Must-Know Information about Antioxidants for the Skin

Virtually all dermatologists agree on the importance of three things: sunscreen, retinoids and antioxidants. While these three non-negotiables should be staples in every skincare regimen, simply slathering a bunch of vitamins on your skin isn’t quite always effective. There are a few key points to remember when treating your skin to extra environmental protection to help you get the most out of these powerhouse ingredients.  The best studied antioxidants are Vitamin C, Vitamin E and green tea.  Here are a few tips about antioxidants.

1. What are the Best Vitamin C Containing Skincare products?

There are so many Vitamin C products on the market that it can be confusing. In addition, there are many ingredients derived from vitamin C, including ascorbyl glucosamine, ascorbyl palmitate, ester-C, and more. The most effective form of vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid, but in order to maintain its potency and allow penetration into  the skin, it must be formulated at a low, acidic pH. Unfortunately, this may cause stinging for those with sensitive skin (The Dermatology Review).

Vitamin C products from SkinCeuticals are formulated correctly and have been proven to protect skin from ultraviolet radiation but may sting rosacea types and others with sensitive skin. The stinging is a good sign because it means that the product was formulated at the best pH (2-2.5) to improve penetration of the L-ascorbic acid. For those who just cannot tolerate the stinging, Jan Marini uses a unique form of vitamin C that eliminates this problem without sacrificing effectiveness.

Most Vitamin C products on the market are worthless because they are not properly formulated or packaged correctly. For example, beware of any Vitamin C containing products that are in jars.  The ascorbic acid is inactivated by air and light so these are useless. The efficacious ones all cost about $100 or more.  be suspicious of cheaper brands and those that are not made by Skinceuticals, Jan Marini or IS Clinical.

Dr. Sheldon Pinnell who was the Chairman of Dermatology at Duke and was a well respected genius, discovered the beneficial effects of Vitamin C and formed the company Skinceuticals.  Most of the great science that we have on Vitamin C for skin protection was funded by Skinceuticals.  For this reason I prefer their innovative products. My personal favorite is Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.

2. Can Antioxidants Be Mixed with Other Ingredients?

Benzoyl peroxide (BP) has prooxidant activity that can break down antioxidants such as ascorbic acid.  Don’t apply BP and Vitamin C at the same time. If you use an antioxidant in the morning, save your BP products for nighttime. Many ingredients will inactivate your antioxidants, so the order in which you apply your skincare products is very important.  Follow your dermatologist’s prescribed regimen exactly because the order of product application affects efficacy.

3. What is the best way to get antioxidants? Topically or in the diet?

Both!! Antioxidants work better when you mix a few of them together. It is best to try and get them in food, beverages, supplements as well as in topical skincare products.Your dietary antioxidants should come from a variety of different sources from as many colors of fruits and vegetables as possible. Right now Pom Wonderful Crazy Healthy Pomegranate Juice is one of my favorite ways to boost antioxidants in my diet. (I add it to my iced tea.) Eating dark chocolate, drinking green tea, and adding the matcha powder to food are all great ways to add antioxidants to your diet.

4. Some Antioxidants Do More Than Fight Free Radical Damage

Antioxidants are known for their ability to neutralize the oxidization of potentially harmful free radicals in the body (Pharmacognosy Reviews). But their benefits don’t stop there. In addition to protecting your skin from environmental stressors, vitamin C also boosts collagen production and fades excess pigment. Coenzyme Q10 gives cells energy to repair DNA damage caused by the sun.  Argan Oil has anti-inflammatory activity and is a good natural and organic skincare treatment for rosacea.

5. Some Antioxidants Are Stronger Than Others

Antioxidants have an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) value that shows just how concentrated or potent they are. Idebenone and green tea have very high ORAC values, but that doesn’t mean that other less potent antioxidants aren’t also valuable. Using a variety of antioxidants is the most effective approach to boosting your skin health with these ingredients. Studies have shown that antioxidants work better together than alone.

6. The Newest Antioxidants in Skincare

Many people don’t know that argan oil provides antioxidant protection in addition to hydration and anti-inflammatory activity. Resveratrol is also relatively new to skincare, but the research regarding its possible skin benefits is promising so far (Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics). Keep your eye on these two ingredients.

The Bottom Line

The world of skincare ingredients can be confusing. That’s why I wrote an entire textbook on the topic. The book called Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients discusses which Baumann Skin Types each ingredient is best for, as well as myths and misconceptions behind many of the ingredients found in your skincare products today. There is a section on antioxidants that you should read if you want to learn more about these interesting compounds.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

September 14, 2016 Skincare