Everyone raves about antioxidants and how good they are for your health. But what exactly are they? And where do they come from? Are they just some secret unicorn dust manufactures add to their products? Or are they really some superhero compounds that nature makes?
Ever wondered why LOTS of health food and skincare products claim to contain ANTIOXIDANTS? For the past few years the word ANTIOXIDANT has (and still is) a big buzzword, and the majority of skincare manufacturers (including me) love to put in the products. But, do they actually work? If yes, how do they work? And what exactly are ANTIOXIDANTS? Let’s dive into it…
What are ANTIOXIDANTS – and how do they work
ANTIOXIDANTS are chemical compounds naturally found in many foods, especially plants. Some of the most well-known ANTIOXIDANTS include vitamin E, vitamin C and flavonoids (see table re food sources). These compounds are helping to ward off cell damage by neutralising potential harmful free radicals (also called Reactive Oxygen Species). Free radicals are simply molecules with unpaired electrons (electrons usually like to be in pairs – but who doesn’t?), which can cause the molecule to be unstable and highly reactive. In order to become stable, the free radical must steal (or give away) an electron from another molecule that then becomes a free radical….and this will continue as a chain reaction of stealing each other’s electrons, which will result in irreversible cell damage and sometimes cell death. *yikes*, ok, don’t panic. The news gets better!
Luckily, if an ANTIOXIDANT is present, it can donate an electron to the “electron thief”, stabilising it and stopping the chain reaction. It kind of sacrifices itself making sure that other molecules don’t end up as evil free radicals. Unlike most molecules, the ANTIOXIDANT, alias
the Superhero Compound, is able to stabilise the unpaired electron and does not become highly reactive. Take a minute to have a look at the is simplified illustration below:
Free radicals – how do they come about?
Free radicals are formed either during normal metabolic processes in our bodies or by exposure to external stresses/sources such as cigarette smoke, UV-light, air pollutants, ozone, drugs and some industrial chemicals. Science has found that free radical damage to living cells can lead to premature aging, and prolonged exposure to the oxidative stress can lead to increased risk of other negative health concerns such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Sources of ANTIOXIDANTS
Plant foods are rich sources of ANTIOXIDANTS. They are most abundant in fruits and vegetables but can also be found in other foods including nuts, wholegrains, some meats, poultry and fish (see the table here). When we eat this kind of food, the Superhero Compounds are released through digestion and travel through the bloodstream into cells, where they will combat the free radicals that might have formed.
ANTIOXIDANTS and skin
When the skin is exposed to UV-light, cigarette smoke and air pollution, different types of free radicals are produced, and they can damage the skin’s proteins, lipids and DNA, which down the track can result in premature aging (wrinkles, sagging and dull skin tone – *yikes*). Fortunately, research has shown that ANTIOXIDANTS applied directly to the skin can be absorbed into the cells of the stratum corneum (top layer of skin), where they will neutralise the free radicals, and hence intercept the various environmental attacks. As an added bonus, the ANTIOXIDANTS appear to also reduce inflammation of the skin such as rosacea!
ANTIOXIDANTS used in the skincare industry include;
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
- flavonoids such as catechins
- coenzyme Q10
Some skincare companies add botanical extracts (such as lilly pilly, green tea etc.) containing naturally made ANTIOXIDANTS instead of the synthetically made ones.
I hope I have managed to allay some of your fears and that you learned something from this little geeky run-through of the AWESOME
Superhero Compounds. If you would like to find skincare containing naturally derived ANTIOXIDANTS, look no further, as all our products are filled with them.
Until next time, stay calm and get some ANTIOXIDANTS on to your skin and into your body.