Free radicals are unstable molecules that are created by the body’s natural metabolic processes, to help neutralise viruses and fight off bad bacteria. They are unstable in nature primarily because they are missing an electron. As such, they attack other stable molecules to collect electrons to gain stability, consequently harming our cells. This destructive process robs healthy cells and in turn makes them unstable, triggering a chain reaction. Once enough free radicals are present in the body, the oxidation of cells (known as oxidative stress), overwhelms the body’s natural ability to regulate them. This affects how well the body is able to detoxify harmful toxins, which can attack alter lipids, proteins and even our DNA, triggering a number of human diseases.
What creates free radicals?
Free radicals are triggered by environmental factors such as:
- Exposure to severe radiation from the sun (UVA and UVB)
- Exposure to air and water pollution
- Exposure to cigarette smoke
- Exposure to everyday chemicals and toxins
What are antioxidants and how can they help to protect you from free radicals?
An antioxidant can be used to fight against the destructive effects of free radical cell damage. Antioxidants are molecules that are stable enough to donate an electron, which can then be used to stabilise a free radical and prevent it from causing damage. As antioxidants are full of nutrients and enzymes, they are effective in both preventing and repairing damage to skin tissue. Like a built-in repair system, antioxidants ultimately create stability in cells and stop the damaging chain reaction of oxidation from free radicals.
Ultimately, this means we should supplement our body both internally and externally with antioxidants on a regular basis, to keep our skin and body functioning optimally.
Which antioxidants work best to heal the skin from free radical damage?
Whilst all antioxidants are able to protect cells, some have been found to be more effective than others. We’ve studied the research for you and have procured a list below of the most effective and high performing, plant-based antioxidants to help protect and restore your skin.
This calming plant-based ingredient is not only good in a mug, but is also a high performing, soothing and calming antioxidant that can be used topically. Green tea is filled with a plant-based micro-nutrient called polyphenols, which fights against free radicals and additionally offers anti-inflammatory properties to aid the skin’s healing process. This is ideal for those with reactive or sensitive skin, especially for eczema, psoriasis or sore breakouts.
A topical application of Vitamin C is one of the most efficient forms of antioxidant. Not only does this antioxidant fight free radical damage, but it’s also a powerhouse ingredient for slowing down the skin’s ageing process. Vitamin C works by stimulating collagen on a cellular level, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also has the ability to help lighten your skin tone and the appearance of pigmentation.
Vitamin E has been on the market for a long time and it’s hero-like abilities have been somewhat overshadowed by newer, synthetic antioxidants. In reality, Vitamin E is one of the most effective ingredients to treat free radical damage, as it is a naturally occurring ingredient produced in the skin. As a result of oxidative stress on the cells, your skin will produce less natural antioxidants, making it a good idea to supplement this decline with topical applications of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a naturally derived ingredient, extracted from vegetable oils and can be used to treat even the most sensitive, reactive or oily complexions.
Retinol is one of the most effective antioxidants to not only restore free radical damage but also to slow the aging process. Caroteniods is a plant-based retinol derived from the formulation of Vitamin A. Caroteniod works by mimicking a high performing agent, similar to Vitamin A. Consisting of essential fatty acids, vegetable nutrients and seed oils, retinol works to stimulate collagen production, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also works to accelerate cellular turnover, to not only create new healthy cells, but also to lighten pigmentation. Retinol can also reduce inflammation from breakouts, and is effective in unclogging pores, making it an ideal option to restore cells and help reduce breakouts.
Love Your Gut Health
Along with topical antioxidant applications, it’s important to consume plenty of antioxidants in your diet, to ensure you’re internally covered too. Plant-based ingredients that contain a high percentage of antioxidants are the most effective food sources to internally neutralise free radicals. If not neutralised, free radicals can raise your risk of heart disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. Check out the list below of some great sources of antioxidants to add to your plate!
- Allium sulphur compounds (leeks, onions and garlic)
- Anthocyanins (eggplant, grapes and berries)
- Beta-carotene (pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach and parsley)
- Catechins (red wine and tea)
- Copper (nuts)
- Cryptoxanthins (red capsicum, pumpkin and mangoes)
- Flavonoids (tea, green tea, citrus fruits, red wine, onion and apples)
- Indoles (broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower)
- Isoflavonoids (soybeans, tofu, lentils, peas)
- Lignans (sesame seeds, bran, whole grains)
- Lutein (green, leafy vegetables like spinach, and corn)
- Lycopene (tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon)
- Manganese (nuts)
- Polyphenols (thyme and oregano)
- Selenium (whole grains)
- Vitamin A (sweet potatoes and carrots)
- Vitamin C (oranges, blackcurrants, kiwifruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, capsicum and strawberries)
- Vitamin E (vegetable oils (such as wheatgerm oil), avocados, nuts, seeds and whole grains)
- Zinc (nuts)