Antioxidants are an important skin care ingredient to protect and prevent skin damage. Our skin cells are under a continual barrage of attack from free radicals. These highly reactive molecules are generated from our cells normal metabolism, as well as a number of environmental insults such as UV, smoking and pollution. These molecules directly damage DNA, cell walls and other cellular structures that in time age our skin.

A corrective skincare regime should Protect, Correct, and Restore. Every skincare regimen should include a broad-spectrum sunscreen to reflect damaging UV rays, a Vitamin A or retinol to rebuild collagen, and an antioxidant to restore the skin cells to their undamaged state.

What are the best antioxidants for the skin?

Lycopene is the pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their unique colours. Lycopene is vital for photosynthesis. One of the unique features of lycopene is that it is able to seek out and protect against free radicals. This protects your skin – from the damaging effects of UV rays. This makes it an effective antioxidant for ageing skin. Look for Lycopene in a number of skincare preparations, plus eat grapefruit, papaya, and tomatoes for a natural source of good skin.

When the skin cells are exposed to radiation from the sun, it can potentially disturb the DNA. When carotenoids are consumed, it helps prevent this. It is also known to reinforce arteries and help prevent the degeneration of the muscles in the eyes.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is found on the skin and also in many vegetables and meat sources. It naturally boosts collagen production, resulting in less noticeable fine lines and age spots typical of aging skin. Vitamin E is effective when consumed in the forms of fruits and vegetables, or when applied directly to the skin.

Coffee berry is a relative new comer to the skin care industry. Coffee berry is known to prevent collagen damage, as well as protect the skin against external aggressors. Coffee berry has anti-inflammatory properties, making it ideal for individuals suffering from eczema or rosacea.

Resveratrol is the active compound that helps nullify oxidative stress on the skin.

Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C is synonymous with people suffering from a cold or a runny nose – but it has also been heralded as an effective treatment for dull, congested skin due to its mild exfoliating properties. Vitamin C implements a two way approach when preventing skin ailments. It is an antioxidant as well as a known medium in boosting collagen production. Vitamin C is also an effective antioxidant when it comes to maintaining the skin’s appearance. Vitamin C is available in a number of active forms. Among all the available options, L-ascorbic acid is the most biologically active and well-studied. L-ascorbic acid is a hydrophilic and unstable molecule, hence the poor penetration into the skin due to the hydrophobic character of the stratum corneum. L-ascorbic acid is also a charged molecule, which further limits its penetration. The instability of the molecule (it degrades upon exposure to air and light) means that for L-ascorbic acid to be able to remain stable and penetrate through the stratum corneum, it needs to be formulated in a way that provides both stability and permeability. An effective method of achieving this is by reducing the acidity of L-ascorbic acid to below pH 3.5, which has shown to greatly aid in its penetration, largely due to the transformation from the charged to the uncharged form of the molecule6. In one example of the currently available L-ascorbic acid product (Skinceuticals), the addition of ferulic acid aids in both the stabilisation of the molecule as well as achieving an acidity of a pH below 3.5 7. Saturation of tissue is achieved after three daily applications of L-ascorbic acid, and the half-life in tissue is about four days. The photoprotective effects of vitamin C are also seen in human clinical studies. One double-blind placebo-controlled study on 10 subjects using 10% topical vitamin C over a 12-week period showed a statistically significant reduction in photoaged scores and improvement in wrinkling in vitamin C treated patients, compared to placebo.

Vitamin E is a liphophilic antioxidant and has a primary role in protecting cell membranes against oxidative stress and maintaining the collagen network in the skin. Similar to vitamin C, its levels are rapidly depleted after UV exposure. Aside from its anti-ageing and photoprotective effects, vitamin C is also known to be the primary replenisher of vitamin E. Due to the role of vitamin C maintaining active vitamin E stores, there are an increasing number of products containing a combination of vitamin C and E on the market. Studies have shown that the addition of vitamin E increases the protection 4-fold. Such photoprotection was augmented and doubled to 8-fold when ferulic acid was added to the mixture of vitamins C and E.

Ferulic Acid:

This natural component of plant cell walls is considered one of the most potent antioxidants in nature. Its addition to skincare products came after demonstrating how well it protected skin cells from harmful UV solar radiation. For the best natural sources of Ferulic Acid, try brown rice, whole wheat, oats, coffee, apples, artichokes, peanuts, oranges and pineapple.

Green Tea otherwise known as Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) research has looked at using EGCE for a number of medical conditions, form infectious disease to cancer prevention. A potent antioxidant, It has also been found to inhibit the growth of a number of cancers and exert similar effects to some anti-cancer drugs.