If you're like most people, you want smooth, healthy and youthful looking skin. The most important thing to know about skin care and antioxidants is that just like our skin needs these vital vitamins, minerals, and enzymes topically the best results also come from a diet with the same nutrients. Incorporating the proper antioxidants into your diet and skin care routine will ensure a positive effect on your skin not to mention a healthier gut. Antioxidants can help prevention and the repair of your body's damaged tissue. Antioxidants do this by slowing down or preventing the effect of free radicals.
What are free radicals?
Molecules are made of atoms and atoms are made of pairs of electrons. But when an atom is missing an electron, that’s when we talk of free radicals. Free radicals can be created from pollution such as smog, dust and cigarette smoke, as well as our good friend the sun. Skin damage done by free radicals may appear in several forms. They range from changes in skin color (brown spots and broken blood vessels) to weakened skin that looks loose and saggy as a result of damaged elastic fibers. Free radicals can also break down the skin’s collagen and create wrinkles. Free radicals may also play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other conditions. Your answer to free radicals are antioxidants! They are compounds that can donate an electron to a free radical so that the free radical doesn’t have to take the electron from the skin’s atoms.
Did you know?
When it comes to caring for your skin, antioxidants can help to protect from the damaging effects of the sun. Unlike sunscreens and moisturizers, antioxidants can protect your skin from the inside out by guarding your cells from damage.
Best Antioxidants for your skin
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 best to store it in a cool, dark drawer or cabinet. 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 stimulate collagen production. Some prefer this formulation, which tends to be a bit velvety and creamy rather than serum-like. Other forms of vitamin C include L-ascorbic and ester-C.
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. Great for those who suffer with acne. 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.
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.
Ever wondered how you used to pull an all-nighter with no hint of fatigue on your skin the next day? Well, thanks to the abundant supply of coenzymeQ10 or coQ10 in your body, those late nights didn’t take a toll on your skin—back then that is. But as we age, the presence of coenzymeQ10, also known as ubiquinone, in our body slowly diminishes, making us more susceptible to wrinkles and photo-aging. Research shows that an increased topical application of this antioxidant helps fight off free radical damage and keep your skin cells healthy. This nutrient is easily absorbed by the skin and helps stimulate collagen production, which helps improve elasticity and texture.
A well-functioning epidermis is essential to protect us from free radicals. The more our epidermal lipid barrier is stabilized, the more it can fully absorb the vitamins and nutrients from our skin care products and achieve optimal results. However, as we age, our skin’s ability to heal and retain moisture weakens, leaving us prone to wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and dullness. Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is a powerful antioxidant that improves the skin’s texture and tone. It reduces fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. Water-soluble and suitable for all skin types, this vitamin is often used to treat skin conditions like rosacea and acne and is not known to cause any adverse reactions. It can even be combined with your favorite skin care products and ingredients, like vitamins A and C, retinol and hydroxy acids to boost their performance.
Great news: That one glass of wine at happy hour and your secret stash of (dark) chocolate can help save your skin, all thanks to polyphenol. This plant-based vitamin, which can be found in vegetables, green tea, fruits and chocolates, contains chemo-preventive properties that possess anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties to prevent UV-induced skin photodamage. Studies show that consumption and topical use of ingredients rich in polyphenol help improve our skin’s natural defense against oxidative stress, prevent skin aging and may inhibit skin cancer.
Dermatologists continue to see the importance of including botanicals in skin care. Studies show that flavonoids, an antioxidant found in green and black teas, have the potential to treat rosacea, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Flavonoids absorb UV light and modulate signaling pathways that influence cellular function to prevent photo-aging and damage. These nutrients also help reduce collagen degradation, delay skin aging and inhibit skin cancer.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that aids in cell repair and protection of vital organs like liver, kidney, brain and the skin. One of its wide-known side effects is its anti-melanogenic property that causes skin whitening. This “mother of all antioxidants” helps detoxify the skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles, giving you smoother, more supple skin. Research also shows that when taken orally, glutathione can help combat liver disease.
It promotes absorption of vitamin E and enhances the antioxidant function of vitamin E which is mainly stored in the skin. Selenium also helps control inflammatory diseases like psoriasis and eczema. It helps lower the frequency of skin infections. Fast recovery is possible in case of skin burn wounds if enough selenium is present in the body.
Food for thought
Just like when adding any supplement to your diet, be careful when incorporating antioxidants into your daily routine. Though they are naturally good for you, antioxidants taken in excess can be harmful -- so be sure to follow the recommended amounts. In most cases, all you need to fulfill your body's quota for antioxidants is a healthy and balanced diet. In fact, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before increasing your intake of any supplement.