Talking about antioxidants and antioxidants skin care products you’ll hear words like antioxidant oxidative stress-free radicals, and
reactive oxygen species thrown around all the time in skincare and diet and supplements in shampoo.
What do they all mean?
If you have been asking yourself this question, then you’ve come to the right place.
Oxidative stress is one of the key ways in which your body ages which is a fancy way of saying free radical damage.
WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?
Free radicals are substances, molecules or atoms with an unpaired electron. Electrons like to be paired up. Free radicals are really reactive. They do want to get an extra electron and get a pair.
They’re so unstable that they’ll take an electron from anything around them to become more stable. When a free radical takes an electron, the substance that loses the electron to the free radical becomes oxidized which is why it’s called oxidative stress.
The substance that lost the electron used to have an even number but now it has an unpaired electron. So it’s really reactive and will take another electron from another substance and so on and so forth.
We now have a chain reaction, a lot of the free radicals in living organisms contain oxygen and they’re often called reactive oxygen species or Ras. The most common free radicals in humans are superoxide and hydroxyl.
FREE RADICALS AND SKIN DAMAGE.
Stealing electrons might not sound too bad but in the process, you have breaking and making of chemical bonds which causes the irreversible changes in the structure and function of the substances.
If you want these processes to occur, it’s a good thing. Free radicals are useful and in fact, essential to lots of things like free radical polymerization which is used to make most of the plastics that we use today.
They’re also important in lots of biological processes. Free radicals are also the reason that benzoyl peroxide acne cream (affiliate link) works to kill acne bacteria, but if the free radicals form in the wrong place the wrong time, then they’ll react with whatever they find around them in the skin.
Which means they are going to react with important substances like DNA proteins and lipids and these chain reactions will cause a lot of microscopic damage that’s eventually reflected when you see your skin like :-
- Fine Lines.
- Fhinning Skin Pigmentation.
Free radicals can also trigger inflammation and other pathways and your skin that lead to damage like increasing the number of matrix metalloproteinases or MNPs.
These are enzymes that help to break down collagen in your skin, the collagen that makes your skin plump and bouncy. So now we know that free radicals are harmful and how harmful they are.
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
These free radicals can be formed during normal biological processes like respiration where oxygen is used to break down food to give our bodies energy.
A process we cannot avoid, but environmental factors like UV light from the Sun pollution and smoking can cause more free radicals to form in your body and these will all affect your skin.
In your skin, UV (ULTRAVIOLET) is particularly bad. Free radicals will form in your skin within 15 minutes of UV exposure and they’ll keep on being produced for up to an hour. However, UVA and UVB can both cause free radical formation. UVA penetrates deeper into your skin which can cause deeper damage.
HOW CAN WE REDUCE FREE RADICAL DAMAGE?
Obviously, there is a huge possibility we can avoid these environmental factors. We can stop smoking and we can also reduce pollution in our cities. If we must avoid UV, then we have to stay in the shade or we can cover up our skin with sunscreen and clothing.
In addition, we can also prevent free radical damage after they’ve been formed and here’s where antioxidants come in.
WHAT ARE ANTIOXIDANTS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
As we all know, an antioxidant is a substance that can neutralize free radicals. They are usually substances that are pretty stable with an unpaired electron and so once the free radical takes their electron, the chain reaction will stop.
Essentially, antioxidants are like shields or sponges that stops the free radicals before they have a chance to react with more important biological molecules.
Naturally, the body contains antioxidants that can soak up these free radicals. There are antioxidant enzymes like : –
- Superoxide Dismutase Catalase.
- Glutathione Peroxidase.
There are also smaller antioxidants like : –
- Vitamin C and
- E coenzyme q-10
So, these natural antioxidant systems that our bodies have evolved over time, can get overwhelmed if there are just way too many free radicals. This is exactly the reason a lot of people try to supplement their bodies with extra antioxidants from so-called superfoods supplements and skincare.
It is debatable whether antioxidant supplements actually help. Clinical studies have gone both ways on this. Obviously, because it’s hard to control where the antioxidants actually go in your body. It is also possible for them to even do things like help keep unwanted cells like cancer cells alive.
Luckily enough, a lot of foods that are healthy for other reasons like vegetables and fruit, are high in antioxidants anyway. When it comes to skincare, it’s a lot less complicated.
Since your skin is on the outside, it’s a part of your body that gets a lot of exposure to environmental sources of free radicals especially UV radiation from the Sun.
