The legend of the quest for the Holy Grail is illustrative of the human condition. Humanity has dreamed of finding magic solutions and miracle cures for problems and diseases since the dawn of time. And when it comes to skincare, the same applies. Every few months, the skincare industry comes up with brand-new, often over-hyped products that promise wondrous benefits.
When it comes to skincare and treating skin conditions, there's no "silver bullet." However, some ingredients are more promising than others - and that's the case with today's topic: antioxidants and their benefits for the skin.
So let's take a dive and see what the benefits of antioxidants for the skin are, and how to use them.
A class of substances found both in nature and produced by our bodies, antioxidants are almost specialized in performing very important functions when it comes to our health. In short, and as the name suggests, antioxidants work by acting against "oxidation," a chemical reaction that produces harmful substances called free radicals.
These free radicals roam around our bodies, initiating all sorts of chemical reactions that can cause damage to the healthy cells of any living organism. Free radicals can sometimes even damage the cell's very DNA, causing a condition known as "oxidative stress."
Oxidative stress is responsible for aging our cells and our bodies. But not only that. Oxidative stress can also induce harmful mutations within the DNA of our cells, leading to a number of cancers, including skin cancer. Stopping this process is of paramount importance.
And that's exactly where antioxidants enter the picture.
So what are antioxidants? Well, most of them are actually vitamins. Some of the most powerful antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and many others. When it comes to vitamins for the skin and their antioxidant properties, it's important to note that they perform many functions in our bodies that boost our immune system, regenerate our tissues and skin, and regulate tons of vital processes.
Alongside vitamins, there are other types of antioxidants, such as flavonoids, polyphenols, glutathione, and others. But before we look at specific antioxidants, let's take a look at the best benefits of antioxidants for the skin.
Antioxidants have a number of special benefits, not just for our skin but for our overall health as well. Let's take a look at them.
And not just aging, but its signs as well. As we said above, free radicals can cause a condition known as oxidative stress, which creates oxidative damage and causes the premature aging of our cells.
Of course, the same goes for skin cells and skin care too. Science is working hard to find all the reasons that cause aging and, if possible, stop it or even reverse it. But until that day comes, our best bet in anti-aging is using antioxidants.
As time goes by, our bodies age, and our skin cells become damaged and less efficient at performing their functions. While these processes are not visible to us without a microscope, their effects are visible on our skin in terms of fine lines and wrinkles. These effects are what we know as signs of aging, making our skin brittle, less elastic, rugged, vulnerable, drier, and finally, weaker and more fragile.
And all that is caused by free radical damage. But if we ingest enough antioxidants and vitamins, they will hunt down and eliminate these free radicals.
And what's more, antioxidants and vitamins also prevent the processes which create them. So, if you want to prevent skin aging and even reduce its visible signs, antioxidants are the closest thing to an anti-aging miracle cure in existence.
There are more and more heat waves setting records around the planet. Summers are scorching, and whether you're planning on hitting a nice beach somewhere or just going out for some shopping, the sun's rays will get to you. Barring the use of quality, broad-spectrum sunscreens to prevent photoaging, very little else can protect us from sun damage and prevent sunburns.
Except for antioxidants.
See, among other things, antioxidants possess anti-inflammatory properties too. This means they relax our skin's inflammatory responses, including those aimed at the sun's harmful UVA and UVB radiation.
By toning down our body's inflammatory response, antioxidants reduce the negative effects of sunburn, reducing their appearance, area, and pain. This means if you're stocked up on vitamins and other precious antioxidants, your skin becomes more resistant to the sun's radiation and sunburns.
However, antioxidants alone won't protect human skin from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Remember, if you want healthy skin, never skip sunscreen.
Antioxidants can also help our skin repair itself. This is especially true of some vitamins, like vitamin C and vitamin A, which are the source of a ton of vitamin A analogs, such as retinol, Retin A, Accutane, or other retinoids. Some of these are so powerful that they're routinely used in treating acne and, occasionally, for treating severe acne scars.
Misumi has its own retinol product. Try the Retinol Intense Repair PM Creme today to improve skin elasticity and the appearance of wrinkles.
Vitamin C can stimulate collagen production too. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our body. It makes up most of our joints, connective tissues, and, finally, our skin. It's thought that collagen amounts to a whopping 30% of the total amount of protein in the human body.
But as we age, and as free radicals and environmental factors damage our skin, it gradually loses its amount of collagen. What's even worse is that our skin gradually loses its ability to produce collagen as well. This makes it weaker, more fragile, less elastic, and finally - defenseless.
All of this is another reason we need antioxidant protection for our skin. Antioxidants work by boosting collagen production and can make our skin stronger, more elastic, and much more efficient at repairing itself.
