Antioxidants in SkinCare: How Do They Work?
According to board-certified dermatologist Rhonda Klein of Connecticut Dermatology Group, “Antioxidants protect the skin by limiting free radical production, which can damage the skin. With daily use, they can reduce lentigines (sun spots), help combat visible signs of aging and calm skin inflammations. Several antioxidants provide the skin with hydration and increase moisture retention to help revitalize dull-looking skin.”
Free Radicals and Antioxidants
Free radicals play a dual role in our body that can be both beneficial and harmful. Our body purposely creates free radicals to neutralize viruses and bacteria. However, too much of it affects the DNA, lipids and proteins that can trigger diseases. These free radicals are unstable, highly reactive molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons. To gain stability, they attack stable molecules, triggering a chain reaction that damages healthy cells. Once an overload of free radicals is present in our system, it causes oxidative stress, or an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects.
Environmental factors like radiation from the sun, pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and other toxic chemicals are also known to trigger the formation of free radicals. Fortunately, studies have shown that the inclusion of antioxidants in your skin care regimen can help your skin fight free radical damage and recover from oxidative stress.
The 5 Main Benefits of Antioxidants for Your Skin
Antioxidants help correct signs of age.
Oxidative stress breaks down collagen, hinders skin’s natural repair process and triggers inflammation—and you see these as fine lines, wrinkles, loose skin, acne breakouts and a blotchy skin tone. By scavenging free radicals, antioxidants can help prevent and correct these visible signs and give skin a more youthful glow.
Antioxidants help prevent sunburn.
“By definition, all antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties,” explains dermatologist Ashley Magovern, “They blunt your skin’s inflammatory response to the sun’s harmful rays, preventing sunburn and providing enhanced protection against sun damage and photoaging.”
Antioxidants help skin repair itself.
Inflamed skin impedes the skin’s rejuvenation process. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants allow skin to repair itself and correct visible damage. “Some antioxidants, like vitamin C, can also stimulate collagen production, which is vital for youthful skin,” adds Dr. Magovern.
Antioxidants help brighten skin tone.
Free radicals and frequent sun exposure can also trigger changes in our skin’s melanin production, causing dark spots and uneven skin tone. By reducing photodamage, antioxidants can help prevent abnormal skin pigmentations. Some antioxidants (again, like vitamin C) also work as a tyrosinase (an enzyme that stimulates melanin production) inhibitor.
Antioxidants may help prevent skin cancer.
Some antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, have anti-carcinogenic properties and may help prevent skin cancer.
The Best Antioxidants for Your Skin.
Antioxidants aren’t all cast in the same mold. While they’re all designed to protect the cells from UV light, pollution and other environmental elements that produce damaging free radicals, some are found to be more potent than others. Here are just some of the most popular antioxidants found in your skin care products:
√ VITAMIN C
A favorite among dermatologists, vitamin C is one of the most studied antioxidants available on the market. Other than being a free radical scavenger, vitamin C has other skin benefits, like boosting collagen production and fading dark spots. But beware, vitamin C is inherently unstable and can lose its potency when exposed to light or air. “It’s probably best to store it in a cool, dark drawer or cabinet,” advises Dr. Magovern. “Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, or THD, is a form of vitamin C that is inherently more stable, and it’s lipid soluble, which means that it can better penetrate into the deeper levels of the skin to stimulate collagen production. Some prefer this formulation, which tends to be a bit velvety and creamy rather than serum-like.” Other forms of vitamin C include L-ascorbic and ester-C.
If there’s one anti-aging ingredient that’s been proven time and time again to help turn back the clock on aging skin, it’s retinol. A derivative of vitamin A, this ingredient is particularly effective due to its small molecular structure, giving it the ability to penetrate deep enough into the skin that it can effectively stimulate collagen production and accelerate cell renewal and repair, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin tone in the process. Whether it’s the over-the-counter or prescription-strength kind (tretinoin), retinol is a powerful antioxidant for fighting environmental aggressors that cause premature skin aging.
