Antioxidants are a must-have addition to your skin care routine. By targeting free radicals, antioxidants can provide all kinds of skin care benefits. First, let’s dissect exactly what free radicals are and how they work: Free radicals are unstable molecules missing an electron. To gain stability, they search for electrons from healthy cells, which causes healthy cells to turn into radicals themselves, resulting in a never-ending vicious cycle.
Though our bodies naturally produce free radicals, other environmental factors like UV light, pollution, your diet, and cigarette smoke can generate free radicals. Sometimes we can even inadvertently add additional free radical stress to our skin by being overly aggressive with our products or routine. That’s all to say: Free radicals can come from a lot of places.
An overload of free radicals causes oxidative stress, which results in a breakdown of collagen, an obstruction to the skin’s natural repair process and inflammation. It can also weaken the skin barrier and disrupt your skin microbiome. This all may result in aesthetic indicators like discoloration, sagging, flare-ups, acne, fine lines, and more.
That’s when antioxidants step in to lend a hand. “Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidation,” board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., says.
What does this mean in practice? “It’s basically a substance that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals,” board-certified dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in NYC Orit Markowitz, M.D., explains. “Antioxidants are things that interact with free radicals, and they sort of decrease these free radicals on our skin, creating a healthier environment.”
With antioxidants’ help, skin can improve its texture, tone, and all-around health by targeting everything from fine lines to acne to dullness.