ANTIOXIDANT INGREDIENTS THAT WORK IN SKIN CARE?
You will find lots of antioxidants in skin care products but not all of them have studies to back them up like with any other skincare ingredient.
Whether the antioxidants actually help or not will depend on whether they can get to the right place to work.
Below are some antioxidants that have studies to back them up…
1. SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE and CATTLE AIDS
These mentioned above are antioxidant enzymes that are naturally present in your skin catalyze is also promising for helping prevent gray hair.
2. VITAMIN C or ASCORBIC ACID.
Your cells have got a watery inside, the extracellular fluid surrounded by an oily cell membrane and in between the separate cells. There’s also more watery liquid called extracellular fluid. Vitamin C is water-soluble and naturally found inside these watery compartments, (the extracellular and extracellular fluid) to help protect you from free radicals.
This vitamin is also important for making collagen and works to reduce pigmentation.
So all these make it a really good ingredient for aging and hyperpigmentation prone skin.
PURE ASCORBIC ACID.
This acid is the version that has the most proven benefits especially when it has to with antioxidant effects but the esters can potentially work this way, vitamin E also happens to be vitamin C’s oil soluble counterpart and it’s also naturally found in your body in the oily parts like cell membranes coenzyme q10 or ubiquinol.
This is an antioxidant that’s also important in energy production. It levels decline with age and it’s a popular supplement for heart health even though it’s uncertain whether it’s actually effective.
You can as well use antioxidants that you don’t normally find in your body like plant antioxidants.
A lot of plants today have evolved to have potent antioxidants in them to help protect them from UV since they’re exposed to a lot more UV than organisms that can stand up and walk out of the Sun.
Some examples of plant tree oxidants are : –
- Attar silence.
Some antioxidants that you’ll find in skincare that have some studies to support them off, ferulic acid which comes from cereal and is greater keeping vitamin C and ‘is stable.
You’ll find the three ingredients combined in a lot of products like Skin Ceuticals C E Ferulic and Paula’s Choice vitamin C serum.
Green tea polyphenols are potent antioxidants especially epic gala category. Gala which has somewhere between 25 and 100 times the antioxidant ability compared to vitamin C and E.
There are other antioxidant polyphenols in tea as well as epicatechin, Epicatechin 3 gal 8 and epic Gallo catechin.
The fresher and greenery of the tea, the higher the antioxidant content. And again, there are ways to help preserve the antioxidants in products.
Resveratrol is another antioxidant that is commonly used in both skincare and nutrition. It’s found in grape skins and red wine gene stein. Is an ISO flavor, an antioxidant that comes from soy products.
You will find Lycopene (a red antioxidant ) in lots of fruit like:-
There are lots more antioxidants that haven’t been tested much yet in clinical trials but have had good results in vitro and animal studies.
You should remember that not all studies are well-designed and can be biased and things that work in vitro and in animal studies might not work on human skin and too much of it depends on the formulation of the product.
Probably, it has not been easy enough to be able to work out exactly which products are going to be effective because so much depend on the formulation of the product and not just the active ingredients.
We need to consider some factors including whether the antioxidant stays active in the product until you apply it to your skin, whether the antioxidant penetrates the skin and gets to where it needs to be to work, whether enough of the antioxidant penetrates to make a difference.
Therefore, in case you have a lot more free radicals than antioxidants then it won’t make much of a dent in your free radical damage.
It is unfortunate there aren’t many reliable ways of measuring how antioxidant in a particular product is and there aren’t many studies on the effects of different formulations.
PICKING THE RIGHT AND EFFECTIVE PRODUCTS
So, it’s hard to compare different products but while we wait for new research in the meantime, here are some guidelines that should increase your chances of getting effective products.
The antioxidants that have the most evidence to back them up are:-
- Vitamin C or ascorbic acid
- Vitamin E through liq u acid
- Green tea polyphenols
- Coenzyme q10
These will be your safest bets. Combinations of antioxidants usually work better. They are synergistic and they can help replenish each other.
For example, in one study, a combination of 15% vitamin C and 1% vitamin E protected against UV damage twice as much as vitamin C on its own and adding furolic acid helped even more. Applying antioxidants before helps intercept free radicals from forming.
So before you go out into the Sun, if you apply it afterward, the antioxidants won’t have time to intercept the free radicals before they attack your body.
I hope this piece of content was helpful and if you have any contribution to make or any question to ask, please feel free to leave it at the comment section, I will be more than glad to get back to you.
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