√ VITAMIN E
Vitamin E is an important vitamin required for the proper function of many organs in the body, including the skin. Aside from being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is widely recognized for its ability to accelerate the skin’s healing process. No wonder it is often found in moisturizers, creams and lotions formulated to treat dry skin as well as products designed to reduce stretch marks.
A chemical compound found mostly in the skins of fruits like grapes and berries, peanuts, tea and red wine, resveratrol serves as the plant’s defensive armor. It’s an antimicrobial substance produced by plants to protect themselves from air pollution, infection, intense UV radiation and extreme climate changes. Some studies also vouch for its cancer-fighting abilities. As for how this antioxidant does this may have something to do with the way it boosts the activity of mitochondria, the cells’ powerhouses, promoting longer cell life in the body.
Ever wondered how you used to pull an all-nighter with no hint of fatigue on your skin the next day? Well, thanks to the abundant supply of coenzymeQ10 or coQ10 in your body, those late nights didn’t take a toll on your skin—back then that is. But as we age, the presence of coenzymeQ10, also known as ubiquinone, in our body slowly diminishes, making us more susceptible to wrinkles and photo-aging. Research shows that an increased topical application of this antioxidant helps fight off free radical damage and keep your skin cells healthy. This nutrient is easily absorbed by the skin and helps stimulate collagen production, which helps improve elasticity and texture.
A well-functioning epidermis is essential to protect us from free radicals. The more our epidermal lipid barrier is stabilized, the more it can fully absorb the vitamins and nutrients from our skin care products and achieve optimal results. However, as we age, our skin’s ability to heal and retain moisture weakens, leaving us prone to wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and dullness.
“Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is a powerful antioxidant that improves the skin’s texture and tone. It reduces fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Dr. Klein.
Water-soluble and suitable for all skin types, this vitamin is often used to treat skin conditions like rosacea and acne and is not known to cause any adverse reactions. It can even be combined with your favorite skin care products and ingredients, like vitamins A and C, retinol and hydroxy acids to boost their performance.
Great news: That one glass of wine at happy hour and your secret stash of chocolate can help save your skin, all thanks to polyphenol. This plant-based vitamin, which can be found in vegetables, green tea, fruits and chocolates, contains chemopreventive properties that “possess anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties to prevent UV-induced skin photodamage,” Dr. Klein explains. Studies show that consumption and topical use of ingredients rich in polyphenol help improve our skin’s natural defense against oxidative stress, prevent skin aging and may inhibit skin cancer.
Dermatologists continue to see the importance of including botanicals in skin care. Studies show that flavonoids, an antioxidant found in green and black teas, have the potential to treat rosacea, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. “Flavonoids absorb UV light and modulate signaling pathways that influence cellular function to prevent photoaging and damage,” explains Dr. Klein. These nutrients also help reduce collagen degradation, delay skin aging and inhibit skin cancer
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that aids in cell repair and protection of vital organs like liver, kidney, brain and the skin. One of its wide-known side effects is its antimelanogenic property that causes skin whitening. This “mother of all antioxidants” helps detoxify the skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles, giving you smoother, more supple skin. Research also shows that when taken orally, glutathione can help combat liver disease.
On this note, I will be laying my emphasis on one of the antioxidants that haven’t been discussed in our previous episodes, which is;
√ COENZYME Q10 – UBIQUINONE
CoEnzyme Q10 often nicknamed CoQ10 or even referred to as ubiquinone is a highly effective antioxidant naturally created by the human body. It’s unique among other biologically created antioxidants – it’s the only fat-soluble antioxidant your body’s able to self-create. Present within almost every living human cell, CoEnzyme Q10 is essential to everyday respiration, essential to energy (ATP) production and essential to life. Cells requiring significant levels of daily energy e.g. heart and lungs, hold very high concentrations of CoEnzyme Q10, cells with lower energy demands have lower concentrations.
