How Antioxidants Work

Many of us know that antioxidants play an important part when it comes to our skincare, but do we all know how they actually work?

The skin is one of the largest organs in the body. Skin aging is manifested by increased numbers of pigmented spots, wrinkles and features of sagging. Because the skin derives much of its oxygen from the atmosphere it also derives free radical oxygen species in the same way and this increases oxidative stress.

Environmental exposures, especially to cigarette smoking and UV light, also predispose to oxidative stress by both increasing free radical oxygen species and reducing the activity of antioxidant enzymes.

So how does oxidative stress occur?

Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralisation by antioxidants.

There is also some evidence that UV light also impairs the immune function of the skin through altering antioxidant enzyme levels that impact on the number of Langerhans cells in the epidermis. Since our skin is our first line of defence when it comes to protecting us from the outside world, it comes to no surprise that our skin contains lots of immune system cells. These are dendritic or LANGERHAN cells migrate to the epidermis, where they run their tendrils around the keratinocytes ingesting unwanted invaders.

A depletion in these cells leads to less protection.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron. They can occur naturally in our own bodies through metabolism however there’s many environmental factors which can cause a rise in free radicals such as pesticides, radiation, pollution, stress and lack of exercise and lack of sleep. These free radicals start attacking healthy cells to replace their missing electron.Once these cells lose their electron they split and become free radicals themselves and so it causes a chain reaction known as oxidative stress.

Take the apple experiment for example.

When an apple is cut or injured oxygen is introduced into the injured plant tissue. When oxygen is present in cells POLYPHENOL OXIDASE known as (PPO) react with the PHENOLS. Oxidation of phenols starts a complex chain reaction which ends in a protein called melanin. This is what you see when your apple turns brown. Melanins are a lot more wide spread in plant tissues than our own tissues. There’s serves a slightly different purpose. When the plant cells are damaged, melanin is produced to surround and slow down infection and damage. When sliced open the apple is exposed to oxygen so the PPO will oxidise all the phenols turning the surface brown quick.

As this process is called OXIDATION the solution is ANTI-OXIDATION. This is achieved with ANTIOXIDANTS.

They stop the chain reaction by donating an electron to the free radicals whilst remaining stable and not becoming a cell damaging free radical themselves.

So to keep our skin looking more youthful for longer we need to increase protection. It’s difficult to avoid oxidative stress in the modern world as many of the pollutants are airborne, so using antioxidants on the skin will provide an extra layer of defence. As some antioxidants can sensitise the skin it is incredibly important to use a broad spectrum UV sun protection – even on cloudy days and Winter. Just use is 365 damnit.

Watch the video below to see how antioxidants work