Antioxidants & Skin Health: What You Need To Know
What Are Antioxidants?
First, let’s discuss what antioxidants are.
Antioxidants are molecules that scavenge and neutralise inflammatory compounds called free radicals. Damage from free radicals can affect many body systems and functions. Antioxidants are found in certain foods and plants and work to protect the body against free radical damage in several ways. Antioxidants can prevent the breakdown of unsaturated lipids in cell membranes (lipid peroxidation), inhibit cell tissue oxidation, and reduce LDL oxidation in the blood.
In simpler terms, antioxidants keep cells working well by protecting them from both internal and external damage. Maintaining a balance of antioxidants in the body can prevent early cell ageing, thus promoting overall health and a youthful appearance in the skin.
Free radicals arise from exposure to environmental pollutants. When we talk about the 'environment' as a source of toxicity, it's common to refer to external sources, like pollution, cigarette smoking, excess sun exposure, chemical toxins and household cleaning products that our skin may be exposed to.
However, it's important to remember that stress is a contributor to free radical or oxidative damage to all body tissues, including the skin.
The process of cell metabolism naturally produces free radical compounds in small quantities. But unchecked stress and cell breakdown can deplete the body's natural antioxidant defence system. This system, sometimes referred to in bioscience as the redox pathway, is an in-built regenerative process of recycling antioxidant molecules from other antioxidants.
For example, did you know that vitamin E is regenerated in the body by vitamin C, CoQ10 and glutathione? Antioxidant compounds are crucial for an optimal immune defence system, especially regarding cellular and DNA damage.
What Are The Different Antioxidants?
Many of the best-known antioxidants include:
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Vitamin A (retinoic acid)
- Vitamin E (tocopherols)
- Co-Enzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol)
- Lipoic acid
- Beta-carotene, Lycopene, Lutein (Carotenoids)
All of these compounds are either produced by the body, obtained through the diet, or both. However, carotenoids are the exception as they are only found in food.
What Do Antioxidants Do For Your Skin?
Now it's worth understanding what antioxidants do for the skin.
It turns out they're incredibly beneficial for your skin health. Free radicals can break down collagen and weaken the skin's natural elasticity. The result is that skin can look tired, dry, dull and even saggy.
Antioxidants help protect your skin from sun damage, reduce inflammation and irritation, and promote healthy cell turnover. This can lead to a brighter complexion, fewer wrinkles, and improved skin integrity and barrier function.
Essentially, skin care antioxidants can provide powerful anti-ageing benefits - who wouldn't want that?
Now that you know what antioxidants do for your skin, it's time to learn about the best antioxidants for skin care.
Antioxidants in Skincare
Look for products that contain antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E as well as other skin-loving ingredients like green tea extract, Manuka Honey and Avocado. In most cases, using the pure, concentrated form of any vitamin will ensure the most potent skin benefits.
However, for a gentle yet effective alternative, opting for plant-derived antioxidants is a great option for you if you have sensitive skin. In general, antioxidants can help protect your skin from environmental damage and promote a brighter, more youthful-looking complexion.
Let's take a closer look at the most commonly found antioxidant-rich skincare ingredients for glowing, healthy skin.
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Best for reducing signs of ageing and sun damage.
Retinol is a concentrated form of vitamin A, commonly found in high-end skincare products and medical-grade treatments for acne vulgaris. Retinol is also useful for psoriasis, and wrinkle prevention, it helps reduce scarring and minimises rough skin patches as well as reduces dark pigmentation of the skin.
When you first start using a powerful skin product like retinol, the antioxidant activity can cause side effects. Some people may experience an initial increase in breakouts, dryness, and flaking skin. These side effects last for a few weeks and are known as “purging”. To gain long-term skin benefits, you'll need to use retinol consistently for around 3-6 months.
Recent research published in the International journal of molecular sciences has demonstrated that retinol products may be beneficial as a preventative and therapeutic treatment for some types of non-melanoma skin cancers.
Using retinol is not recommended during the day as it can increase your risk of sunburn, so keep it as part of your nightly skincare ritual only. Skin experts recommend proceeding with caution if adding in a vitamin C serum while using retinol/vitamin A, as it can irritate sensitive skin.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Best for clarifying and brightening.
L-ascorbic acid, also known as Vitamin C, is an antioxidant that can effectively rejuvenate and brighten dull, tired skin while reducing the appearance of wrinkles and uneven tone.
As mentioned, the most notable benefit of using vitamin C is its ability to brighten your skin. However, it takes around 6-8 weeks to see results. With consistent use, vitamin C can lighten hyperpigmentation and dark spots, resulting in an overall brighter complexion and more youthful, radiant-looking skin.
Vitamin C is also a co-factor nutrient for collagen production, which gives a youthful, suppleness to the skin and helps skin maintain its elastic integrity. As an antioxidant, vitamin C is also important for wound healing, stimulating the production of fibroblasts and keratinocytes (skin cells) after a tissue injury (eg. burns, scrapes or cuts). Vitamin C plays multiple roles in protecting the skin from damage and aiding in the growth of new cells and tissue regeneration.
