As we know, UV radiation, pollution, smoke, emotional strain, and diet all contribute to accelerated signs of ageing caused by oxidative stress. When we speak of oxidative stress we are referring to an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s capability to use antioxidants to fight against their harmful effects.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are atoms or molecules that are missing an electron; making them unstable and overactive. They connect to proteins, fat, and DNA and steal electrons from these molecules, resulting in the creation of more free radicals. This sets off a create a chain reaction of cellular disruption, where cells grow and reproduce at an abnormal rate breaking down the skins natural defence and repair process. You can visually see oxidative stress on your skin showing up as wrinkles, acne breakouts, loose skin, hyperpigmentation, and an uneven skin tone.
How can antioxidants help prevent this process?
Antioxidants are naturally found vitamins produced by the body. They play an integral role in the body’s defence system. Skin that is healthy will produce antioxidants that are able to inhibit the damages caused by free radicals.
Antioxidants do this by giving up electrons to free radicals (neutralizing them) in order to prevent cell damage in the skin. The ability of our body to produce and use antioxidants to counteract free radicals lessen as the skin barrier gets compromised by attacks, resulting in decreased production of the antioxidant-rich oils to protect it.
Is diet or skin care more effective in fighting oxidative stress on the skin?
Studies have shown that topical application of vitamins and antioxidants can be more effective than taking supplements. Additionally, using products and ingesting foods high in antioxidants can help as well.
The topical application of antioxidants provides the skin with several benefits. This is because, while ingestion is extremely beneficial for our body’s antioxidant production capabilities, topical use is solely focused on boosting our skin’s health and appearance.
What about anti-ageing?
One of the biggest benefits of topically using antioxidants is anti-ageing, which is a direct result of the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. These anti-ageing properties give the skin a more youthful glow; a result of healthier cellular turnover (increased skin exfoliation and improvement in age spots) and stimulation of collagen production.
Another benefit topical use of antioxidants helps is to change dull, uneven and hyperpigmented skin tones into brighter and more even complexions. This can be achieved by using antioxidants such as vitamin C, which acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor, blocking changes in the skins melanin production, resulting in excessive dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
They also have the ability to increase the firmness of the skin, which depletes due to age, as well as reduce fine lines. The topical use of antioxidants also can soothe redness and inflammation in the skin.
What antioxidant ingredients in my skin care should I look out for?
These benefits provided by adding antioxidants into skincare regimes has resulted in an influx in popularity of such products. Some of the most commonly used antioxidants in skincare are vitamins A (Retinol), B3 (Niacinamide), C and E.
Ingesting natural foods that are rich in antioxidants and topically using antioxidants in skincare does not suppress the body’s ability to produce its own antioxidants, whereas supplements do. This is because the use of supplements could mean that unnecessary amounts of antioxidants are being ingested into the body which stops the body from using its own antioxidant defence system.
Natural foods that are rich in antioxidants include fruits (berries), vegetables (artichoke, kale, and spinach), green tea, dark chocolate and nuts.