What are Antioxidants and Their Use in Skin Care?

Want to feed your skin the really good stuff?

Then look out for antioxidants – your secret weapon against ageing.

They are active ingredient that neutralise free radicals.

Free Radicals

Understanding the biological processes that take place in the skin will help you understand how antioxidants target ageing effectively.

To know how antioxidants work, it’s first important to get an understanding of what free radicals are and why they are so bad for the skin.

There are many different types of free radicals and many biochemical reactions that create new types of free radicals.

When they become unstable, they are very excitable; attaching themselves to healthy atoms and stealing electrons, which makes them unstable.

When a free radical steals electrons from an atom, it creates another free radical, which may be different from the original free radical.

For instance, free radicals begin as simple oxygen. This is the source of most free radicals because it is extremely reactive and excitable, so it needs other atoms to stabilise itself.

These free radical oxygen may steal electrons from a skin cell membrane – when this happens, it becomes stable, but the lipids that were destroyed in the cell membrane have lost electrons; which, in turn, makes them different free radicals known as lipid peroxides.

These react with other electrons, creating another type of free radical, and so on; this chain reaction causes a dance of destruction upon the skin, creating oxidation.

Oxidation is actually a normal process in the body, but when it gets too high, biochemical reactions occur and cause premature ageing.

Often, these free radicals steal electrons from cellular membranes. When this happens, the lipids in the skin start to degrade and react with other atoms.

Because there are many types of radicals in the inflammation cascade, more then one antioxidant is required in a treatment to prevent these reactions. This is why a blend is better to treat the skin.

So, what are antioxidants?

Antioxidants help to wage the war against free radical damage and oxidative stress.

They do this by stabilising free radicals. By donating one of their own electrons, they neutralise them; ending the ‘electron stealing’ reaction and thus ending the path of destruction in the skin cell. Damage to the skin cell’s nucleus creates havoc, leading to inflammation and collagen damage.

Antioxidants can be applied to the skin directly in the form of creams or serums, or can be obtained from dietary sources.

  • Vitamin E is the most abundant fat-soluble vitamin in the body and defends against oxidation and lipid peroxidation.
  • Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant which acts primarily in cellular fluid. It also helps to return vitamin E to its natural form.

Antioxidants work to block biochemical reactions from the free radicals, preventing them from becoming destructive.

More than one antioxidant is needed to combat them because there is more than one type of free radical causing harm.

Each antioxidant has a different role to play when it comes to fusing free radicals, which is why we include a mix of antioxidants in our formulae.

What are the benefits of using antioxidants?

They work by neutralising free radicals; interrupting the the inflammation cascade by binding electrons to the free radical, which prevents damage to the cells.

You can liken antioxidants to the antidote, zapping and neutralising free radicals – literally stopping them in their tracks.

I believe using potent antioxidants such as vitamin C topically is no different to taking a multivitamin, in terms of health for the body.

Some antioxidants also help to calm and soothe, as they have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Topical preparations need to be able to penetrate the outermost barriers of the skin’s surface in order to reach the cell nucleus and have the desired effect.

The dietary effects of antioxidants are controversial; as little as 1% of antioxidants taken orally reach the surface skin where they’re needed to carry out their protective role.

That said, a diet rich in antioxidants should always be encouraged, as their benefits are not exclusive to skin; research shows antioxidants have other health benefits, in particular protecting against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Types of Antioxidants:

So, what are some of the most effective antioxidant ingredients?

  • Vitamin C, otherwise known as l-ascorbic acid or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
  • Vitamin E, known as tocopherol or tocopherol acetate
  • Lichochalcone or steryl glycyrrhetinate – extracts from licorice
  • Green tea and white tea extract
  • Superoxide dismutase
  • Coenzyme Q10

Whilst these are considered some of the most popular antioxidants in skin care, they are by no means the only ones. New and exciting antioxidants are constantly being discovered all the time, so watch this space.

What are the best antioxidant products?

The best are in serum form; the base makes the serum penetrate better.

As discussed earlier, different types of free radicals are blocked by different types of antioxidants. Look for a broad-spectrum antioxidant serum to squelch a variety of oxidative reactions.

Antioxidant ingredients should be protected, so they do not work before they are applied to the skin – those that aren’t will oxidise and turn brown.

Encapsulation methods such as liposomes protect antioxidant ingredients and will help with penetration


2 thoughts on “What are Antioxidants and Their Use in Skin Care?

  1. kate says:

    When ever I read your post I get super exited, they give me deep knowledge. Your posts are like being in a class room, thanks for this I appreciate the advice.

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