Free radicals don't just damage our cells and their DNA. The chain reactions of oxidative stress can sometimes reverberate far and wide. One such consequence is the hampering of the skin's natural ability to produce melanin - the skin's pigment.
This process is known as melanogenesis, and it's crucial in maintaining our skin tone but also in protecting our skin from the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays. This process, whereby our skin ages quickly, and becomes discolored due to too much exposure to the sun, is known as photoaging. But photoaging really kicks up a gear (or several) when the production of melanin gets thrown out of whack.
When this happens, our skin ends up with different forms of discoloration. An area can be too bright than the surrounding skin, or it can be too dark. Dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone are different variations of discoloration. Something, somehow, has disrupted the production of melanin at a particular patch of skin.
But antioxidants (and most notably vitamin C) can regulate and even inhibit melanin production. This makes topical vitamin C an effective ingredient if you seek to even out your skin tone or make dark patches lighter. You can get your hands on a vitamin c serum (or another antioxidant serum) to introduce into your skin care routine.
Since antioxidants hunt down and rid our bodies of excess free radicals, which can cause cancers, antioxidants can prevent cancer. As we noted above, free radicals can become so rampant that they can throw our entire metabolism out of order, creating a condition called oxidative stress.
During oxidative stress, our bodies can't repair all the damage caused, and slowly but surely, our cells age, our DNA mutates, and our health deteriorates. That's a fertile ground for the appearance of various types of cancer, and it's best to be avoided. But how do free radicals even become so powerful and numerous to cause this state? Well, it's because we didn't have enough multiple antioxidants in our system to begin with.
But moreover, vitamins and other antioxidants can also prevent the processes that create free radicals. Besides boosting our immune system, antioxidants and vitamins play a crucial role in preventing skin diseases and keeping us in top shape. So, take your vitamins, people.
Let's look at some of the best antioxidants for getting youthful skin, no matter your skin texture. After all, not all of them are created equal, and some are more powerful than others. And only a portion of them is present in your typical skincare product.
So without further ado, here are the best antioxidants for the skin.
A lot has been said about this potent antioxidant and its amazing benefits, both for the body and for our skin. Vitamin C is widely used in skin care, but its reputation is well-deserved. It's one of the longest-studied vitamins in the history of mankind, and its effects on our health have also been thoroughly studied. In skincare, vitamin C is mostly used in antioxidant skincare products that aim to lighten up uneven skin tone and dark spots. It also helps stimulate collagen production.
But, a note of caution. Vitamin C is great but very unstable when it comes into contact with the environment. This is especially the case with vitamin C serums, which contain high concentrations of pure vitamin.
The molecular structure of vitamin C is super susceptible to being broken down if it encounters air or light. A mere minute of exposure can make vitamin C ineffective. So to avoid this, you must be mindful of how you handle and store your vitamin C skincare products. Your best bet is to keep them in a cold, dark place. Refrigerating isn't necessary, but a well-closed drawer or a cabinet will do the job.
Several formulas or types of Vitamin C are used in skincare products, such as ester-C or L-ascorbic acid. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, or THD, is, however, the most stable lipid-soluble variant of vitamin C, making it ideal for skincare.
If there were an antioxidant Olympics, vitamin C would get the gold medal, but vitamin A and its many derivatives would nab the silver. One of the most effective and popular types of Vitamin A in skincare is retinol, Retin-A, and other retinoids. In fact, retinoids (such as isotretinoin) are the main active ingredients in some of the most powerful anti-acne medications in existence, such as Accutane. They also help with acne scars.
The small molecular structure of retinol makes it super-effective when penetrating the skin and working its magic on a deeper level. Once it enters our skin, retinol acts as a powerful stimulant for collagen production while helping skin cells repair themselves and grow. These properties make retinol, and Vitamin A, one of the most powerful antioxidants in skincare, often used to reduce wrinkles, repair severe scars, and make your skin look clear and youthful.
Let's continue the theme of the antioxidant Olympics. If vitamin C wins the gold and vitamin A wins the silver, vitamin E takes the bronze medal. While vitamin C and vitamin A both have properties that target specific processes on the skin, such as collagen production, vitamin E and its oils are essential for ensuring the optimal functioning of our organs.
Naturally, this applies to the skin since it's actually the largest organ in the human body. Besides being a strong antioxidant and kicking free radical butt, vitamin E can also accelerate the skin's ability to repair itself. Vitamin E can also serve as a reflective coating over the skin that offers mild protection from sunlight, making it a frequent addition to sunscreens.
Additionally, vitamin E finds use in thick creams, gels, and lotions designed to protect our skin health, regenerate it, and even repair stretch marks.
While not a vitamin as such, resveratrol is still one of the best antioxidants in existence. Often found in the skin of fruits such as grapes, berries, peanuts, green tea extract, and our favorite, red wine, resveratrol is widely abundant in nature and generally used as the main active ingredient in antioxidant supplements.
