How Do Antioxidants Work For Your Skin?
Aside from wearing SPF protection everyday, antioxidants are an important category of ingredients that skincare experts recommend. Defined as “naturally occurring vitamins and minerals—like vitamins A, C, E, and green tea”, antioxidants protect your skin against free radicals, which are ”unstable molecules that steal electrons from healthy cells to stabilize themselves, weakening your innocent skin cells in the process” (Byrdie).
According to Dr. Mona Gahora, a Connecticut-based dermatologist and Yale associate professor, “Essentially, the sole purpose of antioxidants is to protect your cells against free radicals by giving up some of their electrons, acting as a natural 'off' switch for the free radicals” (Byrdie). Since the skin is exposed to molecules in the air everyday, the damage can build up over time, and lead to premature wrinkles, loss of elastin, increased sun spots, etc.
Dr. Ramesh Surianarayanan, Head of Product, R&D at Foxtale, adds, “When they are left to wreak havoc on our skin, they can lead to premature signs of aging, wrinkles, fine lines, increased inflammation and in some cases even skin cancer. UV rays are the primary agent in causing sunburns and premature aging. They also alter the DNA to cause several mutations that may lead to diseases such as cancer and hyperpigmentation.”
Using antioxidants serve to neutralize the radicals and protect our skin from damage. When choosing an antioxidant, there are different types with various functions, including: brightening your skin, soothing it from irritation, and even reducing fine lines.
Vitamin C for Brightening
For skin brightening, “Vitamin C is known to fix common complexion concerns such as uneven skin tone, rough texture, fine lines, acne scars, and general dullness” (Byrdie).
According to Jennifer Kennedy, a registered nurse in Manhattan’s PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, “Vitamin C works best with fellow antioxidants like vitamin E and ferulic acid, an organic compound found in the cell walls of plants like oats, brown rice, and apples. Vitamin C is also a great addition to your daily sun protection regimen. While SPF protects you from the sun's UV rays, it doesn't protect your skin from free radicals. Pairing an antioxidant like vitamin C with your broad-spectrum sunscreen will make sure your skin is fully protected” (Byrdie).
Polyphenols for Soothing
For soothing the skin, “Green tea is filled with polyphenols that not only scavenge free radicals, but also work as an anti-inflammatory to accelerate wound healing,” says Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, founder of Entière Dermatology, a Manhattan-based dermatology practice.
“A diverse group of organic compounds found in plants and fruits, polyphenols are one of nature's most potent antioxidants” (Byrdie). "There are thousands of polyphenols like resveratrol, green tea, black tea, and these antioxidant powerhouses are great in repairing sun-damaged skin." They also have anti-inflammatory and skin-calming properties, making them an ideal option for easily irritated skin types.
Hyaluronic Acid for Hydration
According to Dr. Mona Gohara, a Connecticut-based dermatologist and associate professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, “Hyaluronic acid [not only boosts hydration but also helps] prevent free radical damage and also stimulates wound healing. It helps reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles while retaining moisture to the skin, creating almost a plumping effect. Often, when skin is protected and hydrated, increased skin cell production will take place, leading to softer, smoother, and more youthful skin.” (Byrdie).
In addition, hyaluronic acid can bind “over 1,000 times its weight in water and is now one of the most notable and sought-after moisturizing ingredients” (Byrdie).
Vitamin A for Anti-Aging
For anti-aging, “Retinol (Vitamin A) helps with cell turnover, stimulates collagen, accelerates cell renewal, and repairs damaged DNA” (Byrdie). However, it does come with a few side effects, and is generally best to ease into your evening routine first with smaller doses (0.25%) before working your way up in strength and frequency. As retinol can be potent and also make your skin more sensitive, if you have sensitive skin to begin with, we would advise against applying Vitamin C and retinol simultaneously as the combination can irritate your skin (Marie Claire).
When you first start to use retinol, if you incorporate it in your morning routine, be sure to apply SPF 35+ after. If you opt for a higher concentration, we recommend you incorporate it in your night routine to start. Since retinol takes some time to show results (up to 3-6 months), you can start using it by first applying it twice a week for a week, three times a week for two weeks, etc.
Often times, many dermatologists will prescribe retinol for anti-aging and other uses, like helping with exfoliation and fading dark spots, sun spots, and hyperpigmentation. "Retinol serums can work on the skin in a few different ways, like stimulating collagen production. It will help to prevent wrinkles from forming while filling out any existing fine lines or wrinkles," says cosmetic chemist and founder of Acaderma, Shuting Hu.
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