What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds that bind to free oxygen radicals preventing them from damaging healthy cells.
What do free radicals do?
Free Radicals are unstable and cause oxidative damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins in the cells as well as damage to cellular structures including membranes.
Free radicals increase the rate of cellular aging and cause cell death. Free radicals also cause additional free radicals in a cascade like fashion.
Free radicals result in inflammation.
An excess amount of free radicals is called oxidative stress.
Where do free radicals come from?
Free radicals can come from intrinsic sources meaning inside the body and extrinsic sources meaning outside the body. They are formed naturally by the body through metabolism and increase with increased exercise. Most of the time the body can handle this, but when external factors come into play the stressful environment is more than the bodies natural defenses against free radicals can handle and oxidative stress occurs.
Extrinsic free radicals come from UV light, cigarettes, and pollution. People who spend a lot of time outdoors are exposed to many sources of free radicals.
The skin is particularly subjected to free radical damage because it is constantly exposed to the environment and works to protect the rest of the body. Although getting enough antioxidants in your diet is important for health, it is also necessary to apply them topically so that they benefit the outer layers of skin, the stratum corneum. Skin must constantly be repaired to combat oxidative damage and requires the necessary nutrients and antioxidants to perform this regeneration.
Antioxidants and Regeneration
Oxidative stress leads to accelerated aging of the skin by breaking down proteins including collagen and elastin which leads to wrinkles. Premature aging also decreases the skin’s immunity which can lead to increased risk of infection as well as cancer.
Antioxidants that are made by the body include glutathione, lipoic acid, and CoQ10. Levels of these antioxidants decline with age. Vitamins C and E are not produced by the body and must be obtained from the diet or applied topically to the skin.
Vitamin C content in the skin decreases with age, another reason to look for vitamin C in your skin care. Exposure to UV light, pollutants, cigarette smoke and ozone can also lower vitamin C content, primarily in the epidermis.
Antioxidants to look for in skin care include vitamin C, vitamin E (also known as tocopherols), alpha lipoic acid, green tea extract, and flavonoids. Flavonoids as such will not appear on the label, but are abundant in herb extracts such as calendula, rosemary, parsley, lemon balm, mint and raspberry leaf.
When applied topically, these antioxidants act in the epidermis to help revitalize skin that has been exposed to extrinsic oxidants including UV light (sunlight), elevation, wind and more. For people who love to be outside using antioxidants to combat this is very important. Damage to the epidermis can lead to more severe problems including a break down of the skin’s barrier function. The barrier function not only helps to keep skin moisturized but also helps to keep toxins out of the body.
At Colorado Aromatics we think that using herbs as one of the primary sources of antioxidants in skin care is important for skin health and recovery. Herbs contain a multitude of highly effective antioxidants to reduce the oxidative stress of skin.