January 15, 2018Diet and Your Skin

Antioxidants 101: Make These Powerful, Potent Ingredients a Priority in Your Skincare Routine

Antioxidants are absolutely essential when it comes to radiant, healthy skin. Let’s start with what antioxidants do: antioxidants pack a powerful punch to fight free radicals. Free radicals are like bullets or missiles, and they destroy everything in their path. They are highly reactive forms of oxygen whose effects can damage cell membranes and other structures in the body, including DNA and collagen. Free radicals come from both normal metabolic processes such as exercise and respiration, but they also come from external sources such as pollution and the sun. When you are exposed to a lot of free radicals, it means you are suffering from oxidative stress, and too much oxidative stress can lead to premature aging, skin cancer, and chronic skin conditions like acne. The take home message here: we do not like free radicals.

Enter antioxidants! Antioxidants help squelch and neutralize free radicals so they stop them from damaging your skin. Studies show that antioxidants not only slow down the development of wrinkles and age spots, but they also fight against skin cancer and even keep inflammatory skin conditions under control—conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. The take home message here: we love antioxidants!

When it comes to addressing skin conditions, antioxidants are key! For example, because antioxidants help control inflammation, if you’re prone to any skin issue rooted in inflammation- which can mean eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis – they will help relieve those stubborn conditions.

Antioxidants are also proving to be helpful in combating acne. New evidence suggests that free radicals and oxidative stress play a role in the initiation of acne. It is now documented that people with acne tend to have lower levels of cellular antioxidants and higher levels of markers of oxidative damage. We are learning that inflammation is actually one of the very first steps in the acne process. One theory is that free radical damage to skin’s natural oil, or sebum, appears to be a match that lights the inflammatory process. The process is called “lipid peroxidation,” or “sebum oxidation.” If we can stop this process from happening, could we possibly prevent acne from spinning out of control? Based on this exciting new knowledge, I recommend my acne-prone patients in particular make sure they are getting plenty of antioxidants.

And last but not least, numerous studies have demonstrated that antioxidants can slow down or even reverse signs of aging including fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots. They do so primarily by protecting the skin from the ravages of sunburn, inflammation, and DNA damage.

So, it’s clear that antioxidants are important for your skin’s health. But, the question I get all the time in my office is – what’s the best way to get them? Should you use antioxidants topically through skincare products or orally through what you eat?

The answer is: BOTH.

Antioxidants are unstable, and they get used up very quickly, especially if you produce or are exposed to lots of free radicals. So it’s critical to replenish your antioxidant stores both internally and externally morning and night, and even more frequently if you engage in intense exercise, live in an urban center with lots of pollution in the air, or expose your skin to the sun.

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