By now I am sure all of us have heard of antioxidants in skincare because I am sure you don’t live under the rock. However, what most of us don’t probably know is the way they work and why exactly they are a must for our skincare regimen.
Before we move to the “why”, let me give you a spoiler that they are a must. More on the reasons, later in the post 🙂
What are antioxidants in skincare?
Antioxidants in general, are useful substances that neutralize oxidative processes in the body, as you can tell from the name: anti-oxidant. They mainly act as anti-aging agents and they serve many purposes for the overall health of your skin.
Let me tell you beforehand, this post is full of scientific information, so buckle up! In order to understand their function fully, we have to look at two things here: free radicals and oxidative stress.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are waste products of cells. They are unstable molecules that basically wreak havoc. What they do is attach missing electrons to themselves, taking them away from neighboring molecules. They are essentially electron thieves if you will.
As a result of this free radical damage, other molecules lose their functions or turn into free radicals themselves. Then, they trigger a chain reaction – oxidative stress (or OxS).
Oxidative stress basically refers to this chaos that is happening between free radicals (the bad) and antioxidants (the good)
Oxidative stress directly leads to skin aging, the appearance of wrinkles, inflammation, and loss of skin elasticity. Plus, it only contributes to skin disorders such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, acne, vitiligo. 1 – source
I know, sounds a bit complicated – but this is all you need to know: they disrupt the way your body works and accelerate premature aging of the body as a whole. Basically, they are evil in disguise. Lucky for us, we have antioxidants that act as a shield and neutralize these free radicals!
In our case, it is the antioxidants in skincare. Antioxidants sacrifice their own electrons without becoming unstable, as a result, stopping free radical damage. If you don’t have a knight in shiny armor, the antioxidants can be it.
The human body has its own antioxidant defense. But it weakens as we age and the number of free radicals immensely increases.
The following factors only worsen the harmful oxidation stress:
- Negative environmental impact
- Lack of vegetables and fruits in the diet
- Sun exposure (yes, ultraviolet is the main supplier of free radicals in the skin).
More about skin health: 10 Healthy Skincare Habits To Live By
What are the essential antioxidant benefits for skin?
First things first, antioxidants in skincare fight off the free radicals and balance out the natural processes in the body. This is one of the most fundamental antioxidant benefits for skin. When oxidative stress we talked about doubles down, they cause more damage. Antioxidants help reverse that damage and help the skin repair itself.
Even though our bodies naturally develop mechanisms to defend the skin from free radicals, we should support this cause and eat an antioxidant-rich diet and incorporate topical antioxidants into our skincare routine.
Antioxidants in skincare prevent UV damage
It is no secret that the number one reason behind photo-aging is the harmful UV lights. If you have been following our blog for a while, you know that the worst thing you can do for your skin is go out without your sunscreen on.
Apart from providing sun protection with the help of topical creams, research (1) shows that dietary antioxidants can act as agents against skin damage induced by UVA and UVB. Including antioxidants like beta carotene, Vitamin E, and C in your diet can actually defend the skin against UV lights.
Antioxidants in skincare are anti-aging agents
As oxidative stress breaks down the work of collagen, it leads to wrinkles, fine lines, and saggy skin. This is where topical creams infused with a number of antioxidants can help. Vitamin C is known for boosting collagen production, hence the anti-aging. Antioxidants will help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and brighten the skin.
Antioxidants in skincare brighten the skin and improve skin texture
The healthy glow of the skin really checks out here. By providing anti-inflammatory support, the superhero antioxidants will help with hyperpigmentation, dark spots, evening out the skin tone, and overall skin texture.
Bakuchiol, ferulic acid, Vitamin A are the powerhouse antioxidants in skincare to help your skin with all of the skin concerns above.
The List of Most Powerful Antioxidants in skincare
Now that we got you covered on what antioxidants do for the skin and what the main antioxidant benefits for skin are, let’s move on to the stars of the show.
All antioxidants have excellent working qualities and they serve a myriad of purposes. Then again, not all antioxidants are created equal, just like many things in life. So, before delving into the most powerful antioxidants in skincare, you have to decide what your skin needs in the first place.
After you make up your mind, it is now the time to reveal the most powerful antioxidants in skincare:
Vitamin C is the queen of all antioxidants in skincare. There, I said it!
There is a reason why dermatologists swear by this ingredient, especially when used in acne treatment. Along with being a powerful antioxidant, it brightens the skin and reduces pigmentation.
Therefore, it slows down the production of melanin and accelerates the renewal of the skin. When your skin is exposed to external factors such as UV lights or pollution, your natural reserves of vitamin C reduce over time.
