Free radicals are minute chemical particles which are the result of cellular trauma. These minute chemical particles are not complete atoms and are very unstable. As a result, they will go and try to find “healthy” atoms to take from to stable themselves. This process can cause damage to the structure of the skin over time, due to the fact that as the free radicals take bits and bits from the atoms that compose this structure. The structure of the skin then weakens and breaks and this is what causes skin to age and lose its firmness and elasticity. Not only can free radicals weaken and break the structure of the skin, they can also damage DNA. Free radicals also chip away at healthy skin cells, and skin cell walls.
The damage that free radicals do to the structure of the skin, the DNA and the cells can lead to premature aging. Free radicals can cause the skin to become dull, dry and lifeless and they can also cause the skin to lose its elasticity and suppleness. This also leads to fine lines, wrinkles, and thin loose facial skin, while some may also experience uneven skin tone, dark spots and blemishes.
So what causes free radicals in the skin? Some of the main causes of free radical damage, which are always around us:
- Overexposure to sun
- Consumption of alcohol
- Chemical laden skin care products
- Poor diet
Sounds like bad news doesn’t it? Well it can be. However, free radicals damage can be minimized and eliminated with antioxidants.
Antioxidants fight off free radicals by stopping the chain reaction of cell damage in its tracks. Antioxidants can also stop chain reactions that are caused by free radicals before they even start. Common sources of antioxidants are vitamins, flavonoids (dietary factors that belong to the general class of plant chemicals, which modify skin barrier properties), and polyphenols (abundant micronutrients, which affect the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular).
One of the best ways to make sure our skin gets enough antioxidants to combat free radicals is through a good skin care regimen. Doing so will help one maintain healthy youthful skin. When we nourish our skin properly with products that contain antioxidant ingredients, we have a better chance of having great skin.
Antioxidant vitamins A, C and E are very helpful in helping to maintain skin health. They also help to reduce the damage caused by free radicals. For example Vitamin A helps to rebuild skin fibers. Skin fibers are often broken due to the damage that free radicals cause. The fiber of the skin is what helps to keep skin tight and youthful looking. Vitamin C helps to rebuild the structure of the skin especially collagen. Vitamin C also helps to protect skin cells from further damage and neutralizes free radicals. Vitamin E helps to destroy free radicals and also aids in cellular regeneration. When shopping for skin care products, one should look for products that contain these antioxidant vitamins. They may be listed in the product ingredients via names such as:
- Ascorbic Acid/L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
- Beta-Carotene/Retinol(Vitamin A)
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
They may also be found in skin care products via sources such as oils, butters, and extracts. Some examples are:
Another form of antioxidants called flavonoids are also of great benefit. Flavonoids are what give fruits and vegetables their color. These types of antioxidants help to reduce and minimize free radicals that are a result of environmental causes. Flavonoids are also touted as being able to absorb UV rays. UV rays are one of the main causes of sun damaged skin. They may also be found in herbal, vegetable and fruit extracts such as Chamomile or any type of fruit/vegetable extracts.
Polyphenols are yet another type of antioxidant that is essential for skin maintenance. These antioxidants help to protect DNA and cells from becoming damaged. They also help to slow down or stop damage caused by free radicals. They also help skin to maintain its elasticity and youthful firmness. Sources of polyphenols in skin care products are:
- Green tea extract
- Grape Seed extract
- Olive oil
- Fruit extracts (apple, grape, blueberries etc.)
Regular use of skin care products that contain these powerful antioxidants along with minimizing free radical exposure will help you to maintain youthful healthy looking skin for a long time.