It's no wonder that resveratrol is found in the outer shells of so many plants. It serves them as a shield, scavenging and destroying free radical pests from the environment, frequently delivered from the sun's strong UV rays, pollution, or insects.
Additionally, resveratrol possesses strong anti-microbial properties, protecting plants from bacterial infections. There is also some indication that resveratrol can combat cancer as well. It is suspected that resveratrol aids the mitochondria and other deep structures within the cells, making our cells healthier and more resistant to damage and harmful mutations.
Ah, the good old days in college. When we could do all-nighters in a row, drink ourselves blind, smoke like a Sultan, and never feel any fatigue or consequences on the skin. So why is this?
The reason is the high presence of a less known but powerful antioxidant called Coenzyme Q10. This substance is abundant in our bodies during our youth, but as we age, its levels gradually begin to drop.
Also known as ubiquinone, Coenzyme Q10 protects our skin from the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, dry skin, and sun damage. Coenzyme Q10 is easily absorbed by the skin, stimulating collagen production, which, as we mentioned earlier, can make our skin healthier and more elastic.
All of these properties make Coenzyme Q10 frequently used in topical antioxidants.
Most of the antioxidants we mentioned up to this point work their magic by entering the deeper layers of our skin. But what about the surface of our skin, also called the epidermis? The epidermis is crucial because it forms what dermatologists call the skin barrier. As the apt name suggests, the skin barrier is the uppermost surface of our skin that protects our bodies against the infiltration of germs, environmental toxins, random microscopic dirt, and of course - free radical damage.
The skin barrier is easily exposed to damage and injuries. This means it needs a lot of help and nutrition to work efficiently and protect us. And as you can guess, the passage of time and age makes the epidermis less efficient. But here is when niacinamide, a powerful antioxidant also known as Vitamin B3, enters the picture.
By having several, but deeply systemic functions, niacinamide (or Vitamin B3) retains our skin's texture while reducing wrinkles and fine lines. Since niacinamide affects the surface layer of the skin, it's often used in treating chronic skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, helping smooth out rough texture.
What makes Vitamin B3 even better is that it's water-soluble, making it suitable for all skin types without causing side effects. Dermatologists often combine niacinamide with vitamin C and vitamin A for an even more beneficial effect on our skin.
Remember resveratrol because it was found in wine? Well, here's another antioxidant that's not only found in wine but in chocolate as well. Polyphenols are plant-derived, coming from a wide selection of fruits and vegetables, most notably green tea and its leaves, and last but not least, cocoa.
Polyphenols contain many beneficial properties, possessing antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even chemopreventive properties.
All of this makes polyphenols one of skincare's favorite supplements since their ingestion not only protects our skin from oxidative stress but also inhibits cancer. If you need even more reasons to enjoy wine or chocolate, now you have them.
Flavonoids are other antioxidants derived from plants. Green and black teas make some of the most common sources of flavonoids, and people who drink these occasionally will have flavonoids in proper amounts.
Flavonoids clean our bodies from free radicals. But flavonoids can also reduce inflammation, which is good for people who suffer from chronic skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis.
Additionally, flavonoids absorb the sun's harmful UV rays, protecting our body from solar radiation and preventing photoaging. Finally, flavonoids also promote the production of collagen, which is necessary for keeping our skin soft and elastic.
We conclude our list of the best antioxidants with glutathione. A lesser-known antioxidant, glutathione serves as a powerful helper in maintaining the health of our internal and vital organs. The brain, the liver, the kidneys, and the skin all need healthy levels of glutathione to be healthy and function properly.
Repairing the cells around the body, glutathione's effects on our skin are better known for its lightening or bleaching properties. Initially considered a side-effect, glutathione's ability to inhibit the production of melanin (melanogenesis) has made it very popular in the skincare and beauty industry.
Its antimelanogenic properties make glutathione the ideal antioxidant for treating dark spots, hyperpigmentation, or other forms of darkening of the skin. Additionally, glutathione rids our skin of toxins and contributes to smoother, silkier skin. As an oral supplement, glutathione can also combat liver disease and serve as a repairman for our other organs.
From keeping our bodies strong to making our skin elastic, clear, and healthy, antioxidants are the closest thing we have to a miracle cure.
There's no need to wait. Tasty fruits, vegetables, and beneficial skincare products are just waiting for us to reach for them. Start a varied diet full of fresh fruits and veg. Or, you can apply them topically in the form of a vitamin C serum or other skin care products. No matter your skin type, whether you have sensitive skin, dry skin, or normal skin, they can help with skin health. And as master Yoda once said, "Do or do not. There is no try."
Unsure where to start? Speak to a board-certified dermatologist for more information.
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne or another type of skin disorder or condition, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.