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What are Antioxidants in Skincare?

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When we’re browsing the aisles of our local pharmacy or supermarket or we’re searching online, when it comes to skin care, there’s an awful lot to choose from. We can be baffled by the array of products promising to combat ageing, banish wrinkles and fine lines and improve our complexions. And that’s just the basics.

Cleansers, toners and moisturisers aside, then we have to contend with all the specialist products on offer, such as exfoliants, serums and primers.

So how do we know what works? As ever, here at Sönd, we believe in the power of science and robust research. After all, we turned to science to develop our range of alkaline skin care products.

Time and time again, we find scientific evidence of the benefits of antioxidants in skin care. But what are they, and what do they do for us?

Here’s our look at antioxidants and how they can benefit the skin.

What is an antioxidant?

To understand what an antioxidant is, we first need to understand what free radicals are. Free radicals are unstable molecules of oxygen that can become damaging to the cells of our body and our DNA, but how are they formed?

For this, we need a little bit of a chemistry lesson…

Every single thing in our body; our muscles, fat, tissues and even our DNA, is made up of thousands of tiny molecules which themselves are made up of even tinier particles called atoms. A molecule of carbohydrate, for example, is made up of atoms of the elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

At the centre of each atom of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, or whatever element, is a cluster of tiny positively charged protons and zero charged, neutral neutrons, with a circle of negatively charged electrons floating around the outside. (Many of us would’ve seen these kinds of circular diagrams at school.) The positive and negative charges balance each other out to make each atom ultimately neutral, and crucially, stable.

Our body metabolises molecules all the time, during digestion, respiration (breathing) and other essential bodily processes. This means that it’s either breaking molecules down into smaller ones or putting them together to make larger ones.

During these essential processes, atoms of oxygen lose electrons from their outer ring, creating ‘free radicals’. So ultimately, it’s careless molecules of oxygen that lose electrons that become free radicals.

These unstable free radical molecules can also enter the body via pollution, smoking, eating processed, fried, fatty, sugary or salty foods and being exposed to UV light from the sun.

Free radicals are extremely unstable and move around the body looking for electrons to steal from neutral, less careless, atoms of oxygen to stabilise themselves. This process eventually causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA molecules.

This can then lead to chronic inflammation which can then become oxidative stress and is surprisingly happening within our bodies all the time. One free radical scavenges an electron from a stable oxygen atom, causing that to become a free radical and so on, causing a chain reaction.

Chronic inflammation can lead to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia. It can also, along with oxidative stress, have an effect on our skin.

Oxidative stress and skin ageing

Oxidative stress plays a major role in the skin ageing process and this is all down to types of unstable oxygen containing molecules called reactive oxygen species, or ROS. ROS can accumulate in the skin over many years caused by a buildup of inflammation and are a type of free radical.

Over time, ROS damage the proteins in our skin called collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are responsible for keeping our skin plump and wrinkle free when we’re young. Think of them as forming a protein scaffold under the top layers of skin.

As we age, we begin to lose collagen and elastin (due in part to free radical damage), which causes the upper layers of skin to sag and droop downwards, between the protein ‘scaffold’ that is left. As it does so, it causes the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

Why do antioxidants benefit skin?

Antioxidants are molecules that help to ‘neutralise’ free radicals by donating their spare electrons, helping unstable free radicals become stable. The more antioxidants in the body, the less chance we have of developing oxidative stress and disease, and of developing the signs of premature ageing - those dreaded fine lines and wrinkles.

Our body produces a certain amount of antioxidants itself, but we can help matters by eating antioxidant rich foods.

The most antioxidant rich foods are fruits and vegetables - each different colour fruit or vegetable contains a different antioxidant. So it’s important to not only eat our five a day, but to also ‘eat the rainbow’. No, not in the form of little, round chewy sweets, but in the form of lots of differently coloured fruits and vegetables.

Green tea, coffee, dark chocolate and even red wine all also contain antioxidants. (But before we all rush out and fill our trolleys with chocolate bars and Malbec, we must remember that these foods should be consumed in moderation, even though they do contain antioxidants. The best free radical busting foods will always be fresh fruits and vegetables.)

Eating these foods will not only help to protect us against free radicals, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress and disease. But it will also help to protect our skin from the effects of oxidative stress for as long as possible.

Fine lines, wrinkling, sagging and drooping is an inevitable consequence of getting older - no one can escape it. But we can delay the effects of ageing by looking after our skin with antioxidants…

What are the different types of antioxidants?

As mentioned above, antioxidants come in many forms. Many of them have really complex names such as resveratrol (found in dark red foods such as red wine, blueberries and black grapes) or cryptoxanthins (found in orange foods such as pumpkins, squashes and mangoes).

Others come under groups of antioxidants, for example, the polyphenols are a group of antioxidants that are found in foods such as cherries, plums and red onions. Luteins are another group of antioxidants found in green foods such as lettuce, kale, broccoli and peas.

Other antioxidants are more well known and include the antioxidant vitamins, vitamins C and E. Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, strawberries and broccoli, and vitamin E rich foods including avocados, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

So we can see what it’s important to eat a variety of differently coloured foods every day.

But the best approach to feeding the skin with free radicals is a double pronged one - that is, feeding it from both the outside and the inside.

Feeding your skin with antioxidants from Sönd

We developed our range of skin care to contain skin supporting plant based ingredients, botanicals and alkalising silica salts.

But we went one further with the addition tocopherol, or vitamin E. We added tocopherol to our Sidekick Day Cream, Midnight Feast Night Cream and our Jump Start Silica Supplements. By using all three you’ll be giving your skin a round the clock antioxidant boost.

Applying our day and night creams to cleansed skin will help to support it from the outside and taking our skin supplements will help to top up the levels of antioxidants in your diet to support the skin from the inside.

Which is exactly what we mean by a double pronged attack!

Other antioxidant benefits to the skin

Antioxidants don’t just benefit the skin by protecting it against the effects of ageing. They also help to protect it against the harsh effects of pollution and the UV rays of the sun.

This means that if you have stressed out, non conformist skin that’s made worse by being outside or by sitting inside an air conditioned or centrally heated room all day, using our skin care products and taking our skin supplements will help to support it from the outside and the inside.

Ideal for those with skin problems such as acne, eczema and rosacea or for anyone looking to treat their skin to an antioxidant boost, support your skin with antioxidants the Sönd way today!

Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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