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Antioxidants for Acne: What to Know

By: Dan Ketchum , Reviewed By: Dr. Emmy Graber

woman looking at acne products

When it comes to healthy skin, understanding the cause of an undesirable issue — whether it's dryness or dark circles — is absolutely vital to correcting it. Acne's core cause is well-known: when an excess of oily sebum encourages dead skin cells to clog pores, you get blemishes, which can become red and inflamed by skin-dwelling bacteria. While these fundamentals remain true, 21st-century research has shed new light on another potential culprit — oxidative stress. Exploring this cause has also led to new research into possible effective new treatments for acne, and that's good news for your skin.

The Oxidative Element

While hormonal changes often lead to teenage acne, both teenage and adult acne may result from numerous factors such as stress, hormones, diet or the presence of free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules created in the body in reaction to UV rays, cigarette smoke, and pollution that latch onto and damage cells. This process is known as oxidative stress, and can lead to acne, inflammation and signs of aging. Antioxidants take the fight to free radicals by stopping the chain reaction before damage is done.

Ingredients to Seek

To combat free radicals with your skin care regimen, seek face washes, serums and topical creams that contain antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins A, C and E. In addition to vitamins, minerals such as zinc and acids like nicotinamide, lipoic acid and the omega-3 fatty acid known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) have been shown to improve inflammation and have therefore been shown to improve acne.

More to Know

Some serums feature an antioxidant called resveratrol, derived from the same grapes that lend themselves to red wine. When used in conjunction with the common anti-acne agent benzoyl peroxide, resveratrol may strengthen the latter's ability to kill acne-causing bacteria. In addition to adding antioxidants to your skin care routine, avoid smoking if you struggle with adult acne, as smoke increases your exposure to free radicals. Consider that boosting your antioxidant intake does more than just fight acne — it can also help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.

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