What are free radicals and antioxidants?

You might have heard the term free radicals being chucked around in the skincare world. But what, exactly, does this mean? Without getting too science-y, they’re unstable atoms that cause damage to our bodily cells. 


Essentially, free radical molecules have an electron missing from their outer shell. Therefore, they’re always on the hunt for other atoms or molecules with which they can pair to make them stable. This process leads to oxidative stress, which weakens cells.


The best way to envisage this is to think about what happens when you leave a cut apple or potato out on the kitchen counter. What happens? It turns brown, which is an example of free radical-caused oxidation.


When it comes to our skin, free radicals accelerate the signs of aging. Unfortunately for us, free radicals are all around. From air pollution and sunlight to lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol, there are many ways you can be exposed to free radicals.


Seeing as avoiding free radicals entirely is nigh on impossible, what can we do to protect our skin from damage? Enter antioxidants.


What are antioxidants?


The clue is in the name. Antioxidants are molecules that can donate an electron to a free radical without destabilizing. As such, they stabilize the free radical, thus neutralizing it so that it can’t cause further damage.


Including antioxidants in your routine is easy. For instance, eating a diet rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries, green tea, and dark chocolate, can help combat free radicals.


Our bodies naturally produce antioxidants, but as we get older, our repair processes don’t work as well. Therefore, we can apply antioxidants directly to the skin to help protect it.


There are two types of antioxidants: direct and indirect. Direct antioxidants stop free radicals in their tracks before they cause damage. Indirect antioxidants, on the other hand, repair molecules that free radicals have already damaged.


You’ll find antioxidants in a range of skincare products. Some essential antioxidant-containing ingredients to look out for are Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, Niacinamide, Ginkgo biloba, and Melatonin. Serums are a good bet because they’re more potent, helping to deliver a higher concentration of active ingredients. It’s also recommended to use an antioxidant-containing product both in the morning and at night to maximize the fight against free radicals.


Do you want to launch a skincare line rich in antioxidants to help your customers combat the damage caused by free radicals? We can help. Get in touch to find out more.

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