Wednesday 25 April 2018

Antioxidents - What are they and why do we need them in our skincare?

This post is a big one so make a cup of tea and get comfy. I get asked a lot about antioxidants in skincare I'm going to talk about some specifically here and some more in depth in the future. You can also have a look at my What's In Your Products Page. I've tried to keep it the right side of technical. I think it's important to understand the science behind it without needing a chemistry degree (which I don't have... I scraped a C at GCSE). 

Antioxidants & Free Radicals
A lot of the antioxidants found in skincare are already present in the body, which naturally produces them, but the amounts will decrease as we age meaning we need to use them in our diet and skincare to give our bodies a boost. We know that a healthy diet should give our bodies antioxidants but very often our skin is the last organ to benefit and, as it is on the outside and we are able to, we should apply things topically. Sometimes our environment, poor lifestyle and diet mean the natural antioxidants get overwhelmed so it is great to give the body, and the skin as much help as we can.

Free radicals (and oxidative stress) are the biggest cause of early signs of ageing and these harmful cells cause lots of damage including attacking collagen cells - collagen makes our skin look plump and healthy. Oxidisation is what you see when an apple or avocado goes brown if left open to the air. This oxidisation is why these fruits have great antioxidant properties, often in their skins, as they've had to naturally develop them to protect themselves from the environment, unlike us they can't move out of the sun when they need to. 

Free radicals are cells that have been damaged and so only carry a single electron. Electrons like to be in pairs, so having only one makes them highly reactive. To make themselves stable they steal an electron from another cell causing a chain reaction. During this reaction chemical bonds are broken, new ones are formed and irreversible molecular changes occur. Antioxidants encourage cell and tissue growth and neutralise free radicals and they do this by being molecules that can be stable with only one electron meaning when the free radical takes one the chain reaction stops.
Free radicals are caused by UV, pollution, smoking, as well as normal biological processes but as your skin is your largest organ and the barrier between you and the outside this is the place where they can form in large numbers. Sun damage is the number one cause of signs of ageing in most cases and actually one of the easiest for you to control. Free radical damage can start to from the first 15 minutes in the sun and can form quite deep down into.  Free radicals can cause lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, fragile skin, skin cancers, inflammation.
Antioxidants prevent free radical damage and inhibit oxidation (hence the term antioxidant). Some antioxidants, like vitamin C, can reduce the appearance of sun spots - little patches of melanin caused by over exposure to sun.
When to use Antioxidants
  • Antioxidants are best applied before the free radicals are formed which is why I, and many others, like to use them as part of our morning skincare routine. But they need a chance to be absorbed fully into the skin before they get exposed to UV. If you are up and out in the morning then use in the evening when they won't be exposed to any ambient UV light. Even when it's not sunny out your skin is still getting UV rays and pollution. However, the free radical damage continues after exposure to UV or pollution so if it is easier for you it still makes a lot of sense to use antioxidants at night.
  • Antioxidents often work well in serum form but don't apply too much - only a certain amount of product can be absorbed into the skin so it's just a waste to use too much. Press it into the skin rather than rubbing. 

What to Look for in Antioxidant Products
  • It's not enough for a product to say it contains Vitamin E, C or whatever on the label. A lot of antioxidants destabilise in the wrong environment so you need a product that is going to stay active in it's packaging before and after you've started using it. You also need to know it's going to actually be able to penetrate the skin and be of a high enough quantity to help. Skincare product ingredients are listed from the largest amount to smallest. So you want your antioxidant ingredient to be fairly close to the start of the ingredients list.
  • Scientific evidence to show that A, C, E, Ferulic and Green Tea are the most effective. There are tests going on all the time for others but it is obviously hard to test the efficacy.
  • They can work synergistically especially C, E and Ferulic.
  • Serums will have a more concentrated amount of actives so layering a Vitamin C serum under your SPF in the morning is a good idea
  • Packaging is important - Vitamin C becomes less effective if exposed to light and air so you want something without a clear bottle ideally with some form of pump dispenser (Drunken Elephant C Firma looks good). Vitamin E is more stable so a tub of cream would be fine for this 
  • If you are choosing a product with an active ingredient then stick to the use by date on the packaging. Not that anything terrible will happen if you don't, but they will stop being effective.

