When it comes to skin care, we are told to use products that are rich in antioxidants and to consume antioxidant-rich foods. Our skin is exposed to environmental influences 24/7, especially sun’s UV rays, and it is prone to damage that only speeds up the aging process and creates many other problems such as skin dryness, oiliness, hyperpigmentation, you name it.
Antioxidants are considered the kings of skin care, compounds that protect skin and make us look younger at the same time, but how do they work? Are antioxidants really good for our skin? Scroll down to learn more about oxidative damage to skin and the role of antioxidants.
What Is Oxidative Damage?
The term oxidative damage is mentioned a lot, but what does it really mean? As you can already imagine, it has a lot to do with free radicals. A free radical is defined as any molecular species that is capable of independent existence and contains an unpaired electron in an atomic orbital.
Free radicals tend to be unstable and they are highly reactive. Due to the fact they can “donate” an electron to other molecules or accept one from them, free radicals act as oxidants. Their reactive nature makes free radicals harmful. For example, they can damage proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, DNA.
According to the study from the Pharmacognosy Review, free radicals and other reactive oxygen species are a result of metabolic processes in a human body or they come from external sources such as UV rays, ozone, cigarette smoking, air pollution, and industrial chemicals.
Opposite to free radicals, we have antioxidants, molecules that are stable enough to donate an electron to free radicals, and thus neutralize their capacity to induce damage.
Oxidative damage occurs when the balance between free radicals and antioxidants is impaired. Basically, your body has way too much free radicals and insufficient level of antioxidants to neutralize their harmful effects. Oxidative stress and damage that occurs due to its effect can contribute to the development of many health conditions, but they also affect your skin.
How Does Oxidative Damage Affect Your Skin?
Oxidative damage to the skin can occur in a number of ways, but it is primarily caused by exposure to environmental influences like pollution, food preservatives, cigarette smoke, and sun’s damaging UV rays.
Oxidative stress speeds up natural aging process which is why you notice fine lines and wrinkles on your face in your late 20s or early 30s. Further, in the post, you’re going to see aging isn’t the only consequence of oxidative stress.
Evidence shows that skin aging is determined by different factors such as genetic, ecological, hormonal changes, and intensity of metabolic processes. As you age, skin becomes thin, pigmented, dry, and it loses its elasticity.
In addition, the largest organ of your body experiences protein degradation and breakdown of collagen production. Collagen is abundant in skin connective tissue when it depletes your skin tends to sag and lose* its smoothness and firmness. The leading cause of these aging-related changes is oxidative stress.
Even though our body (including skin) contains antioxidants, the level of free radical formation exceeds their capacity. This primarily happens due to exposure to UV rays which penetrate deep into skin’s layers and break down elastin fibers and collagen, while accelerating the formation of age spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of aging.
As mentioned above, effects of oxidative damage go beyond skin aging, they also extend to the development of cutaneous diseases and disorders, according to the study from the Antioxidants and Redox Signaling. Free radicals and other reactive oxygen species also play a role in skin cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in the world.
These findings only confirm the severity of damage induced by free radicals and demonstrate the consequences go beyond fine lines and crow’s feet; they contribute to common skin diseases that people struggle to manage.
How Antioxidants Fight Oxidative Damage?
Antioxidants are popular in skin care and you’ve probably come across suggestions to increase* consumption of foods rich in antioxidants or to use products that contain these compounds in order to make your skin appear healthier and youthful.
These compounds aren’t reactive like free radicals and they work by neutralizing them and their potential to induce oxidative stress and damage. Basically, antioxidants tone down the ability of free radicals to cause some serious damage
A study whose findings were published in the Journal of Dermatological Science the use of antioxidants is an effective approach to prevent symptoms associated with photo-induced aging of the skin. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology featured a study which compared the presence of antioxidants on UV radiation in mice.
After the exposure to sun radiation, scientists discovered that UV light is more damaging to antioxidant defenses in the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) than in dermis. Many other studies confirmed that exposure to UV rays leads to oxidation of cellular biomolecules that could be prevented with antioxidant treatment.
In response to oxidative damage, the skin has developed a strong yet complex antioxidant defense system, but to prevent an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, it is important to consume antioxidant-rich foods and apply them topically, as mentioned above in the article.
For example, vitamin C functions as a potent antioxidant that increases* collagen production, protects the skin against damage from UVA and UVB rays, corrects pigmentation problems, and improves* inflammatory skin conditions. Other important antioxidants from food include vitamins A and E, Omega-3 fatty acids, and green tea polyphenols.
While antioxidants are frequently mentioned in terms of skin care and youthful appearance, little is known about their underlying mechanisms. Studies show that antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to skin, but it is important to carry out more research on this subject in order to understand all the ways antioxidants use to protect our skin.
Intake of antioxidants through diet and topical application in the form of skin care products helps reduce* oxidative stress and damage, minimize the appearance of signs of aging, and it aids management of different skin diseases.
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