As one of the important systems in the body, the skin strives for a state of balance (homeostasis). Oxidative stress occurs as a result of many internal and external factors and disrupts this homeostasis. Free radicals are molecules or ions with unpaired electrons that create oxidative stress and contribute to aging and disease. Our own cells’ mitochondria create free radicals as a result of normal cell metabolism. UV rays, pollution and chemotherapeutic drugs are just some of the external sources that can also create oxidative stress in the skin. Although our bodies contain their own natural antioxidant defense system, supplementation is typically necessary to fight oxidative stress and the resulting skin damage. Topically applied and orally administered antioxidants provide this needed protection.
There are several levels of antioxidant function: primary antioxidants, secondary antioxidants and co-antioxidants. Primary antioxidants act by donating an electron to disarm a free radical. Secondary antioxidants chelate metal ions that are rich with electrons. These metal ions are capable of triggering oxidation by donating or taking an electron. By removing these metals, secondary antioxidants eliminate potential radical initiators. Other molecules function as co-antioxidants. These function by facilitating the antioxidant activity of other compounds. Most antioxidants have a primary mechanism of action, but may have multiple functions.
UVB rays from the sun are the primary cause of a decrease in the antioxidant levels naturally found in the skin as well as an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS), a particularly damaging free radical to the skin. Because of this, regular use of broad-spectrum UV protection along with diligent application or topical antioxidants is necessary to help the skin’s system fight off oxidative stress. This strategy will help protect skin from the premature aging caused by the sun as well as minimizing the chances of skin cancer. PCA SKIN strongly believes that antioxidants are important for total skin health.
Next week we will outline some of the best antioxidants for your own skin care regimens.