If you’ve been paying attention, or even if you haven’t, the word “Antioxidants” is used to tout everything from coffee to wine to shampoo and lotion. It’s become something that is used so often, you might not even pay attention any more – but you should!
First, what exactly are anti-oxidants? If you break down the word you get “anti” (against) + “oxidants” (an oxidizing agent) = something that is against oxidizing agents. Not real helpful, huh? Okay, we’ll try to explain without having to break out the old chemistry books. When cells use oxygen, they break them down into something called “free radicals” (another buzz word) which are highly reactive. Free radicals are atoms or molecules containing unpaired electrons, and electrons, like most humans, really like to be paired up. Lonely electrons can be dangerous. They might steal an electron from another cell (one of your healthy skin, heart, or brain cells!) which then makes that cell a free radical. One free radical won’t do much, but get a bunch of them together,and a chain reaction can cause serious damage!
Luckily, we have antioxidants, and antioxidants are givers. They are able to give a lonely free radical one of their electrons and remain stable (they don’t turn into free radicals). Scientists say this protects your cells from giving up their own electrons, and keeps every one balanced. While there is still tons of research being done on free-radicals, antioxidants, and how we can stop damage and aging, the general consensus is antioxidants are good when used correctly (you can have both too much or too little of a good thing).
Used topically (on your skin) antioxidants like Vitamins A, C and E, CoQ10, Selenium, flavanoids (like green tea and chocolate!) and Alpha-lipoic acid, can help protect your skin from damage from all of the oxidizing agents we encounter every day from the sun, pollution, and our our natural aging process. Not just any product claiming to have these ingredients will help, though. Most over the counter skincare is not going to give you the full benefits these ingredients offer because the concentrations are not high enough, or because the wrong form of the ingredient is used, or because the product is not stable to sustain the efficacy. There’s only so much they can put into a drugstore moisturizer and keep it at $10, after all.
To get the full benefits of antioxidants in your moisturizers or serums, look for a professional brand sold by estheticians or dermatologists. Professional products are more expensive because they have higher concentrations of the good stuff, and fewer fillers that don’t offer any benefits, plus they are stabilized which means the product will absorb better, and they are usually full of other good stuff your skin likes. (Here are Plum Natural Nail and Skin Spa, we love Beyond C and Ultimate Antioxidant Cream, both by Hylunia).