By Sasha LoPresti

Antioxidants in Skincare: What Are They & How Do They Work?

“Antioxidant” is one of the most used buzzwords in the skincare industry. And with good reason; they are skincare superheroes! But what do they actually do? We’re going to deep dive into the science behind our favorite skincare ingredient: antioxidants.

Antioxidants explained

In the simplest terms, antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Just like bikes, fences and cars can become rusty, our skin can also suffer oxidative stress. And it’s not just our skin -- our entire bodies can suffer from oxidative stress, which is why antioxidants are super important parts of our skincare and our diets. (But we’ll dive into that another day!)

How do we get to this “oxidative stress”?

Well, we can’t fully explain this without first going over another common buzzword used in skincare: free radical. Simply put, free radicals are unstable atoms that don’t follow the rules and bother other atoms, when they should be minding their own business. When you have unstable oxygen atoms (aka free radicals), they bind to other oxygen atoms and create oxidative stress. This can lead to damaged skin cells and “aging”, among other issues. That’s where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants swoop in and keep radicals in line. They turn free radicals into stable atoms (or destroy them entirely). And less oxidative stress = saying goodbye to your skin looking like a rusty bike! Of course, our bodies have internal mechanisms to help combat those pesky free radicals, but over time, our bodies become less effective at doing it as we age. (For a more in-depth look at the chemistry behind free radicals, check out how free radicals damage the body.)

Where do these free radicals come from in the first place?

Some free radicals come from within our bodies, and some are created from external influences like air & water pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol, heavy or transition metals, certain drugs, industrial solvents, cooking and radiation. (Learn more about free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health.) So, in the end, the best way to combat oxidative stress (aka rusty skin) is to avoid free radicals altogether! *Ahem* let’s clean up the planet (hello organic farming) and start wearing SPF at a minimum. The second best option is to add antioxidants to your diet and skincare routine.

So where do we find these antioxidants?

Some of the most classic forms are Vitamin E, Vitamin C, beta carotenes, omega 3s, omega 6s and flavonoids (yay for wine!). These antioxidants can be found in food like nuts, citrus fruits and berries. You can also find these antioxidants in skincare products, as they help calm inflammation, dehydration, dullness and visible signs of aging. So be sure to keep an eye out for those antioxidant ingredients when building your skincare routine. Also, keep in mind that antioxidants can be naturally occurring in other ingredients. For example, turmeric extract is an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C (and thankfully, our Turmeric & Lemon Brightening Face Serum is chock full of it!). When shopping for antioxidant skincare products, look for natural ingredients derived from turmeric, camu camu, acai, raspberry, and even citrus fruits.

*The information provided in this Blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.


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