So, you need to basically “feed” your skin the vitamin C in order to make up for the lost reserves. Research shows that vitamin C also supports collagen production in your skin. In conclusion, it is a great skin-restoring and the most versatile antioxidant of all!
New to the Vitamin C game? This might help: 4 Side Effects of Vitamin C serums, Benefits and More
This one comes at the top of the list because it is one of the most powerful antioxidants in skincare without a doubt. I am sure you have heard all about vitamin E, you might have taken it as a supplement or naturally from eating vitamin E-rich foods. What vitamin E does to your skin is improve cell regeneration, participate in the restoration of intracellular membranes.
It works well with vitamin C, by combining them you double shield your skin from the damage of UV lights and free radicals. Same goes for combining them in your food intake, as we mentioned above.
Not only does beta carotene fight free radicals, but also accelerates the re-production of damaged tissues. It has health benefits like lowering the risk of heart disease and boosting the immune system. Foods rich with beta carotene are spinach, apricots, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, grapefruit, etc.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Also known as ubiquinone, it is an incredibly useful element. CoQ10 is produced by the cells of our body on their own. However, the synthesis process slows down over the years.
Just like vitamin C it fights against free radicals, provides a collagen boost. It is very common in modern skincare products as an anti-aging, cell repairing agent. Some body lotions contain CoQ10 for skin firming effects.
Also known as niacinamide, (shouldn’t be confused with niacin, which is another type of vitamin B3) vitamin B3 provides a large range of skin benefits. It reduces skin inflammation, redness of the skin and helps control serious skin conditions like eczema.
It keeps the skin hydrated, reduces fine lines and wrinkles. Apart from anti-aging benefits, its ability to retain hydration directly correlates to oil control as well, keeping your skin from breaking out, making it our number one (After vitamin C 🙂 ) in the list of full package antioxidants.
Find out more: The Complete Guide To Vitamin B3 For Skin
Due to its skin-calming features, resveratrol is a perfect ingredient for creams and moisturizers. It is derived from grapes but it can also naturally be found in foods like berries, nuts, and yes, red wine.
Technically, it is a type of polyphenol. Just like Vitamin C, it brightens skin complexion and fights against UVB damage. It works like magic with ferulic acid, creating a powerful barrier against aging skin texture complications.
Most common antioxidants in skincare products
Wanna find out which antioxidants are most in-demand in the production of cosmetics and why?
Here you go:
- Vegetable oils (olive, shea, linseed), rich in carotenoids, are very very common in formulas. They restore the skin to a healthy color, tone and promote the regeneration of the epidermis.
- There is a reason why grape seed and cocoa extracts are so popular – they contain coenzyme Q10.
- The witch hazel extract delivers antioxidants to the skin cells. It also has outstanding healing properties.
- Green tea extract is used in youthful skin products and formulas against the first signs of aging thanks to its high flavonoid content.
Antioxidants found in foods
The main sources of antioxidants found in nature are vegetables, fruits, and berries. In other words, their “working” substances called phytonutrients.
They give the fruits one color or another – from white (cauliflower, zucchini) and yellow (bananas, pumpkin) to red (strawberries, tomatoes, radishes). Or purple (eggplants, blackberries).
There are many phytonutrients, and all of these substances can be classified as antioxidants. Here are the ones to look for:
- Tannins: You can find them in tea leaves and coffee beans, give energy, and improve immunity.
- Flavonoids: They are rich in grapes and their derivatives (juice, wine), as well as pomegranate fruits.
- Beta-carotene (provitamin A): You will recognize fruits that are rich in this substance by their orange color. These are in carrots, pumpkin, melon, bell pepper.
- Lycopene: They are rich in tomatoes. The maximum concentration of the nutrient is not in raw, but thermally processed berries, for example, grilled ones.
- Ellagic acid: Red berries are the kingdom of this “superhero of antioxidants”. Most of all it is found in strawberries and raspberries.
- Vitamin E: Do you add oil to your salad? If you don’t, it is not too late. Even ordinary sunflower oil contains a decent amount of this valuable vitamin. So, make sure to add it to your diet as often as you can.
- Lutein: Common greens are packed with them. They provide a great reason for you to fall in love with parsley, dill and arugula.
Antioxidant benefits for skin are truly endless. Now that you have discovered what they are, it is time to pay attention to them next time you go hunting for a new product.
These antioxidants in skincare will make sure to address literally any skin concern of yours. Making sure that your body and skin get enough of these most powerful antioxidants is definitely something you should focus on.
- Stahl, W., & Sies, H. (2012). β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 96(5), 1179S–84S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.034819
- Michalak M. (2022). Plant-Derived Antioxidants: Significance in Skin Health and the Ageing Process. International journal of molecular sciences, 23(2), 585. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23020585