Turns out they do a whole lot more than protect against free radicals
There are perhaps no ingredients better at protecting and improving the overall quality of your skin than antioxidants. In fact, they’re one ingredient category that you can never have too much of. But do you know what antioxidants actually are and the benefits they reap on the skin? If you answered no to both, don’t fret. We spoke to Botanical Chemist at A’kin, Annabelle Personeni to find out.
What are antioxidants?
“Antioxidants are molecules that prevent the oxidation of other fragile molecules by neutralising free radicals and reactive oxygen,” explains Personeni. If that sounds a little confusing, think of when an apple or avocado turns brown – that’s oxidation and antioxidants help inhibit this process from occurring in your skin.
How antioxidants benefit the skin
They protect against free radicals
You don’t see it happening, but your skin takes a daily beating from pollution and environmental aggressors, which can lead to free radical damage such as premature ageing, dull skin tone and a loss of collagen and elastin. While our bodies have developed effective ways to protect ourselves from such damage, “we need additional defense mechanisms that are provided by external antioxidants,” says Personeni.
The biggest benefit of antioxidants involves their ability to protect against these free radicals. Not sure what free radicals are? Essentially, they’re unstable molecules with an odd number of electrons. Electrons like to travel in pairs, so when there is an odd number, one molecule steals an electron from another molecule. The victim molecule then becomes a free radical and sets about stealing another electron for itself, thus setting up a domino effect that ultimately causes cellular damage and premature ageing.
Here’s where antioxidants comes in: Antioxidants can actually donate an electron to a free radical, effectively stabilising it without becoming a free radical itself. In a nutshell, antioxidants act like scavengers on the skin, seeking out free radicals and disarming them.
They brighten the complexion
Select antioxidants have the ability to improve the appearance of dull, uneven skin tone. “Vitamin C in particular has been found to interact with the metabolism of melanin (the dark pigment involved in skin tanning) and therefore helps to brighten the skin,” explains Personeni.
They soothe skin from inflammation
If redness and inflammation are stopping you from reaching your skin goals, then antioxidants may be able to help. “Antioxidants play a major role in soothing the skin, as inflammation processes generate a large amount of reactive oxygen and free radicals. Having enough antioxidants stored in the skin will help reduce the extent of inflammation, and therefore soothe the skin,” says Personeni.
They prevent fine lines and wrinkles
One of the main side effects of free radicals in the skin is premature ageing. This is the case as free radicals are able to trigger “enzymes to attack and degrade elastin and collagen fibres,” says Personeni. “The weakening of these structuring fibres results in wrinkles and sagging skin. By using antioxidant-rich skin care products, it is possible to reduce and even stop the inflammation, hence preventing the degradation of collagen and elastin. It’s important to note however, this is only preventative and will not reverse existing wrinkles.”
The top antioxidants to look out for
While there is no ‘best antioxidant’ per se, it is important to incorporate a range of antioxidants into your routine that all work in different ways. “The best combination we have found is a mix of oil-soluble antioxidants (provitamin A, vitamin E) to protect the lipids of the skin, water soluble antioxidants (like polyphenols from green tea or vitamin C) to enter and protect the water part of our skin cells, and then ideally we like to add thioctic acid (also called a-lipoic acid), which helps regenerate the previous ones and extends their protective power,” notes Personeni.
Her favourite antioxidant-rich product is A’kin’s Oil Control Intensive Sebum Controller as it “contains a really high level of antioxidants, which are there to help prevent the oxidation and thickening of the surface oils in oily skin, which is a major contributor to pimples and acne flare-ups.” We also love Rationale’s new Antioxidant Lipid Concentrate and Go-To Skincare’s Face Hero.
Looking to up your skin care know-how? Then discover five ways to tailor your routine to your exacts needs and discover seven surprising reasons why you keep getting pimples.
What’s your favourite antioxidant skin care product? Let us know in the comments below.
Main image credit: @lilyaldridge
Kate started working for BEAUTYcrew in early 2016, first as a contributor, and was then named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine, and she now works in PR.