How many times have you heard:
"Antioxidants are good for you."
"Eat your fruits and veggies because you need antioxidants."
"Look for skin care products rich in antioxidants."
So, you probably get it: antioxidants are pretty fantastic. But when it comes to your skin, you may not have given much thought to where those antioxidants are coming from. Good skincare isn't just about utilizing quality topical products, but taking care of your skin from the inside, out, as well.
The Enemy: Free Radicals
Free radicals are the unstable byproducts of oxidation, the metabolic process of oxygen metabolism. This is the same process that causes iron to rust and bananas and avocados to turn brown. These free radicals cause oxidative stress by way of cellular damage, making cells vulnerable to decay and pathogens. They damage DNA and mitochondria (part of the basic building blocks for all tissues) which can result in many health problems. Once formed, these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like dominoes.
Lifestyle choices and environmental factors can drastically increase the number of free radicals in the body, in turn dramatically increasing oxidative stress on the body. Things like eating fried foods, environmental pollution, UV rays, and eating charcoal broiled meats will increase this oxidative stress, but cigarette smoking is, by far, the most potent free radical generator in the body.
Free radicals have a negative effect all across the board to all body systems. For our skin, which is the largest human organ, damage can be seen in multiple forms. You may notice a change in skin color that might be the result of brown spots or broken blood vessels. Free radicals also cause damage to the elastic collagen fibers of the skin, weakening it and making it appear loose and saggy, or wrinkled.
Heroes Are Made to Stop the Enemy
The body has a defense mechanism called antioxidants. These are molecules that can safely interact with free radicals to stop the chain reaction before any more molecules are damaged, effectively neutralizing them. Some antioxidants suppress the formation of free radicals. Others scavenge to pick up free radicals and remove them before damage is done. Some may work to repair damage that has already been done.
A few familiar nutrients that act as antioxidants are vitamins C & E, beta-carotene, and selenium. You can find them in eating a healthy rainbow of foods. A good rule of thumb is to generally believe each color of food provides a different antioxidant. When it comes to your skin, the following are the top seven providers of powerful antioxidants that especially serve to protect and renew your skin.
The potent catechin polyphenols in green tea reduce the development of some signs of aging, clearing cell damage and repairing wrinkles, blemishes, or other impurities. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. One cup of the stuff has greater antioxidant effects than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots, or strawberries. Need some inspiration? Try some of these teas!
If you're not a fan of the flavor, try it iced as a base for your smoothie or green drink, or apply it topically. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found women whose skin was treated with green tea extract were more protected from the adverse effects of sunlight exposure. You can find this powerhouse in several of Glowbiotics's skincare products, including Advanced Retinol Renewal Treatment, Probiotic Brightening Renewal Lotion, and Probiotic Multi-Brightening Anti-Aging Cream.
Not only do they taste great, but berries are packed with antioxidants to protect your skin from the sun's effects. "With ½ cup blueberries, you can just about double the amount of antioxidants most Americans get in one day. If you want to slow down the free radical aging process, blueberries are the leader of the pack," says Ronald Prior, PhD, head of the USDA Phytochemical Laboratory at Tufts.
Strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C, which your body doesn't have the ability to store for later, so you must consume it regularly. Vitamin C is particularly effective in diminishing the look of fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, and uneven skin tone. It's considered an anti-aging superstar for all skin types.
Cranberries are another that are high in antioxidants, plus they have flavonoids that help to increase the antioxidant activity in the body.
Since berries are one of the highest antioxidant foods available, using them in your refreshing smoothies is a great way to get your daily dose for your skin! You can also try acai, blackberries, and raspberries.
Onions are rich in quercetin, which protects against wrinkles. Some studies show it may also save the skin from harmful UVB rays. They can be an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E, as well, which play a vital role in keeping the skin healthy.
Packed with vitamin C, B5, and antioxidant polyphenols, the odd, tart fruit of pomegranates contains more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. It can keep your skin looking bright and may help to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Whole grains like brown rice contain polyphenols, powerful compounds that can stop the oxidation process. Oats are another great source of antioxidants.
This delicious versatile ingredient happens to be one of nature's richest sources of lycopene, one of the strongest antioxidants. Be sure to choose only certified organic or spray-free tomatoes, as they are known for being heavily sprayed with pesticides and fungicides - negating the positive effect of the antioxidants!
Dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) is high in epicatechin, a type of flavonoid. It's also rich with polyphenols - even greater than red wine and tea. A study reported in the New Scientist showed that eating dark chocolate can increase antioxidant levels (but mild chocolate didn't). The higher the cacao/cocoa percentage, the more antioxidants.
Eating healthy can have a broad and beneficial effect all over your body, but your skin really craves good nutrition to stay functioning at its best. Take care of your skin and it will take care of you!