Levels of CoEnzyme Q10 notably decline with age and are said to be one of the best measures of biological youth. Averagely levels begin to fall at 30 years of age, a fall that is accompanied by decreased collagen synthesis, decreased skin resiliency and decreased skin health.
THE BIOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF OPTIMAL COENZYME Q10 LEVELS
CoQ10 is a relatively newly discovered antioxidant. For the little amount of time it’s been studied, several protective qualities have been discovered. CoEnzyme Q10 is noted in research as an;
- Antioxidant, reducing free-radical damage.
- Collagen promoter.
- Sun damage protectant and corrector.
- Lightening and brightening agent.
- Anti-ager acting to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Most notably CoEnzyme Q10 not only helps to hinder ageing processes but can also help to reverse them. Restoring your skin’s levels of CoQ10 is the very first step. Unlike many other anti-ageing actives with molecular weights too large to be absorbed deeply by skin, CoEnzyme Q10 is a relatively small molecule, making it an ideal candidate for topical re-application.
HOW COENZYME Q10 PROTECTS YOUR SKIN AGAINST SUN DAMAGE
UV light is responsible for over 80% of skin ageing un-determined by your DNA. Referred to as the biggest extrinsic ageing factor, controlling sun damage is the most effective way to proactively anti-age your skin.
Exposure to UV light initiates a cascade of reactions that place stress into your skin. UV light releases damaging free radicals and promotes oxidation (the process that turns an apple’s flesh brown). These reactions result in the damage and hardening of important structural skin proteins such as collagen and elastin. It’s predominantly these proteins that help your skin to stay voluminous and to resist fine lines and wrinkles.
Resisting the stress extrinsic ageing factors cause reduces your skin’s supply of ingredients that help it to maintain youthful qualitites. Specifically, the oxidation process that exposure to sunlight initiates, is accompanied by a 70% reduction in enzymes specially created by skin to resist it. Studies show that application of CoEnzyme Q10 can help restore these levels to within 20% of normal, to aid and speed the cellular repair required after UV exposure.
COENZYME Q10 AS AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
Inflammation is extremely ageing to your skin. Commonly thought of as a bruise or inflamed graze, inflammation is actually much more common at lower, sometimes invisible to the naked eye levels.
Factors that can cause low levels of persistent inflammation include exposure to sunlight, air borne impurities, pollution, stress, heat and more. Extreme inflammation can be seen when catching a sun burn, low levels of inflammation may be seen as small areas of redness or even patches of dry flaky skin.
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to harm. In small amounts it’s needed and necessary, in large quantities it’s damaging and harmful.
Topical application of CoEnzyme Q10 helps to block the biological pathways that cause inflammation. Studies show skin’s healing processes are speeded when treated with CoQ10 versus when treated without. In CoEnzyme Q10 treatment groups inflammation is lowered, healing time is reduced and collagen production is increased.
HOW COENZYME Q10 HELPS BOOST YOUR SKIN’S COLLAGEN LEVELS
Collagen is an extremely important structural protein. It’s found abundantly throughout the human body and in concentrated quantities within fibrous tissues such as skin. Together with elastin, collagen forms a pliable structure that allows your skin to smoothly and uniformly create a resilient barrier against ageing stressors.
When collagen is young and healthy, your skin is plumped and wrinkle free. When collagen is aged and stressed, your skin is laxing and wrinkle full.
As skin ages, collagen levels fall and existing collagen becomes hardened and rigid. These changes track with the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Re-boosting your skin’s collagen levels helps to prevent and reverse these most common signs of ageing.
Skin healing studies show that topical application of CoEnzyme Q10 boosts collagen production. As skin ages peroxide levels increase – a tell-tale sign of oxidative damage to structural skin proteins such as collagen. With topical application of CoEnzyme Q10 peroxide levels are reduced, an effect that continues to be maintained for a significant amount of time after treatment ends. This shows that not only does CoEnzyme Q10 act as an antioxidant, it can also reverse the ageing cascades that result in collagen degradation.
