What Do Antioxidants Do? Plus 4 Other Questions, Answered

BY Silvana Lezama · April 27, 2017

fruit in bowls

In the last several years, there’s been a huge focus on what foods are good for us and why. Everywhere you look, you’ll see organic, all-natural, sugar-free, gluten-free, low-carb, dairy-free and soy-free labels (and the list only goes on!). I’m not here to debate the effectiveness of adding any of these stipulations to your diet.

Instead, let’s talk about something we could all probably use a little more of in our diets (and even in our skin care routines!): antioxidants. Most of us have probably heard about the importance of antioxidants, but do we have a clear understanding of what antioxidants do?

The Function of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are helpful in maintaining healthy cells by protecting them against free radicals and the oxidative stress free radicals bring (hence, antioxidants), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Our bodies naturally produce unstable molecules called free radicals, but we can also be exposed to them through a number of environmental sources. Though more research is being done to fully understand them, free radicals can trigger cell damage through oxidative stress. This cell damage is thought to be linked to certain diseases from cancer to cataracts. Antioxidants (which can be man-made or natural substances) may be useful in preventing or delaying oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

How Can Antioxidants Improve the Skin?

Since antioxidants protect our cells, this includes our skin cells as well. One of the biggest benefits of antioxidants comes from their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Inflammation can be harmful to collagen proteins that help keep your skin looking young and healthy. Additionally, antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E can be a powerful defense against scars and other skin damage, as they can help increase blood flow to the scar tissue, helping in the birth of new skin.

Dermstore Recommends: An antioxidant-rich cream like Nia 24 Skin Strengthening Complex for fine lines and wrinkles or Mio The Activist Firming Active Body Oil for scars and skin blemishes

Can Antioxidants Help With Acne?

While it’s hard to pinpoint an exact cause of acne, inflammation and blocked pores are often to blame. Antioxidants are one of the leading natural acne fighters, as they can help clean and clear pores, while reducing inflammation. Look for acne products containing vitamins A, C and E—as these can help nourish and neutralize acne.

Dermstore Recommends: iS Clinical’s Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus, which contains the brand’s highest levels of antioxidant protection

What Is the Relationship Between Antioxidants and Aging?

According to the Free Radical Theory of Aging, free radicals can attack and accelerate the aging process of our skin. Aging, while natural and unavoidable, can be controlled to a reasonable extent. Antioxidants may have the power to slow these free radicals (and the aging process) down. Free radicals in the environment can deplete your skin of age-preventing antioxidants like vitamins C and E. These antioxidants can help protect your skin from UV rays and other threats.

Dermstore Recommends: SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic to help protect your skin and slow down the visible signs of aging

What Are the Best Sources of Antioxidants?

Thankfully, antioxidants can be found in a wide variety of natural and man-made products. Vitamins A, C and E are all powerful antioxidants, and they’re joined by naturally occurring nutrients like lutein, beta-carotene, flavonoids and lycopene. You can find these in nutritional supplements as well as plenty of foods in the produce section. Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants include Brussels sprouts (a great source of lutein), apricots (rich in vitamin A), strawberries (full of vitamin C) and blackberries (rich in vitamin E). And the list goes on!

Dermstore Recommends: HUM Nutrition’s Turn Back Time, which contains vitamin C, lutein and a proprietary blend of skin-nourishing ingredients

Recommendations for an Antioxidant-Rich Lifestyle

Antioxidants are heavily present in a healthy diet and consuming them on a daily basis can mean a great improvement on your livelihood. With an appropriate routine and the consumption of the right foods, we are allowing our bodies to fight off the free radicals and oxidative stress that could possibly harm us instead. Check out some of Dermstore’s favorite antioxidant-rich skin care products and supplements below.

Silvana Lezama

Silvana Lezama is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. She has 5+ years experience in writing and editing everything from web content for tech giants like Google to creative blogs for some of the fastest growing social media pages. Silvana also works w... Read More >