Fighting free radicals with super-facialist, Abigail James
In the skincare and wellbeing industry, ‘antioxidants’ and ‘free radicals’ are words that are used a lot. Antioxidants appear in skincare products, and fruit and veg are packed with them, so they must be good – but what are they actually doing?
Let’s start with free radicals, the bad guys. To give a little scientific insight, free radicals are unstable molecules that are searching for their missing part (otherwise known as an electron) to restore balance. They do this in the body by attaching to the nearest healthy cell and stealing an electron from them. Rather than balancing themselves, they destabilise the healthy victim cell, creating another free radical, and so the process continues, resulting in damaged tissue, premature ageing and other ongoing side effects.
The body needs some free radicals to help fight off bacteria, however, an excessive amount is something to be avoided, which is tricky when they exist in our everyday environment in such abundance. Free radicals in the air we breathe and many materials in our surroundings, as well as in the usual offenders – pollution, UV light and smoking.
I like to see antioxidants as the calm mediator cells. They are stable molecules with the ability to donate a calming electron to the unstable free radicals, a little like a chill pill to rebalance, while also maintaining their own composure and balance. Our body naturally produces antioxidants, and its ability to do so, like with many things, relates to our genetic makeup and lifestyle. The food we eat and skincare ingredients high in antioxidants provide an essential daily source.
Personally, I feel there is not one ‘holy grail’ antioxidant. Each has its own strengths, and when a combined approach is adopted you get the best results. If you want results from your skincare, and really support the skin ageing process, then including antioxidants in your daily skincare routine is essential. Some of my favourite skin-loving topical antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, resveratrol, vitamin A, B vitamins, beta-carotene, niacinamide and green tea.
Most plants have some antioxidant content; it’s about utilising the power of these types of ingredients and ensuring that high percentages of antioxidants in formulations will remain active and able to deliver into the skin. Not all antioxidant skincare is formulated the same, and many degenerate when exposed to air. Vitamin C is one of the most effective but also the most unstable, and will lose its strength if not formulated well and stored correctly.
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