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Antioxidants and our skin

Antioxidants and skin – colours of the rainbow

We continue with our Inflammation series, and today focus on antioxidants in skincare products, and food. We touched on their anti-inflammatory action in our last post.

So, what are antioxidants and do we need them in our skincare products and food?


What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are the little soldiers who protect our body and skin from free radicals. Free radicals are created by normal body and skin functions (metabolism), and also when exposed to environmental factors such as pollution and UV (oxidative stress). We naturally have an army of antioxidants waiting to pair up with the free radicals and neutralise their damaging impact, both on skin and in our body.


Why do we need them in our skincare?

As we get older, our natural army of antioxidants reduces, whilst the creation of free radicals increases. Our army of antioxidants need help, otherwise the free radicals will cause damage to the structure of the membranes which protect cells, to lipids (natural fats), and protein (keratin, elastin, collagen), resulting in a weakening of skin barrier. A weakened skin barrier can lead to the triggering or exacerbation of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, as well as lines and wrinkles from forming more easily. The help can also come from antioxidants in food.


Common antioxidants to look for in skincare

Antioxidants in skincare are derived from plants. When we are told to eat the colour of the rainbow with fruit and vegetables, it is their combined antioxidant action that we are looking to harness in our diets. In skincare, common antioxidants are phenolic compounds such as polyphenols, vitamins such as A, C, D (we can produce this ourselves in skin), and E, and carotenoids (what gives tomatoes, carrots, peppers, etc their colour).

Plant based products and oils, both in our diets and in our skincare provide a rich source of antioxidants which our body and skin can use to protect against damaging free radicals, reducing inflammation, and strengthening the skin barrier. And the closer the plant is to its natural state, the more accessible the antioxidants are to us. Healthy and strong skin looks and feels supple and elastic.



Antioxidants in dermatologyAn Bras Dermatol. 2017

Antioxidants used in skin care formulationsSkin Therapy Lett. 2008

Natural antioxidantsJ Drugs Dermatol. 2008

Antioxidants from Plants Protect against Skin PhotoagingOxid Med Cell Longev. 2018

An overview about oxidation in clinical practice of skin agingAn Bras Dermatol. 2017

Antioxidants: In Depth, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health


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