What Are Antioxidants?
March is National Nutrition Month, so what better time to dig into one of the most powerful and beneficial ingredients for your skin and your entire body—antioxidants! You might have heard that certain “superfoods” are great for your health and skin, but did you know that antioxidants are the nutrients that make these foods so super? If you still have questions about what antioxidants are and what makes them so great for your skin, take a look at this quick guide.
What Are Free Radicals?
In order to understand what antioxidants are, it is important to have a little background on what free radicals are and why they are so bad for your skin and body. When our bodies are exposed to things like ultraviolet (UV) light, pollution, cigarette smoke, and even junk foods, oxygen molecules react with other molecules and form free radicals.
Free radicals are only happy when they have an even number of electrons. Thus, they become very unstable and volatile when they are missing one of their paired electrons. Until they recover this electron, free radicals wreak havoc on our skin and bodies. They’ll start stealing electrons from other molecules in order to stabilize themselves, but this only creates new free radicals that are now looking for an electron.
How Do Antioxidants Help the Skin?
The human body does have a defense mechanism in place to help combat free radicals. However, if there are too many free radicals for your body to take care of on its own, something called oxidative stress occurs. Oxidative stress plays a major role in premature skin aging, which is why sun damage, smoking, and poor eating habits can be so detrimental to your skin and can cause wrinkles.
So how do you get rid of free radicals? Think of antioxidants as the opposite of these unstable molecules. Unlike free radicals, antioxidants are very stable and can afford to lose an electron without having any negative consequences or needing to steal an electron from something else. Thus, antioxidants are able to neutralize or “calm down” angry free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and the accelerated skin aging that it would otherwise cause.
What Are the Best Antioxidants To Add To My Diet?
The human body can produce some antioxidants on its own, but it usually does not have enough to handle all of the free radicals that are constantly being created. When you factor in the many causes of free radical creation, like sun exposure, pollution, poor diet, pesticides, and other factors, the limited amount of antioxidants that our bodies can manufacture get used up very quickly. The good news is that by eating plenty of foods and using topical skin care products that contain antioxidants, you can increase your body’s supply of free-radical-fighting antioxidants.
The plant pigments found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, so eating as many colors of the rainbow as you can is a great way to make sure you’re getting lots of different antioxidants. Just some of the best antioxidant-rich foods for your skin are:
- Blueberries – These little berries are considered to be one of the richest food sources of antioxidants. They contain a specific type of antioxidant called flavonoids, which are also what give blueberries their vivid color.
- Pomegranates – Whether you snack on the juicy seeds housed inside the pomegranate fruit or drink pomegranate juice, you can get lots of antioxidants from this tasty fruit.
- Pecans – Nuts like pecans and walnuts are also rich in antioxidants. These foods also contain high amounts of omega fatty acids, which can help to keep your skin moisturized and looking and feeling healthy.
- Ginger – This spice has long been used for medicinal purposes, such as to calm an upset stomach or nausea. It also doubles as an antioxidant-rich food that you can add to tea, sushi, or other dishes for an added boost of protection against free radical damage.
- Red wine – You might have heard that drinking red wine could actually be healthy for you. That’s because it contains a nutrient called resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that can help to combat skin aging, heart disease, and possibly even cancer.
What Are The Best Topical Products With Antioxidants?
The right choice of antioxidants for your skin depends upon what your Baumann Skin Type® is, but there are many good antioxidant ingredients. I discuss many of them at length in my Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients book. Ask your dermatologist to diagnose your Baumann Skin Type and recommend the best antioxidant product for your skin’s needs. Ingredients that have strong antioxidant properties include Argan oil, ascorbic acid, green tea, resveratrol, and coenzyme Q10. One of my favorite light antioxidant moisturizers is Essopi Triple Antioxidant Cream while I prefer Zerafite Soothing and Calming for drier skin types.
In this article, we’ve discussed what antioxidants are and why they are so important for healthy, youthful-looking skin. In addition to adding plenty of antioxidant-rich foods to your diet, you can also give your skin extra free radical protection by including topical products that contain antioxidant ingredients in your daily skin care regimen. You can’t get too many antioxidants and there is none that is superior to the others. Variety of antioxidants is very important. I suggest that you add them to your diet, take supplments, drink green tea and add them to your topical skin care regimen.