If you’re passionate about your skincare, you’ve probably heard the terms ‘free radicals’ and ‘anti-oxidants’ used in a lot of the latest product launches. Though it’s obvious that free radicals are the villain and antioxidants the hero out of the two, not many are quite sure why. We caught up with Dr. Orla Grimes, a recognised and highly regarded specialist in Aesthetic Medicine and salon standard skincare brand SkinCeuticals to give you the full run down on the two and the best products you should be using to protect and nourish your skin.
What are free radicals?
Natural chemical reactions in our cells produce unwanted by-products called reactive oxygen species (ROS), otherwise known as free radicals. These particles furiously ping about inside cells causing havoc, particularly a type of damage called oxidation. Seen an apple go brown? That’s oxidation. Unchecked, a chain reaction would occur in which the cell’s most precious elements, their fat rich membranes, proteins and DNA, would degrade and suffer irreparable harm including premature ageing from damage to the Collagen and Elastin that keeps skin bouncy. Free radicals are also commonly found in the environment; the skin is bombarded by sunlight (UV, infrared, visible light), weather and pollution which trigger the production of free radicals.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants neutralise free radicals, reducing their numbers to prevent the oxidation process and protect Collagen. Some are seen as having an additional role which is to strengthen the skin’s own antioxidant network, enabling it to synthesise more antioxidants naturally. Overall, they reduce what’s called oxidative stress. Over millennia, our cells have developed their own complex system of antioxidants to neutralise the rogue free radicals and keep them in check. However, when the skin is under stress, the pool gets completely depleted and not enough can be made in time. Although good sun protection can help, and should be worn everyday, this can’t help replenish your own antioxidants, therefore we need some help from our skincare to keep our skin fully protected. As some antioxidants work better on certain parts of the skin and with specific vitamins, you need a team of them which have been carefully formulated and tested together for stability, compatibility and that will properly penetrate the skin effectively.