Antioxidants in skin care

Even the best of sunscreens do not provide complete UV protection for skin. For this reason, it is important to also use antioxidants to both help protect your skin from UV damage and to support your skin’s repair.

Anyone who cares about skin health should look to using antioxidants every day. Unlike retinoids, antioxidants can be started much earlier in life for skin protection from free radical damage.

Many anti-ageing skin care products contain antioxidants, and so we see exaggerated claims that they stimulate skin’s natural collagen production and reverse the signs of ageing. Most antioxidants do not have the necessary scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness as anti-agers.

Do we need antioxidants?

If you want to reduce the visible signs of skin ageing, the answer is yes. Cellular skin ageing is caused by the oxidation of proteins, the cross-linking of collagen and the peroxidation of lipids. The use of antioxidants has been shown to help to prevent some of this damage.

Our bodies rely on oxygen to create the chemical reactions needed to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and generate the energy we need to function. As part of this process, and even exercise, oxygen creates free radicals. The scientific view is that free radicals lead to cell damage, skin wrinkling and possibly the development of skin cancer.

Antioxidants have a particularly important role to play as they donate an electron to the unstable free radicals and so are thought to neutralise the damage. Coenzyme Q10, Ferulic Acid, Flavonoids, Green Tea Extract, Glutathione, Niacinamide, Polyphenols, Resveratrol, Vitamin C and Vitamin E are among the most popular forms making their way into skin care products. Emerging research suggests that certain botanical antioxidants – Coffee Berry and Resveratrol – can multiply the benefits of retinoids and help offset their irritation.

It is not easy to work with antioxidants in skin care as they fragile creatures that do not like to be exposed to light or air, as they can be deactivated. Equally, they need to be formulated to reach the dermis, where oxidative free radical damage occurs, in the correct concentration to be effective. Antioxidants can benefit the skin, although this is not universally agreed, and they can stabilise a formulation, making for a better product.

Hanson and Clegg in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2003, demonstrated that antioxidants improve sunscreen photo-protection against UV-induced reactive oxygen species, highly reactive molecules containing oxygen, that cause damage to our skin – more simply understood as free radicals.

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