Why you need to up the 'anti' with antioxidants

Keeping free radical damage under control. The silent skin destroyer…

The skincare industry is full of pseudo scientific buzz words that don’t add up to much at the end of the day. That being said one category of ingredients that should definitely make your ears prick are antioxidants. We’ve been told that they are good for us by our doctors and scientific studies - but what on earth are they, how do they work, and what do they protect us from? Breaking it down doesn’t need to be complicated so here goes.

I’ve heard the word ‘antioxidant’ - but what does it mean?

Don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know the technicalities of what an antioxidant is, but my tip when it comes to skincare is always ask the questions

  1. What is it,
  2. How does it work, and
  3. Is it shown to work with REAL science when actually applied on the skin.

So here goes chemistry 101 with Dr. cook.

Antioxidants are substances that protect, prevent and slow down cellular damage and ageing - mainly from a group of unstable molecules known as free radicals (explained below).

These toxic free radicals are produced by our body as a reaction to stresses such as pollution, UV exposure and infrared radiation. Through the process of oxidative stress they cause both cellular degradation and premature ageing, as well as a list of other issues.

An antioxidant can also be referred to as a free radical scavenger - meaning they search for the free radicals and bind to them preventing them from binding to, and destroying your body's own cells (think of antioxidants like a sponge that mops them all up).

When it comes to skincare, antioxidants in your topical routine form a protective barrier preventing and repairing cell damage created by factors such as exposure to UV, Infrared and the environment.

Shop the antioxidant range of skincare now.

And what are free radicals?

Free radicals are thought to be responsible for age-related changes in appearance, such as wrinkles and grey hair and understanding how they work requires a little more in depth understanding of atoms.

Basically, every atom is surrounded by shells / layers, and within each of these shells/layers are a set number of electrons. Once a shell/layer is full, electrons begin to fill the next layer.

If an atom doesn’t have a full outer layer - this is known as a free radical. When this happens the cell/atom becomes unstable and can react and damage other cells.

The only way that an atom can fill its outer shell is by bonding to another atom, taking the required electrons and completing its outer shell while damaging the other atom that it has depleted.

Free radicals are unstable, and react quickly with other substances and can cause oxidative stress. It is that oxidative stress that leads to a range of diseases, however can also have a premature ageing effect on our skin.

Shop the antioxidant range of skincare now.

So what are the best antioxidant ingredients when it comes to skincare?

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) has to be one of the most underrated antioxidants in skincare (despite the fact it is one of the most studied). Usually pegged as having a range of benefits for acne and sebum control with little attention given to its other key benefits.

The truth is that the benefits of B3 go way beyond just acne (read more here). It has REAL science demonstrating it works when put on the skin and is very stable and so doesn’t expire as rapidly as some other ingredients. not only that, but B3 readily absorbs into your skin unlike many ingredients that claim to work miracles but simply sit on the surface and do nothing.

One of the biggest bonuses of B3 is how it affects our DNA. It basically protects and repairs our cell's DNA. Due to free radicals, the process of oxidation in the human body damages cell membranes and other structures, including cellular proteins, lipids and DNA. B3 reboots cellular energy and feeds our body’s DNA.

B3 benefits include:

  • Reducing the visible signs of ageing due to UV and environmental pollutants with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; 
  • Repairing UV induced DNA damage;
  • Protecting the skin’s immune system; It acts like a sunscreen for the skins immune cells.
  • Fading pigment and sunspots; and
  • Restoring cellular energy in sun damaged skin cells minimising ageing.
  • Minimising wrinkles, and collagen loss in the skin by preserving our collagen production cells (A.K.A fibroblasts); 

So what’s not to like about B3, niacinamide! It’s a no brainer and everyone on this planet should be using it daily on their skin.

That’s why I’ve put it into the Cleanser, Moisturiser, Hydration+ and Illuminator so you are continually bathed in this miracle ingredient (layer upon layer providing your skin with added benefits). Every product in the range is scientifically assessed and considered to get the best formulations.

Shop the Concentrated Cleanser boosted by B3 here

Shop the Concentrated Illuminator boosted by B3 here

Shop the Concentrated Hydration+ boosted by B3 here

Vitamin C

On the other hand, Vitamin C is probably one of the best known antioxidants when it comes to skincare and It helps regenerate other antioxidants in your body. Topically it is necessary for collagen production and maintenance, helping to rejuvenate photo damaged skin.

Vitamin C benefits include:

  • Fading pigmentation and skin discolouration
  • Creating brighter and healthier looking skin;
  • Speeding up healing;
  • Reducing dark circles under the eyes and
  • Reducing inflammation.

Shop the Concentrated Illuminator packed full of vitamin C here.

Should we be eating foods with antioxidants too?

Simple answer ; YES. Whether you apply your antioxidants topically or ingest them in your diet or supplement form you will receive the range of benefits of these powerful free radical destroyers.

Tomatoes, carrots and grapefruit oh my! The Power of Lycopene

These foods all contain an antioxidant called Lycopene. It is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red/orange foods, with tomatoes being the best source - its known as a carotenoid.

Lycopene has been recognised as the most effective free radical absorber. Free radicals damage our skin cells and collagen so the lycopene helps prevent this damage and repair it. The biggest cause of free radical damage to the skin is the sun and environmental damage which causes premature ageing and also can lead to increasing your risk of skin cancer.

Its my number one food based anti oxidant. It doesn’t work so well when applied to the skin (so be careful of products that claim it does). Much better to ingest it.

Learn more about Lycopene here. 

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries.

The benefits of these three berries has been studied and verified by numerous sources and can range from delaying the decline of brain function; reducing the risk factors for heart disease; lowering LDL cholesterol levels; fighting cancer cells and reducing blood pressure. 

Spinach, kale and artichoke:

Always eat you greens, and especially leafy above ground ones. These three may not be as delicious as the berries, however there are packed full of good stuff. Spinach is a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that may help protect your eyes from damaging UV light and other harmful light wavelengths.

Kale contains anthocyanin and  may reduce inflammation, protect against heart disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers 

Artichokes are especially rich in the antioxidant known as chlorogenic acid. Studies suggest that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of chlorogenic acid may reduce the risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Shop the antioxidant range of skincare now.

So what’s the take-out?

We all need to up the anti when It comes to antioxidants - not just topically but in our diet as well. Taking care of your body will boost your health, and a fantastic side effect is that it will result in beautiful skin.

Its important to treat the outside as well as the inside to maximise results. Skincare with the correct concentrations of active ingredients proven to work topically, will provide that additional protective layer from external stresses, preventing cell damage and ageing form our free radical producing environment.

To learn more about my range of clinical strength skincare click here.