The Benefits of Antioxidants

It seems that every skincare company in the marketplace has at least one cream that touts the miraculous effects of its super rich antioxidant formulations. Among the most well-known over-the-counter brands; La Prairie, Lancome, Clarins, Este Lauder, and L’Oreal you will find all that each of them has added antioxidants to their line of skincare products. But what exactly are antioxidants and how do they help prevent lines and wrinkles from forming?

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To understand the benefits of antioxidants we need to first familiarize ourselves with free radicals and their effects on aging.

What are free radicals?
Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons, causing them to be unstable and highly chemically reactive. The first mention of free radicals appeared in the 1950’s as a result of the pioneering research conducted by Dr. Denham Harman. Since then extensive research has been underway at leading medical centers the world over. We now have what is known as the free radical theory of aging (FRTA). This theory of aging states that organisms age because cells accumulate free radical damage over time. Free radical damage is closely associated with oxidative damage, meaning it impairs all the components of the cell including proteins, lipids and DNA. Free radicals have been shown to play a pivotal role in the body’s aging and the formation of disease.

Free radicals and aging
When we’re young, our cells have a defense system known as superoxide dismutase (SOD) that reins in free radicals, but as we get older, SOD doesn’t work as well. That allows the free radicals to impair the formation of our cells. With time the accumulated effects of free radical damage leads to visible signs of accelerated skin aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, laxity, discoloration and even skin cancer.

What causes free radicals?
There are many causes of free radicals. Most notably as they pertain to aging of the skin the unstable molecules associated with free radicals are generated by UV rays, infrared radiation, pollution and lifestyle factors like alcohol and cigarette smoke.

How do we prevent free radical damage?
Sunscreens are the first line of defense and essential for protecting the skin’s surface from the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens with broad spectrum filters will protect the skin against 55% of the free radicals generated by the sun’s rays. Topical antioxidants work in the skin to neutralize free radicals. Incorporating the use of both a sunscreen and antioxidant formulation into your daily skincare regimen provides comprehensive protection from environmental damage.

Which topical antioxidants should I use?
There are five antioxidants found naturally in the body that protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals they are: glutathione, ubiquinone, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), and alpha lipoic acid. Antioxidants work by different mechanisms to stop or neutralize damage. Of the five antioxidants only vitamins C and E have been proven to penetrate into skin. Along with vitamins C and E there are a few plant and marine extracts believed to have antioxidants that can work in the skin.

In selecting topical antioxidants for your daily skincare regime you need to consider three factors:
1. The antioxidant ingredient (vitamin C, vitamin E or proven plant / marine extracts)
2. The concentration (the actual dosage of active ingredients)
3. The formulation (are the active ingredients formulated to penetrate the skin’s layers)

Cosmeceutical Antioxidants
The term designates a class of skincare products that contain higher dosages of active ingredients. The formulation of cosmecuticals are held to stricter standards than department store and over-the-counter skin care products and their benefits claims are supported by documented clinical research. Because of their high level of concentrated ingredients cosmecueticals can only be purchased through a licensed physician typically this class of skincare products can be found at a cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery or dermatology practice.

SkinCeuticals (cosmeceutical antioxidant formulations)
We love this entire line of skincare products owed to their pioneering and continuing research on the effects and treatment of aging upon the skin. In 1997, SkinCeuticals changed the face of skincare with the introduction of Serum 10 and Serum 15, the company’s first stabilized, pure L-ascorbic acid topical antioxidants. Both of these serums were developed utilizing the Duke Antioxidant patent, which means they are proven to deliver a high concentration of active ingredients to the skin’s cells.

Obagi (cosmeceutical antioxidant formulations)
Professional-C highlights the category of skincare products Obagi developed to protect the skin against free radical damage. The line includes serums in concentrations ranging from 10% to 20%, peptide formulations, skin brighteners and sunblock. In clinical studies Obagi Professional-C products have been shown to penetrate both the epidermis and the dermis providing one of the most highly effective anti-aging skincare protocols on the market today.