By Trisha Malhotra
When you slice an apple and wait twenty minutes, what happens? The 5th-grade answer is that it turns brown. The 12th-grade answer is unstable free radicals in the air attempt to bond with molecules in the apple resulting in a process called oxidation due to which the apple browns in color. This process occurs as a chain reaction, spreading across the healthy apple cells the longer they are directly exposed to air. But nobody cares about apples turning brown. How is this even related to skin? Guess what? This is pretty much the exact same process as aging. Sorry for the gross metaphor.
There are ‘naturally produced’ free radicals in our bodies that tend to be detoxified by our body as well. Exposure to pollution, UV rays, cigarette smoke, and other chemicals increases our contact with free radicals. When there is an overload of free radicals in our system, this causes oxidative stress. In other words, there is an imbalance between the ability of the body to detoxify the harmful effect of free radicals, relative to the amount that is currently being produced. Oxidative stress is responsible for premature aging, age spots, blotchy skin tone, breakouts, and more.
Fortunately, it's been scientifically verified that including antioxidants in your diet or skincare can help your skin combat the damage from free radicals, and recover from oxidative stress. How?
How do antioxidants work?
We’ve understood that free radicals float around looking to steal electrons from healthy cells. If they rob the electrons from functioning cells, oxidation occurs and the cells lose some or all of their functionality. Antioxidants are essentially philanthropists. They operate by generously donating electronics to hungry free radicals. However, like true altruists, antioxidants expect nothing in return. So they avoid turning into electronic scavenging substances themselves. Hence, they safely neutralize the damaging free radical chain reaction that can break down proteins, DNA, lipids, and more.
What does this mean for your skin?
- Prevents early signs of aging: Oxidative stress triggers inflammation, hinders the skin’s natural ability to repair itself, and breaks down collagen. Antioxidants scavenge these free radicals to help prevent these visible signs of aging.
- Prevents sun damage: Photoaging or aging from UV exposure is invisible but quite detrimental to your skin’s long-term health. Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory meaning they blunt the inflammatory response your skin has when exposed to UV rays. This prevents sunburn, photoaging, and other forms of sun damage.
- Helps the skin repair itself: The skin’s renewal process is compromised when it is inflamed. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants give the skin a chance to heal itself and correct any visible damage.
- Even skin tone: Free radical damage can also trigger changes in the production of melanin (responsible for your skin’s tone). When melanin is produced in a concentrated area, you observe a dark spot on your skin. Alternatively, you could have patches on your skin where there is more melanin being produced relative to other areas. When photoaging is combated, melanin production evens out.
So consider antioxidants to be the real superstars for your skin. You could add a vitamin C serum to your nighttime skincare routine. Or you could simply eat more fruits and veggies. Plant extracts are also known to be highly potent sources of antioxidants that help everything- from sun damage to DNA repair. Learn more about your skin on the Boring Pills website.