What are Antioxidants? Do they Help the Skin When Used Topically?
You've probably heard the term "antioxidant" before in regard to food and perhaps skin care. But what exactly are antioxidants and how do they work? Ever wonder if they are they actually helpful in skincare products? Let's explore antioxidants.
Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals. Free radicals can wreak havoc in the body and skin causing damage and disease. While the body does create its own antioxidants, they are also found in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods and can also help slow or reduce damage from free radicals when consumed.
Vitamins such as E and C act as antioxidants and compounds such as polyphenols, minerals, and other ingredients such as Coenzyme Q10 can act as antioxidants.
Free radicals do serve important purposes in the body, for example the immune system enlists free radicals to fight infection and they are a necessary part of metabolic processes. However, an excess of free radicals can lead to a state of oxidative stress. Prolonged oxidative stress can contribute to DNA and cellular damage as well as disease. (1)
Lifestyle, stress, and environmental factors such as pollution, toxins, poor diet, or infections can contribute to excessive free radicals and oxidative stress. And this is where adding antioxidants from outside sources such as fruits, vegetable, and herbal sources can help.
Adding antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables to the diet has been shown to help reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and promote a healthy weight among other benefits. (2)
And adding antioxidants to skin care is likewise believed to be beneficial. If antioxidants neutralize free radicals then the thinking is they can help protect the skin from damage and support the skin's firmness and elasticity. And by supporting firmness and elasticity, that in turn could help prevent wrinkles. While cosmetic manufacturers cannot make "anti-aging" claims in their skincare many botanical extracts have been found to have positive impacts on the skin.
There are numerous organic ingredients that contain naturally occuring antioxidants. Some of my favorites to formulate with include the polyphenol catechin from green tea, vitamins C, E, and B3, hydroxy acids from willow bark and fruit acid complex, as well as anti-inflammatory ingredients such as chamomile and calendula. But there are so many others!
How do they work in skincare? Catechin in green tea is found to neutralize free radicals and may protect the skin from UV radiation. Research suggests that polyphenols found in green tea offer "antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and photoprotective functions". (3)
Likewise vitamins offer free radical scavenging properties and are thought to support collagen production. Hydroxy acids help support skin cell turn over which may help smooth skin and improve skin tone. Inflammation is a complex process, but soothing ingredients can help support skin health and lessen breakdown of connective tissue.
When formulating with antioxidants and antioxidant rich ingredients in skincare it's important to use amounts that are effective and safe. While many botanicals pack a punch with small percentages, some manufacturers will tout a trendy ingredient on their label but only put minuscule amounts in the formulation. Look for companies that use botanicals with intention and wisdom.
If you have questions antioxidants feel free to comment below or contact me. If you'd like to incorporate some of our antioxidant rich products into your skincare routine our Goat Milk Face cream, Facial Oil, and Fruit Acid Face Wash are client favorites rich in antioxidants. And I've recently created a Rose Hip & Lime Spray Lotion with Green Tea Extract and a natural preservative (Lactobacillus Ferment) for the summer!
Antioxidants support the body inside and out. How have you incorporated more antioxidants into your diet or skincare routine?