Talk to any skincare nerd or a skincare expert, and they’ll tell you – you need antioxidants. As a group of ingredients, they are effective and have plenty of benefits for the skin. The thing is, it can get confusing when faced with a variety of choices.
What are antioxidants, and how do they benefit the skin? Is there a best antioxidant? How should you pick the best antioxidant for your skin type?
What do antioxidants do?
The most notable benefit of antioxidants is they guard the skin against the damage caused by free radicals.
What are free radicals? They are molecules that are missing an electron. While our bodies naturally produce free radicals, we also get exposed to them daily. Free radicals attach themselves to healthy molecules to stabilise and damage them in the process. When this process gets out of hand (meaning our bodies can’t counteract the harmful effects of free radicals), oxidative stress happens. Oxidative stress leads to premature signs of aging. It can cause loss of elastin, hyperpigmentation, or compromised moisture barrier. Antioxidants in your topical products neutralise this process by scavenging free radicals and preventing the damage they cause.
Other notable benefits of antioxidants for the skin include:
• They photoprotect the skin against harmful UV rays by triggering an anti-inflammatory response.
• Antioxidants protect the skin against the effects of extrinsic aging (caused by outside factors like pollution and smoke). Antioxidants work to prevent and repair signs of premature aging that happen with oxidative stress.
• Some antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties that soothe and calm the skin.
• Certain antioxidants speed up the healing process. By soothing inflammation, they allow the skin to repair itself.
• Brightening the skin tone. Skin damage can lead to hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C inhibits tyrosinase. It is an enzyme that stimulates melanin production and can lead to hyperpigmentation.
Is there a best antioxidant?
Antioxidants are a diverse group of ingredients we all need in our skincare routines. Each one has its unique benefits. Some skincare products include several antioxidants in their formula for a boosted effect. While vitamin C is considered the gold standard, some people can’t tolerate it in skincare products. As with everything skincare, it comes back to YMMV (Your Mileage Might Vary) – what works for your BFF might not work for you.
How to pick the best antioxidant for your skin type?
Think about what your skin needs. Are you concerned with the general health of your skin? Do you want something brightening? Or do you need an ingredient to soothe and calm the skin? Maybe your skin is dry and needs extra nourishment.
- Vitamin C is the antioxidant gold standard. It promotes skin health, prevents and treats photodamage, fades post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and protects against oxidative stress. Vitamin C is also an essential component of collagen synthesis.
- Most skin types can reap benefits from including retinol (vitamin A) as a part of a routine. It aids collagen synthesis, minimises the appearance of fines lines and wrinkles, and helps repair sun damage.
- Vitamin E (tocopherol) is best suited for drier skin types because of its moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties. It protects the moisture barrier and prevents TEWL (Transepidermal Water Loss). Research suggests vitamin E can also speed up healing. People with oilier skin and those prone to acne often avoid vitamin E. However, it is a matter of finding a formulation suitable for oily skin. For a powerful antioxidant combo, try products that combine vitamins C and E.
- Vitamin B (Niacinamide) boosts the moisture content of the Stratum Corneum and prevents TEWL. Likewise, it reduces hyperpigmentation and aids ceramide synthesis. Vitamin B minimises the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improves the skin’s elasticity.
- Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant that boosts the production of antioxidants in skin cells and prevents future damage. It improves cellular function and supports fibroblasts (essential for collagen synthesis).
- Coenzyme Q10 not only protects the skin against free radical damage but also promotes collagen and elastin production.
- Green Tea extract is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and photoprotective properties. Sensitive skin will reap the most benefits due to its soothing properties.
What are some of the antioxidants you use in your skincare routine?