Oxidative Damage from Free Radicals
Oxidative damage plays a major role in the aging process in every part of the human body, and the skin is no exception.
To understand how this process affects the skin, we must first understand how our skin naturally ages. Then we can explore how the formation of free radicals negatively impacts the appearance of the skin. Finally, we will discuss proactive solutions to mitigate the damage that occurs during this process.
Young Skin vs. Old Skin
As we age, our skin begins to lose its natural resilience, softness, and smoothness. With time, the epidermis of the skin (upper layer) begins to thin out and dry out. The cell turnover rate slows down, and dead cells pile up, giving the skin a rough texture. Melanocytes (pigmented cells) increase in size, giving rise to age spots. Collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis (middle layer of skin) become thinner and damaged, and the skin’s ability to repair them decreases, causing sagging and wrinkling. The fat in the hypodermis (bottom layer of skin) shrinks, leading to lines, folds, volume loss, and drooping.
These are the changes that lead to the visible signs of skin aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, rough texture, pigmentation, uneven tone, dry skin, thin skin, and volume loss.
One factor that can significantly contribute to the skin’s aging process is oxidative damage from free radicals. As you will see, there are certain proactive measures you can take to reduce this factor. But first, let’s explore how this natural process works and how it affects our skin.
What are Free Radicals?
To understand oxidative damage, we need to delve a little bit into chemistry and learn about molecules called free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that have an odd number of electrons. In other words, free radicals have an unpaired electron. This is a problem as the unstable or “free” molecule will begin to look for other electrons in the skin to even (or balance) itself out again. This process creates stress on a molecular level, which is where the term “oxidative stress” comes from and leads to oxidative damage.
What is Oxidative Damage, and What Does it do to the Skin?
Once a molecule becomes unstable, the search for another electron becomes the ultimate goal. This goal leads to oxidation. The classical chemistry definition of oxidation is “oxidation occurs when an atom, molecule, or ion loses one or more electrons in a chemical reaction.” Like most things in life, the free radical will take the path of least resistance and target something abundant in your skin like H2O (water). The “O” in the chemical structure of water is oxygen and is a prime target for free radicals to steal their extra electron. This process attacks healthy cells and starts a cascade of internal processes that causes damage to the skin.
How do Free Radicals Form? How do They Contribute to Skin Aging?
Free radicals are generated as byproducts of normal cellular functions in the human body. It is a simple fact of life that this process happens. However, the goal should be to minimize these effects whenever possible. Furthermore, free radicals can also originate from exposure to external sources like UV radiation, X-rays, cigarette smoke, pesticides, and air pollutants.
So, as you can see, we have both internal and external factors contributing to an overall increase in free radicals, specifically on the skin surface.
How Can We Fight Oxidative Stress?
We can fight oxidative stress by reducing our exposure to free radicals. Some of this is within our control, such as quitting cigarettes, eating foods free of pesticides, and protecting our skin from UV rays in sunlight.
The other way to combat oxidative damage is through antioxidants. Antioxidants are natural molecules found mostly in plant-based foods that neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Skincare products that contain antioxidants can reduce the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species and free radicals and slow down or even reverse the effects of skin aging.
Which Antioxidants in Skincare Work Best?
Antioxidants in skincare products provide protection from oxidative damage caused by environmental free radicals, such as those generated by UV rays, air pollutants, chemicals, etc. By scavenging free radicals, antioxidants help to prevent and reverse visible signs of aging, giving the skin a youthful radiance.
Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C
There are many different antioxidants, some more powerful than others. A favorite among dermatologists is vitamin C, which is a very effective free radical scavenger. Plus, vitamin C also boosts collagen formation in the skin and helps fade dark spots.
Niacinamide or Vitamin B3
Another potent antioxidant is niacinamide or vitamin B3, which helps to improve the skin’s tone and texture and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Niacinamide also strengthens the skin’s barrier and calms inflammation, thereby soothing breakouts and reducing redness.
Alpha-Tocopherol or Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a widely recognized antioxidant that helps to speed up the skin’s healing process. It is a common ingredient in skincare products because it also helps to reduce dryness.
Retinol or Vitamin A
This is an antioxidant that is proven to turn back the clock on skin aging. Vitamin A has a small molecular structure that allows it to penetrate deep into the skin, where it stimulates collagen formation and cell renewal.
This is a powerful free radical scavenger that also has anti-inflammatory properties. Ferulic acid plays a protective role for many skin structures, including collagen and elastin. It also prevents melanogenesis (pigment formation) and helps fade sun spots and age spots.
What is the Best Antioxidant Skin Product?
It is difficult to determine the “best” antioxidant product because everyone’s skin is unique. However, we love C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid skin serum that contains powerful antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid. This day serum is suitable for dry, sensitive, and normal skin types.
It is an advanced skin serum with a patented formula that is clinically proven to reduce oxidative damage by neutralizing free radicals generated by UV radiation, ozone pollution, and diesel exhaust.
This is a skin serum that provides superior environmental protection. It will improve your skin’s appearance by reducing fine lines and wrinkles, increasing firmness, and brightening your skin’s complexion. The result? Visibly smoother and softer skin that is firmer has a more even tone and texture and a youthful glow.
We hope this article has helped you better understand how free radicals form and damage skin cells. More importantly, we hope it has given you the information to act proactively to reduce the amount of oxidative damage to your skin. As always, we are available to answer any skincare question in our Skin for Life Boutique!
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