The arrival of summer brings with it many things—breathable linen clothing, pale ales on rooftops, and hours of revitalizing sunlight. We’re here to talk to you about that last part—sunlight. We understand that for our skin to thrive, we must protect it from UVA and UVB rays with copious amounts of daily SPF. In addition to the damaging effects of the sun, there are other detrimental things in our environment to consider for our skin’s safety, like free radicals. So how do we keep our skin healthy? By using skin-care items that contain antioxidants.
To learn more about the function of antioxidants in skin care, we asked three experts for their advice: board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC Dr. Morgan Rabach, Dr. Lily Talakoub of McLean Skin Dermatology, and Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
According to a study published in the Pharmacognosy Review, “A free radical can be defined as any molecular species capable of independent existence that contains an unpaired electron in an atomic orbital.” That extra unpaired electron is where the real danger lies. Dr. King explains, “Electrons like to be in pairs, so these unstable atoms scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair.” When we encounter free radicals, through the sun’s rays, pollution, and more, they bind to the electrons on our skin, causing oxidation to occur. Oxidation in turn causes signs of premature aging, like fine lines, discoloration, and destruction of the vital proteins that give skin its support (meaning you’ll experience more skin sagging). Just think of an apple you cut in half and leave out for a few hours—the brown spots that form are evidence of oxidation.
Says Dr. Rabach, “Antioxidants work at the molecular level to bind to free radicals and stop them from damaging the skin, but this has a lot of implications. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, meaning they can help reduce redness in acne and rosacea.”
In addition to protecting our skin, Dr. Talakoub explains that “[antioxidants] prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which leads to sagging and wrinkling of the skin. They also help prevent the formation of sunspots.” Given that UV rays are more intense during the summer, free radicals are at their peak, which is why all three dermatologists agree that it is crucial to use products that contain antioxidants during the summertime.
And while it seems simple enough to buy a product with the word “antioxidant” slapped across its label, there are some specific ingredients to look for when purchasing a new cream or serum. All three dermatologists agree that the most powerful sources of antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Dr. Talakoub also lists “resveratrol [and] niacinamide” as excellent options, and Dr. King adds “ferulic acid, coffee berry extract, marula oil, argan oil, coconut oil, [and] trehalose” to the list of the protective antioxidant-rich ingredients.
Here are some of their antioxidant product recommendations and our favorites.
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