If you’ve purchased skincare lately, chances are you’ve seen brands touting products that “fight free radicals”. It sounds great, but what does that even mean? WTF are free radicals?
What are free radicals?
To answer that question, I’m about to go a bit science nerd on you (LOL) so bare with me. Our bodies are made of oxygen containing molecules and these molecules contain atoms. In basic terms, these atoms have electrons orbiting around them. Well, these electrons need to be in pairs. If the electrons break down and are no longer in pairs, this creates free radicals. Free radicals are naturally occurring compounds in your body that can help to fight infection. However, high levels of free radicals (e.g. too many unpaired electrons) can cause harm in your body because they begin stealing electrons from healthy cells. This can result in serious health conditions like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. High levels of free radicals can also manifest as skin conditions such as hyperpigmentation, breakouts, wrinkles, dry skin and more.
What causes free radicals and how do we prevent them?
Some factors that cause free radicals to become too high include environmental pollution like cigarette smoke, air pollution, pesticides, household cleansers, dust and radiation. There are also dietary factors including a high sugar diet, high fat, and alcohol consumption.
Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds that keep your free radicals in check. Basically, antioxidants can give an electron to free radicals to stabilize them which in turn helps to break down both food and environmental pollution. So basically, it’s important to have a balance of antioxidants and free radicals in your body.
The best way to repair free radicals in your body is through a diet rich in antioxidants. Specifically, fresh fruits and leafy greens including kale, spinach, tomatoes, blueberries, oranges and other citrus fruits, raspberries, apples, and onions are all rich in antioxidants. For my fellow tea lovers, you’ll be pleased to know that even green tea contains antioxidants. The most common antioxidants are Vitamin A, C, and E. Keep in mind that there isn’t too much evidence to support supplements being a great source of antioxidants.
Skincare and Antioxidants
You know what I always say darlings, a good skincare routine always starts on the inside. There is no magic skincare potion that will deliver antioxidants at the same level you can get from a healthy whole foods diet rich in antioxidants and low in fat, sugar and alcohol. With that being said, I do believe that a good skincare regimen paired with a healthy diet can deliver wonderful results. Some common antioxidant ingredients found in skincare and their benefits include:
- Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, increases collagen production and skin cell turnover. Because retinol regenerates the skin it is used to even skin tone, improve the overall texture of skin, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B, helps improve discoloration while also reducing oil.
- Vitamin C used to brighten skin and reduce dark spots.
- Resveratrol, a naturally occurring compound found in grapes, red wine, some berries, teas, nuts, helps calm inflammation and reduces dark spots. It may also help provide UV protection.
- Curcumin, a polyphenol found in turmeric, is used to help calm inflammation and brighten skin.
- Vitamin E, hydrates skin and strengthens the skin barrier.
The last thing I want to impress on you darlings is that fighting free radicals for healthy skin doesn’t happen overnight. It requires an ongoing healthy lifestyle and diet paired with a consistent skincare routine. Like I said, there is no magic potion.