stop Aging, Start Living. Try Garnier’s SkinActive Miracle Anti-Fatigue Wake-Up Hydra-Gel Moisturizer which contains wild berry and Vitamins C and E to protect your skin.
An antioxidant that provides great protection from free radical damage is Vitamin C which many times you will find combined with Vitamin E in skincare products like Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum or Serumtologie Vitamin C serum 22. You can even find this combination of Vitamins C and E in lip balms like Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15. You would apply these serums directly to your skin after washing your face and before applying your moisturizer. Green tea also has a proven track record for helping skin stop free radical damage. You can find it in products like Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum. Other popular antioxidants in skincare products include grape seed and resveratrol which are found in red wine. Since applying red wine to your face is neither attractive nor a great way to get antioxidant protection you can use Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum instead.