COENZYME Q10 AS AN ANTI-OXIDANT
One of the most researched functions of CoEnzyme Q10 is as an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants are vital ingredients to your skin’s health. They provide skin with the tools it needs to resist ageing. Every day, skin guards against an attack of environmental stressors and these occurrences cause your skin’s natural anti-oxidant levels to fall. Applying antioxidants to your skin helps to replenish and restore your skin’s defence system.
CoEnzyme Q10 performs this function very efficiently within skin. The outer most layers of skin are almost solely oil/fat based. These layers provide a waterproof protection locking hydration into skin and keeping irritating impurities out. CoEnzyme Q10 is the only oil soluble vitamin naturally created in the human body – for these reasons it’s very effective at helping to prevent skin damage.
The antioxidant effects of CoEnzyme Q10 are enhanced when combined with complimentary anti-oxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C or carotenoids. When combined their antioxidant action is not just combined, it’s excelled. In these situations, 1+1 does not equal 2. 1+1 equals significantly more than their sum.
Enhanced antioxidant protection helps to defend your skin against oxidative damage caused by UV light, pollution impurities, airborne particulates and more.
UVA light is responsible for long term damage to skins collagen and elastin networks. UVA rays are lower energy than UVB light, but are able to penetrate skin to a much deeper level. At these levels, collagen and elastin are abundant. UVA light triggers several chemical processes of which some results in the expression of collagenase, a type of enzyme that destroys collagen. Studies show that topical application of CoEnzyme Q10 is able to significantly suppress this process, helping to prevent oxidative damage. The same studies show that CoQ10 application is also associated with a reduction in wrinkle depth. A benefit most likely caused by the ability of CoEnzyme Q10 to not only protect but also to boost collagen production.
HOW COENZYME Q10 HELPS LIGHTEN AND BRIGHTEN YOUR SKIN
As skin ages, skin tone can become patchy and pigmented. Age spots form and minor skin injures can leave areas of markedly significant hyperpigmentation. These changes in skin tone are caused by an un-even creation of melanin, the same pigment responsible for tanning.
CoEnzyme Q10 can inhibit the processes that cause uneven skin tone through its action as a tyrosinase inhibitor. Tyrosinase is an enzyme your body requires to create melanin, when tyrosinase is otherwise engaged, uneven skin tone and areas of hyperpigmentation are resolved.
The processes of lightening and brightening skin tone with active tyrosinase inhibitors like CoEnzyme Q10 is most visible after 4 weeks of treatment. Skin cells are in a constant state of flux with an average turnover rate of 30 days. This rate naturally increases with age, meaning melanin deposits already distributed within your skin, need to be exfoliated away before the lightening and brightening effects of actives such as CoEnzyme Q10 can be seen.
HOW TO INTEGRATE COENZYME Q10 INTO YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE
As with all active skincare ingredients, concentration is key. Much of the research completed into the anti-ageing benefits of CoEnzyme Q10 use the active in quantities of 1% or greater. When skincare contains solely CoEnzyme Q10 as an anti-ageing, antioxidant, the most appropriate level to use would be 1% or greater. When using CoEnzyme Q10 aside complimentary antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, slightly lower concentrations will provide the same key benefits.
Skincare containing CoEnzyme Q10 can be used both morning and night.
After morning use, the benefits will be focused on anti-ageing, anti-oxidant defence.
During evening use, the actives benefits will be focused on repair and ageing reversal.
NB: If you’re interested in including a product containing any of the mentioned Active Ingredients in your skincare routine or need guide on how to go about them, do well to Contact/WhatsApp Nikky’ann on +2348167760400.
Article to be continued on Episode 5 of Let‘s Talk Skincare with Nikky’ann.
- I am Nikky'ann, an Inquisitive takeover Skinfluencer, a designer and the founder of McNikky Bazaar. I am open to acquiring knowledge for progressive living, I enjoy researching and writing about Lifestyle.
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