Antioxidants and free radicals are terms, which over the last few years, have become synonymous with anti-aging skin care. What should you know about them?
* '''Free radicals''' are highly unstable, reactive molecules inside the body that can build up over time damaging cell membranes and tissues resulting in wrinkles. The formation of free radicals is due to exposure to environmental toxins such as smoke and pollution, stress and even sunlight. In short, the older you get, the more collagen in your skin breaks down due to free radical damage, resulting in more and more wrinkles and sagging of the skin.
* '''Antioxidants''', such as vitamin A, E, and C, zinc, selenium, caretonoids and flavonoids, are nutrients that neutralize oxidation and fight free radical damage that occurs inside the body. Antioxidants can be taken orally via food or supplements. Antioxidants are more and more frequently found in skin care products such as moisturizer, which when applied topically, may help protect the skin against further free radical damage.
Research & Debate
Antioxidants are well known to provide health benefits when ingested (See Skin Supplements) and should be your first line of defense against aging along with a well-balanced diet. There is much debate though over whether or not antioxidant products applied topically can produce the same benefits. It is mostly agreed that topical application can protect the skin and supply it with larger than average doses of antioxidants that will absorb into the skin and remain there for several days. While this sounds great, the problem still remains that in order to have this effect on the skin, the antioxidants must be formulated in the perfect concentrations and in such a way that they remain perfectly stable.
Below is a description of the three main antioxidants that you should consider including in your anti-aging skin regimen. Other, more trivial ingredients include green tea (polyphenols), aloe vera, rosa mosqueta, kinetin, hyaluronic acid, alpha lipoic acid and fruit acids.
: Vitamin C, a common vitamin found in cosmetic products, is an antioxidant meant to strengthen and even promote the production of the skin's collagen. The most important factor in choosing antioxidant vitamin C products is making sure that the vitamin C is in L-ascorbic acid form, which is the only truly effective form of the vitamin. Do not buy products that use ascorbyl palmitate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, which do nothing to affect collagen. Also be certain that the product you are buying is sealed in an air-tight container that is dark or opaque so that it cannot be affected by sunlight.
: Vitamin E is a major antioxidant and emollient known for protecting against cancer, promoting a healthy heart and healing scars among other things. Since it cannot be produced by the body it must be supplied via food or supplements. It is also known to be very effective when applied topically. Note that it belongs to the tocopherol family of drugs and that many beauty products will claim to contain tocopherol although it is often artificial. Only the natural form of vitamin E is acceptable as an efficient antioxidant.
: Copper Peptides are considered to be a potentially powerful antioxidant which has properties that can heal and protect the skin from environmental damage. Peptides contribute to improving the skin's elasticity, stimulating collagen formation and elastin production. (Note: Copper peptides and Vitamin C skin care products can not be used simultaneously or they nullify the effect of each other. Simply use at different times of the day.)
: Vitamin A (beta-carotene) is a retinoid and a deficiency of this vitamin leads to dry skin. Not only does it play a part in healthy skin, but it also performs a variety of other functions in keeping the body healthy from vision to bone growth and even your immune system.'''''' '''''
Choosing Antioxidant Products
# Topical antioxidants can be very pricey, costing as much as $600 (think of the 1.4 ounce Kanebo Sensai Premier The Cream)sans. Only you know how much is realistically within your budget and how much you are willing to spend on a beauty product that may or may not be worthwhile.
# Stick to common antioxidants that are known for their efficacy, such as vitamin E, C and selenium, and leave the less researched ingredients alone, especially if they cost an arm and a leg.
# Opt for moisturizers and serums rather than cleansers. Since they are able to absorb into the skin completely, you can be sure that the antioxidants will have time to work. Cleansers on the other hand are just going to get washed off.
# In order to select an effective product, make sure that the concentration of the active antioxidant ingredient is identified.