If you find yourself justifying that second glass of wine on a weeknight with “the 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, beauty.
What Are Antioxidants And Free Radicals?
As one of the most commonly-referenced health properties, we know antioxidants are beneficial for our skin, but how, exactly? Well, before we delve into the solution they provide, we need to start with the problem: free radicals. Certain environments (read: 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, Chief of Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System. “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
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. Higher levels of free radicals have been known to catalyze illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, even cancer, as well as contribute to faster aging by weakening the skin’s elasticity. 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 naturally-occurring 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.”
A favorite fruit of wellness experts is mangosteen, which, counterintuitively, has nothing to do with mangos. It earned the title “The Queen of Fruits” from Queen Victoria for its superior taste, and the superfruit is also known to be chock-full of antioxidants called xanthones that protect cells, reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and prevent environmental and anti-inflammatory damage to the skin. Studies have shown that mangosteen extracts may protect from UV damage that causes fine lines, wrinkles and age spots and help with the appearance of elasticity in the skin, leaving the complexion looking radiant and replenished. However, the biological activities of this compound are not just antioxidant. It’s also proven to be anti-allergy, anti-bacterial, antifungal and antiviral.
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 skin tone.
Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruit and passionfruit stop cell degeneration with this powerful free radical neutralizer, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as protecting against and healing UV damage (goodbye dark spots!) for brighter skin.
All citrus fruits contain naturally occurring levels of Vitamin C, which serves as a powerful antioxidant with boundless benefits for every skin type
“All citrus fruits contain naturally occurring levels of Vitamin C, which serves as a powerful antioxidant with boundless benefits for every skin type,” affirms Brian Goodwin, Eminence Organics International Trainer.
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 the skin’s 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.”
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.
Find out more about the Mangosteen Collection, powered by antioxidants that improve the appearance of your skin’s vitality and radiance - visit an Eminence Organics partner spa for personal recommendations and discover how you can incorporate antioxidants in your skin care routine.