Antioxidants are compounds produced in your body and found in foods and cosmeceuticals. They help defend your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals.

Free radicals

When free radicals accumulate, they may cause a state known as oxidative stress. This may damage your DNA and other important structures in your cells. (Hence the word anti ‘oxidant’).

Some conditions caused by free radicals include:

  • deterioration of the eye lens
  • inflammation of the joints (arthritis)
  • damage to nerve cells in the brain, which contributes to conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases
  • increased risk of coronary heart disease, since free radicals encourage low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol to stick to artery walls
  • certain cancers, triggered by damaged cell DNA.
  • Acceleration of the ageing process

In the case of our skin, it is largely caused by the creation of free radicals at the cellular level when skin is exposed to ultraviolet light. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals – unstable atoms that have an unpaired electron in their outermost shell, almost like a knife without a sheath. The antioxidants act to sheathe the knife, binding with the unstable electron and stopping it from attacking collagen strands and other cells of the skin’s architecture

Ways to get antioxidants 

Antioxidants are found in certain foods and may prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals by neutralising them. These include the nutrient antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium.

Plant foods are rich sources of antioxidants. They are most abundant in fruits and vegetables, as well as other foods including nuts, wholegrains and some meats, poultry and fish.

Good sources of specific antioxidants include:

  • allium sulphur compounds – leeks, onions and garlic
  • anthocyanins – eggplant, grapes and berries
  • beta-carotene – pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach and parsley
  • catechins – red wine and tea
  • copper – seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts
  • cryptoxanthins – red capsicum, pumpkin and mangoes
  • flavonoids – tea, green tea, citrus fruits, red wine, onion and apples
  • indoles – cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
  • isoflavonoids – soybeans, tofu, lentils, peas and milk
  • lignans – sesame seeds, bran, whole grains and vegetables
  • lutein – green, leafy vegetables like spinach, and corn
  • lycopene – tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon
  • manganese – seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts
  • polyphenols – thyme and oregano
  • selenium – seafood, offal, lean meat and whole grains
  • vitamin A – liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, and egg yolks
  • vitamin C – oranges, blackcurrants, kiwifruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, capsicum and strawberries
  • vitamin E – vegetable oils (such as wheatgerm oil), avocados, nuts, seeds and whole grains
  • zinc – seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts
  • zoochemicals – red meat, offal and fish. Also derived from the plants that animals eat.

The 5 Main Benefits of Antioxidants for Your Skin

  1. Antioxidants help correct signs of age.

Oxidative stress breaks down collagen, hinders skin’s natural repair process and triggers inflammation—and you see these as fine lines, wrinkles, loose skin, acne breakouts and a blotchy skin tone. By scavenging free radicals, antioxidants can help prevent and correct these visible signs and give skin a more youthful glow.

  1. Antioxidants help prevent sunburn.

They blunt your skin’s inflammatory response to the sun’s harmful rays, preventing sunburn and providing enhanced protection against sun damage and photoaging.

  1. Antioxidants help skin repair itself.

Inflamed skin impedes the skin’s rejuvenation process. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants allow skin to repair itself and correct visible damage. Some antioxidants, like vitamin C, can also stimulate collagen production, which is vital for youthful skin.

  1. Antioxidants help brighten skin tone.

Free radicals and frequent sun exposure can also trigger changes in our skin’s melanin production, causing dark spots and uneven skin tone. By reducing photodamage, antioxidants can help prevent abnormal skin pigmentations. Some antioxidants (again, like vitamin C) also work as a tyrosinase (an enzyme that stimulates melanin production) inhibitor.

  1. Antioxidants may help prevent skin cancer.

Some antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, have anti-carcinogenic properties and may help prevent skin cancer.

Antioxidants in skincare

These are just a few of the ingredients to look out for in your home care products, higher concentrations of these are fond in prescription skincare such as cosmeceuticals.

  • VITAMIN C. A favorite among dermatologists, vitamin C is one of the most studied antioxidants available on the market. 
  • RETINOL (VITAMIN A) 
  • VITAMIN E
  • RESVERATROL
  • COENZYMEQ10. … 
  • NIACINAMIDE. … 
  • POLYPHENOLS. … 
  • FLAVONOIDS
  • Glutathione

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