If you find yourself justifying that fourth glass of wine on a weeknight since it "has antioxidants,” you might be on the right track — especially when it comes to skin care. However, before uncorking another bottle or investing in a product branded with a host of wellness buzzwords, it’s important to understand what antioxidants really are, as well as their impact on your body and consequently, your skin.
What Are Antioxidants & Free Radicals?
As one of the most commonly referenced health properties, we know antioxidants are beneficial for our skin, but how, exactly? Before we delve into the solution they provide, we need to start with the problem: free radicals. Certain environmental factors (air pollution, intense sun exposure) can cause atoms in our body to split, prompting the now-singular electrons to bounce around to find another electron to partner with.
“Molecules strive to have a pair of electrons in their outer shells, so when they lose one electron they become unstable,” explains Dr. Hooman Khorasani, MD, Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgeon. “Free radicals seek to regain this electron by oxidizing other molecules such as the cell’s own DNA, enzymes and proteins.”
Benefits Of Antioxidants For Your Skin
Higher levels of free radicals have been known to contribute to the weakening of our skin’s elasticity. Oxidation affects the body the same way it would rust a car: It accelerates aging. In their quest to re-couple, free radicals wreak havoc on healthy cells, damaging our bodies in the process.
Thankfully, antioxidants exist to stop free radicals in their tracks, without, adds Dr. Khorasani, becoming free radicals themselves. But preventing free radical damage isn’t antioxidants’ only value. In their maintenance of our cell health, they also naturally hydrate and reduce inflammation in our skin.
Types Of Antioxidants
While antioxidants naturally occur in our bodies, we can also up our antioxidant levels with various nutrients. “Products full of antioxidants will provide long-term protection of the skin,” Eminence Organics Lead Skin Trainer Natalie Pergar explains. “Antioxidants benefit … by addressing both external and internal signs of aging by preventing damage from free radicals, reducing surface inflammation and boosting collagen production to keep skin cells plump and youthful.”
Vitamin C is an exceptional antioxidant that can protect our skin from the visible signs of aging, providing a plump and youthful appearance while also improving uneven skin tone. There are many sources of Vitamin C including exotic superfoods such as Kakadu plum, camu camu and passionfruit, as well as more familiar citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruit. Kakadu plum offers the highest concentration of Vitamin C within the fruit family, with more than 100 times the amount found in oranges. Camu camu also gives your skin a burst of this powerful vitamin, providing skin-brightening nutrients and promoting a more even-looking complexion. Alternatively, turn to ordinary citrus fruits for your dose of Vitamin C. Regardless of the source, this powerful antioxidant reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and helps the skin look bright and even.
“All citrus fruits contain naturally occurring levels of Vitamin C, which serves as a powerful antioxidant with boundless benefits for every skin type,” affirms Eminence Organics International Educator Brian Goodwin.
By boosting collagen production and cell regeneration — the frequent targets of free radicals — not only does Vitamin C reduce the appearance of uneven skin tone but smooths skin texture, improving its overall appearance to keep you looking younger, longer. In short: Vitamin C is one of skin care’s most valuable players, or in the words of Natalie, "an all-around [skin] savior.”
A favorite fruit of wellness experts is mangosteen, which, counterintuitively, has nothing to do with mangoes. It earned the title “The Queen of Fruits” from Queen Victoria for its superior taste. This superfruit is also known to be chock full of antioxidants called xanthones that protect cells and prevent environmental damage to the skin. Studies have shown that mangosteen extracts may protect from UV damage that causes fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots and help with the appearance of elasticity in the skin.
Produced naturally and stored by your body as needed, Vitamin E can also be consumed via avocados, almonds, and leafy greens, and is known for its effectiveness against dark spots and protecting the skin from photoaging. It’s also particularly powerful when coupled with Vitamin C for evening the appearance of skin tone.
Like mangosteen, cocoa is also considered an “antioxidant powerhouse," containing antioxidants called polyphenols. “Not only does cocoa smell delicious, it’s rich in antioxidants which work wonders for smoothing your skin,” says Natalie. Polyphenols defend plants against radiation (which translates for us as UV damage). For your complexion, this protection helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, making your skin look more plump, hydrated and rejuvenated.
These natural pigments that protect plants at a cellular level are also responsible for vivid colored plants like strawberries. They're one of the reasons that fruits and vegetables are nutritious, they manage inflammation and help us avoid UV damage and photoaging.
This type of flavonoid is found in foods that appear purple, blue or black, like berries and acai, and is associated with treating a range of illnesses such as high blood pressure and colds. It also slows down photoaging, defends against damage due to sun, stress and pollution, and helps prevent collagen loss.
Another pigment present in red fruits and vegetables (like tomatoes and red currants), lycopene protects plants from light damage and helps manage the environmental impact on our own bodies. Ironically, lycopene actually reduces the redness in our skin caused by UV damage and also fends off photoaging.
As we age, incorporating multiple antioxidant-rich products into your everyday life (as well as a generally more comprehensive daily routine) is vital to ensuring your skin’s longevity. Whether you reach for a Vitamin C serum, slather on an at-home cocoa mask or update your daily smoothie to an avocado-almond milk-mangosteen acai bowl, there are plenty of ways to filter enough antioxidants into your system to stop free radicals in their tracks, and you’ll soon reap the benefits inside and out.
Watch this In The Mix to learn more about the seven antioxidants.
You can also visit an Eminence Organics Spa Partner for personal recommendations and discover how you can incorporate antioxidants in your skin care routine.
This article was originally written in March 2020.