You’ve likely heard of free radicals and how they’re no good, dirty enemies of youth. But what exactly are free radicals, other than a buzzy skincare term?
Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause damage to healthy cells. Free radicals have even been linked to heart disease, cancer and other diseases. But what do they actually do? And how can you protect your skin from these chaos-causing molecules?
We’re diving deep into the bad guys of the skincare world, with everything you need to know about free radicals below!
Free radicals are unstable reactive molecules that form in the skin. They are separated from their natural pair and searching for a replacement. When they come into contact with unprotected skin, free radicals run through the layers of your epidermis. They attack healthy cells, breaking down collagen and elastin.
This speeds up the natural signs of aging, resulting in things like wrinkles, sagging, dryness, dullness and unwanted pigmentation. And even though you can't see them your skin is constantly under attack from free radicals.
Unfortunately, free radicals are a product of the world and environment around us. They are produced naturally in the body through chemical processes like metabolism. But they are also generated through the following:
Even though you can’t see them, your skin is always under attack by free radicals. What makes these molecules unstable is that they are missing an electron from their outer shell. Electrons like to be in pairs. This causes them to search for other electrons to pair up with.
When free radicals are unable to steal an electron from other atoms, they start stealing them from your skin cells. Free radicals kick off a chain reaction that leaves a path of destruction in their wake. The first free radical pulls an electron from a molecule, destabilizing it and then turning it into a free radical. That molecule then takes an electron from another one, and so on.
This domino effect can eventually disrupt and damage the whole cell. The damage eventually appears on the skin in the form of wrinkles, sagging, dryness, dullness and unwanted pigmentation.
If free radicals are the bad guys of the skincare world, antioxidants are the good guys. Antioxidants are vitamins and nutrients that neutralize free radicals to protect your skin from damage.
You know how electrons like to be in pairs? Well antioxidants just happen to have an extra electron to donate without making themselves unstable. When antioxidants encounter free radicals, the antioxidants bind to them. This immediately delivers their extra electron to the free radical.
Antioxidants return free radicals to their balanced state before they can damage your skin. In the fight against free radicals, antioxidants are your greatest line of defense.
The following are some of the most powerful antioxidants when it comes to defending against free radical damage:
Thinking of adding some antioxidants into your skincare routine? These tips will help you get the most out of your free radical fighting products.
When it comes to antioxidants in skincare, they work synergistically. This means that they work together by stabilizing and powering one another up. For example, a vitamin C serum is good but pair it with a vitamin E face oil and free radicals beware!
Dermatologists used to recommend antioxidants be used only in the a.m. since the skin isn't exposed to much at night. But research now showsinflammation from daytime UV damage can persist for several hours after exposure, so antioxidants can be useful in your p.m routine as well. Try a antioxidant-packed firming eye mask after your nighttime routine for a little extra self care!
Although the skincare benefits of vitamin c are widely known, it can be finicky. This antioxidant doesn’t always interact well with retinoids and skin acids. But that’s not to say they can’t coexist. Use your vitamin C in the morning and skin acids at night.
Free radicals can damage sebum which then promotes inflammation around follicles and can lead to breakouts. Inflammation is a driving factor in acne and precedes the pimples themselves. But if you incorporate antioxidants into your routine, you can keep breakouts at bay. For the occasional breakout, however, swap out antioxidants for a clay face mask with salicylic acid. Antioxidants can also control the overproduction of pigment in skin, which is what causes uneven tone and sunspots.
Topical antioxidants can't always reach the deep layers of the skin . That’s why adding antioxidants to your diet is so important. While the body makes its own antioxidants, it counts on your diet to get enough of them. Antioxidants are released from the foods you eat through digestion. They travel through the bloodstream and into your cells to defend against free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable and highly reactive molecules. They steal electrons from other sources, damaging your skin in the process. Free radicals attack your healthy skin cells, taking the oxygen from them and essentially destroying them.
Once this happens, your skin becomes much more susceptible to premature aging. That’s why it's so important to protect against them. Load up on the antioxidants- both in your skincare routine and your diet -- and banish free radical skin damage for good!