They say that the best things in life are free. This is what I also believe not until I encounter “free radicals.” I’ve always thought that it means they’re the good guys especially when it comes to skincare but I was so wrong! In this post, I’ll cover how to reduce free radicals in the body so that we can achieve that healthy-looking glow.
I never knew that they were our number one enemy when it comes to our skin health. Learn from my mistakes as I share with you what I’ve researched about it. Ready?
First, we need to go back to some Chemistry basics (I feel you, I hate that subject too, haha) so we’ll better understand the meaning of free radicals. Don’t worry, I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible. LOL.
The Chemistry Behind It
Everything around us including our body cells is made up of molecules that contain atoms. These atoms have tiny electrons that surround them. These electrons’ normal state is to have a partner. They should always be in pair.
Once the atom’s structure is damaged and its electron loses its pair, something wrong will happen which is called free radical that is very harmful to our body.
Free radicals attack important macromolecules leading to cell damage and homeostatic disruption. Targets of free radicals include all kinds of molecules in the body.
Among them, lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins are the major targets.1
While free radicals are naturally produced by our body, it is greatly a result by external factors.
What Causes Free Radicals?
- Cigarette smoke
- Environmental pollutants
- Certain drugs, pesticides
- Industrial solvents
Unfortunately, yes, it is everywhere. Thus, making our skin–the body’s first protection prone to damage caused by these bad guys. But how? Let’s go skin deep, literally, gal. 😉
How Free Radicals Affect Our Skin?
Have you ever thought about why a slice of the apple turns brown when you leave it out? It’s because of oxidation. The same thing happens with our skin. Oxidation is when an atom loses an electron just like what we’ve mentioned earlier.
And since an electron needs a buddy, it will look for a partner, and in case that happens there’s a big possibility, it will snatch from a healthy cell. That’s where chaos starts. It damages our skin’s DNA, resulting in wrinkles, dryness, sagging, fine lines, and a lot more blemishes. Uh-oh!
Most of the potentially harmful effects of oxygen are due to the formation and activity of a number of chemical compounds, known as ROS, which have a tendency to donate oxygen to other substances.1
I know you are now a bit worried that since it’s our body’s natural process and that external factors are anywhere, there’s nothing we can do about it. Na! Of course, there is. Hooray!
How to Reduce Free Radicals in the Body?
Our best buddy: Anti-oxidant
An antioxidant is a molecule stable enough to donate an electron to a rampaging free radical and neutralize it, thus reducing its capacity to damage. 1
In other words, the antioxidant is a compound with molecules that have extra electrons which they can share with a free radical then neutralize it. They are balanced that even if they give that excess electron, they will still be stable. What good news!
What’s more exciting is that there are a lot of substances that are anti-oxidants! I know you are familiar with Vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene. Some are carotenoids and minerals like selenium and manganese.
The following are nutrients with antioxidant activity and the foods in which they are found:
- Vitamin C: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, leafy greens (turnip, mustard, beet, collards), honeydew, kale, kiwi, lemon, orange, papaya, snow peas, strawberries, sweet potato, tomatoes, and bell peppers (all colors)
- Vitamin E: Almonds, avocado, Swiss chard, leafy greens (beet, mustard, turnip), peanuts, red peppers, spinach (boiled), and sunflower seeds
- Carotenoids including beta-carotene and lycopene: Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, bell peppers, kale, mangos, turnip and collard greens, oranges, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, winter squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, beef, poultry, barley, brown rice
- Zinc: Beef, poultry, oysters, shrimp, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, cashews, fortified cereals
- Phenolic compounds: Quercetin (apples, red wine, onions), catechins (tea, cocoa, berries), resveratrol (red and white wine, grapes, peanuts, berries), coumaric acid (spices, berries), anthocyanins (blueberries, strawberries)3
Did you list that down on your notes? I sure did! Definitely adding these on my pantry. 😊
Not a veggie-lover yet skin needs a pamper? Here’s another way on how to reduce free radicals in the body.
Fortunately, there are antioxidant supplements that you can take on a daily basis like this one – Solgar Advanced Antioxidant Formula that offers full-spectrum antioxidant support.
There are also skincare products in the market that contains these antioxidants. Here are the ingredients that you need to look for in a product:
- Vitamin C & E and Selenium: These antioxidants work by speeding up the skin’s natural repair systems and by directly inhibiting further damage, says Karen E. Burke, MD, PhD, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s department of dermatology.
- Coenzyme Q10: A study published in the journal Biofactors found that applying coenzyme Q10 to the skin helped minimize the appearance of wrinkles.
- Alpha-lipoic Acid: Studies have looked at creams with 3%-5% concentration, applied every other day and building up slowly to once daily, and found some improvement in sun-induced changes in the skin.
- Retinoic Acid: Retinoic acid is the active form of vitamin A in the skin and the “gold standard” in anti-aging skincare, according to Burke.
- Flavonoids: Research suggests that the flavonoids in green tea are strong antioxidants that may help protect the skin from cancer and inflammation.
- B Vitamin: It’s important to get enough of foods rich in B vitamins, such as chicken, eggs, and fortified grain products, because a B vitamin deficiency can lead to dry, itchy skin. 4
5 Top Pick Antioxidant Serum
- Paula’s Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Serum with Vitamin C, Ferulic Acid & Coenzyme Q10, Anti-Aging Treatment for Dry Skin
- CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid | Skin Brightening Serum for Face with 10% Pure Vitamin C | Fragrance-Free
- SKINCEUTICALS C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Juice Beauty Antioxidant Serum
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum with Sunscreen
Please do note though that supplements or topical antioxidants will never replace the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. So, load up your plate with these superfoods and your skin will surely thank you.
Take-Aways on How to Reduce Free Radicals in the Body
Sad to say, free radicals are part of our body and the environment so there’s no way we can escape them.
However, there are anti-oxidants – our friend, that when added to our diet and skincare, will help fight those free radicals and their effect.
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