Vitamin E (Tocopherols)
Best for adding moisture and replenishment to your skin.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant found naturally in some foods and is commonly used in skincare products, such as moisturisers and serums to help protect the skin from cellular oxidative damage. Vitamin E protects the lipid bi-layer within cell walls from peroxidation, which is critically important because the cell wall is where all cell communication occurs.
Vitamin E also helps promote wound healing, increases moisture retention in the skin, and prevents dryness. It has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can protect against free radicals and premature ageing. It's also great for keeping the skin soft and supple, which is key as far as antioxidant skincare is concerned.
Combining vitamin E with vitamin C enhances its effectiveness in fighting against free radicals, although it is just as effective on its own. This is why you will come across many vitamin C + E products. You can boost your antioxidant skincare ritual by layering a vitamin E moisturiser over a vitamin C serum. When used topically as part of a regular skincare routine, vitamin E can help keep your skin looking healthy, younger-looking, and more radiant.
Best for nourishing and hydrating dry skin.
Avocados are a great source of antioxidants and have been traditionally used in different cultures for nourishing dry skin. Avocado oil, which is obtained from the flesh of the fruit, is a highly moisturising fatty acid emollient and is believed to be the most hydrating among all fruit oils.
It's easy to add avocado oil to a face mask or used sparingly as a topical serum, for a boost of skin-loving nutrients. Rich in omega-3, avocado oil can help seal in moisture on the skin's surface. If you can't source avocado oil, a ripe avocado is a good substitute if you're making a DIY product to give your skin an antioxidant boost and a healthy glow.
Manuka Honey & Raw Honey
Best for irritations, infections and to improve the skin barrier.
Manuka honey is one of those rare foods that deserve the title of 'superfood' and is a prime example of what we Nutritionists call - a 'food as medicine'. It is dark and thick like a salve and is famously high in antioxidants, over and above other honey varieties.
Manuka honey is ideal for treating both acute and chronic skin conditions, ranging from burn wounds, acne, ulcers, fungal infections and dermatitis. The glyoxal and methylglyoxal compounds found in Manuka honey are responsible for their strong antioxidant activity. These compounds are crucial for preventing bacterial growth and may assist in supporting the skin’s immune system to improve wound healing and tissue regeneration.
Manuka can be useful as a stand-alone treatment, as an addition to a face mask or with a natural exfoliant like raw sugar, with some noticeable skin benefits. Using manuka honey can boost skin vibrancy, enhance skin barrier strength, and visibly rejuvenate the skin for a smoother texture and radiant appearance.
Gren Tea Extract
Best for soothing and protecting your skin.
Green tea contains polyphenols (catechins like ECGC) which can help fight free radicals and reduce inflammation, thereby promoting faster wound healing. This makes it a great choice for individuals with skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis and dermatitis. Try getting a serum or moisturiser that contains high amounts of green tea extract (camellia sinensis leaf extract) for the most potent antioxidant effects.
Skin Care Antioxidants: Natural Protection For Natural Beauty
From vitamins to honey, there are plenty of ways that antioxidants can benefit your skin. If you suffer from acne scars, dark pigmentation or breakouts, there are antioxidants that can help you resolve your skin concerns. When used in products as part of a daily skincare routine, these antioxidant compounds can help keep your skin looking and feeling healthy. Each has unique benefits, so you'll want to do your research to find the best antioxidant for your skin and needs.
Additionally, regular sunscreen use will help protect skin from environmental damage, making healthy-looking skin more achievable. It's important to note that everyone's individual needs are different, so it is always best to consult a skin specialist before starting any skincare routine or product regimen. With the right combination of antioxidants, you can enjoy healthy, beautiful skin for years to come.
Rejuvenating Manuka Honey Face Mask
Homemade skincare products are easier to rustle up than you think. More often than not, you've got everything you need right in your pantry or fridge for a nourishing, natural mask or a gentle face scrub. Here's a rejuvenating manuka honey face mask that'll enliven dull and tired skin, quick as a flash!
Your skin can receive significant benefits from just 3 simple ingredients.
Manuka honey has natural antibacterial properties that can help to heal skin abrasions, infections and even prevent breakouts. Lemon juice contains a natural alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) known as citric acid. Citric acid is an effective exfoliant that helps to remove dead skin cells and promote cell renewal. It also helps improve the texture and tone of skin, making it appear brighter and smoother. Yoghurt contains lactic acid, which can help to brighten and soften your skin, leaving it feeling smooth and refreshed.
Together, these ingredients work to create a natural face mask that can help to rejuvenate and hydrate your skin.
Natural Face Mask
- 1 tablespoon of Manuka honey
- 1/2 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon of plain yoghurt
- In a small bowl, mix together the Manuka honey, lemon juice and plain yoghurt until well combined.
- Apply the mixture to your face using your fingers or a brush, being careful to avoid the eye area.
- Leave the mask on for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it dries completely.
- Rinse your face with warm water, then pat dry with a clean towel.
- Follow up with your favourite mist, serum and moisturiser.
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