We all have heard about antioxidants, and know they are present in certain foods and skin care products. But what exactly are they, and how can they affect your skin? In conversation with our senior contributor...
We have all heard about antioxidants, and know they are there in certain skin care products. But what exactly are they, and how can they affect your skin? This is not going to be boring Chemistry-cum-Biology lecture, but we will tell you enough so that the next time you buy a skin care product, you know how to choose one with the right antioxidants. Ready?
So, what are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds which fight and repair damage caused by oxidation. Examples: vitamins (A,C,E), minerals and protein (nutrients and enzymes),
But what is oxidation and why is it bad?
Oxidation is a biochemical process caused by free radicals and unstable oxygen molecules which causes a host of illness like cancer, cardiovascular disease, ageing etc. Antioxidants fight it by slowing or preventing the effect of free radical movement.
Can you say that in English, please?
Sorry that sounded like a biology-chemistry class. Ok, simply: Antioxidants prevent damage from oxidation. Cut apple turns brown after a few seconds: that is oxidation. Reaction with oxygen is oxidation process, and on our skin it shows up as wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, change in texture, dull dehydrated look and moisture loss.
That's better. Do I need to worry?
Show me one person who hasn't experienced the effects of oxidation and I will show you a mermaid. We are continuously exposed to factors that cause/speed up oxidation: sun, pollution, chemicals, the (junk) food we eat, poor hydration and so on. It's therefore a question of: a) staying away from these causes as much as we can, and b) getting help from antioxidants that counteract the effect of these oxidants.
So antioxidants is an elixir for beautiful skin?
Absolutely. You can get antioxidants from variety of natural products, and you can take food supplements, too.
Food rich in Vitamin C like fresh fruits and vegetable and Vitamin E nuts, mangoes, Vitamin A, sweet potato, milk, eggs, resveratrol and flavonoids like green tea, olive oil, chocolate, cinnamons and carotenoids from sources like carrots are very important.
That sounded just like mom!
Thank you, but even eating all this is not good enough your skin as only 2-3% of all this goes to your skin - the rest is taken by other demands of the body. And our outer most skin layer (epidermis) does not have dedicated blood supply to carry antioxidants to itself. So you need to give it little extra treat of anti-oxidant to your skin. And on top of it, constant exposure to sun light and pollution makes skin really needy.
Wow! Didn't know that!
Yes. That’s why topical application of anti-oxidants is important.
Topical means “applied directly to a part of body”. So direct application of anti-oxidants to your skin is very important. Whenever you buy any skincare product - specifically moisturizer, anti-ageing, sunscreen, treatment product, please look for naturally sourced antioxidant ingredients like green tea, berries like sea buckthorn, blueberries and raspberries, cocoa butter (yes, really), citrus fruits, grape seed, pomegranate, turmeric etc. It's a long list but we've selected just a few here.
Why natural sources?
Naturally occurring molecules are "bio-similar" - meaning the skin finds them friendlier and easier to absorb. And they are safer.
To summarize: irrespective of whether you are buying a moisturiser, fairness cream, sunscreen, night cream or any treatment product, look for anti-oxidants from a natural source, and think whether what you are buying makes sense, too.
We will talk about specific goodies in later posts. Till then, get some anti-oxidant goodness for yourself!