Types of Antioxidant
Vitamin E
  • aka tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol acetate, alpha-tocopherol (alcohol-based)
  • fat soluble
  • boosts collagen and reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots
  • better through topical treatments than supplements
  • alpha-tocopherol acetate doesn't penetrate the skin as easily

Vitamin C
    Dr Dennis Gross C + Collagen Deep Cream
  • aka ascorbic acid, l-ascorbic acid,
  • water soluble
  • reduces pigmentation and boosts collagen so improves skin tone and texture
  • I love Ole Henriksen Truth Serum

  • It's found in red fruits such as tomatoes (though not strawberries), apricots and watermelons and also in asparagus and parsley. 
  • Boosts collagen and reduces DNA damage that leads to wrinkles
  • You can take orally or topically and it is easily absorbed by the skin. It may be more efficiently absorbed in the form of supplements then by eating it as certain things improve it's efficacy - for example cooking enhances it's absorption. So next time your kid has bathed it's food in ketchup while your back is turned at least you can think they are getting a good does of Lycopenes.

Green Tea
  • Helps with lots of things like prevention of cancer and heart disease
  • Catechins are antioxidants that help clear cell damage and repair wrinkles and cell damage.Topically it can reduce sun damage by taking down inflammation and tackling free radicals.Although it is great to drink it you would need about 7 cups a day to get the real benefits so you can take supplements. I'm going to order some soon so send me a message if you are interseted. 
  • The greener and fresher the tea the better it is.
  • This is way more effective than vitamins C and E

  • found in red grapes, nuts, fruits, blueberries and red wine
  • There is still a lot of scientific research to be done into the benefits of this.

Grape Seed
  • a free radical scavenger and some studies show that for this it is more effective than vitamins C or E.

  • aka Vitamin B3
  • red meat, chicken, turkey and fish, green veg, tomatoes
  • water soluble
  • good for those who suffer acne and rosacea
  • Anti-inflammatory and depigmenting properties. also improves skin texture and tone, visibly improves the appearance of large pores
  • helps with the immunity of your skin, the important cells we need to prevent microbes and leisons
  • increases the production of cerimides to improve lipid barrier function which in turn will reduce redness and blotchiness
  • slows down the transfer of melanin to the epidermis therefore preventing pigmentation
  • can be used at any time of day
  • stable in the presence of heat and light

Vitamin A
  • aka Retinoid, Retinol, Retinyl Palmitate, 
  • can remove keratin plugs which can cause acne and leaving the pores more open to circulate oil
  • Improves the infection fighting properties of white blood cells and it is these properties that make it good for those with acne. 
  • Encourages healthy cell production and stimulates collagen production. 
  • Suits all skin types and can help solve all skin problems but you need to make sure you are using the right form. Retinol is the one most people are after. 

Ferulic Acid

Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride 
  • aka EUK
  • Another free radical scavenger and fairly new to the mainstream market
  • Regenerates itself so it's very long lasting. 
  • Not to be used at the same time as acids. 
  • Works on oily skin
  • Have just started using The Ordinary EUK - will report back soon


Products I've Used:

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing GelProducts I would Use:
  • Skinceuticals C E Ferulic - all in one for use in the morning - good for normal/dry/dehydrated/sensitive skin
  • Drunk Elephant C Firma - (C + Ferulic to stabilise it) great packaging to protect from UV. Suits all skin types.
  • Dr Brandt power Dose C - 20% vit c which is the highest concentration you can have for topical absorption.
  • Intraceuticals Antioxdent Booter - good packaging and can be added to your usual skincare
  • Oskia Perfect Cleanser - contains lots of things including Vitamin E. Good for mature and dry skin
  • Oskia Bedtime Beauty Boost - I love the look of this lots of Vitamins includeing A, C, D and E, Niacinamide and hyularonic acid
  • The Ordinary - despite the possible meltdown of their founder I still think you can do a lot worse then starting off at the ordinary, or NIOD if you have a bit more money. I've had hit and miss products with them but it's definitely a good place to start if you are not sure about an ingredient.

Products I wouldn't Use:
  • Body Shop Vitamin C - may be nice products but if I wanted an active this isn't going to pack the punch you need. You can watch my quick review of the moisturiser here
  • High street - and by that i mean products under £15 because they probably aren't going to have very much in them. As I mentioned above I would try things from the Ordinary first where you get the basic ingredient and none of the fancy stuff to go with it. This might mean that it's too much for your skin but you can mix with other products to help. You can read how I use Lactic Acid 

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