Antioxidants: We know you’ve heard of them. They’re in your diet and supplements, and you probably learned about them in science class. While antioxidants are known for building your immunity and helping your overall health, they are also great for your skin. So if you’re new to this set of powerful, health-loving ingredients, here’s your much-needed crash course on antioxidants, how they work, and why you need them in your skincare routine.
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Sorry for the impromptu chemistry class, but to understand antioxidants, we need to understand some pesky molecules called free radicals. Healthline explains that free radicals are molecules containing “an uneven number of electrons.” This uneven number renders the free radicals unstable.
As a result, free radicals react with surrounding molecules and take up their electrons to become stable. The problem is when this happens, it causes damage to your cells and their membranes. Antioxidants are primarily rich in electrons, and as such, they stop cellular damage by giving the free radicals what they desperately need: electrons. Thus, the free radicals can leave your body’s cells alone. Chemistry class is over.
Now, where do these harmful free radicals come from anyway? Good question. The answer is they’re all around us and even within us, with major sources including pollution, lifestyle choices like cigarette smoking, and the sun’s UV rays.
UV rays and air pollution, both environmental aggressors, produce free radicals that react with the molecules on the surface of your skin, causing inflammation. Prolonged exposure to the sun also causes hyperpigmentation and duller-looking skin.
But antioxidants, as medical aesthetician Allie Summers explains, “neutralize free radicals to protect your skin from damage from pollutants and other environmental aggressors.
They promote collagen growth, brighten skin tone, and can even make your sunscreen more efficacious” (per Tribeca MedSpa). Used together with adequate amounts of sunscreen, antioxidants like vitamins B, C, and E in particular are great for protecting and brightening the skin, and reducing inflammation (per Dr. Sylvia Skincare).