Antioxidants may benefit the skin by preventing or slowing aging and cell damage. People consume antioxidants in foods and dietary supplements, or use antioxidant skin care products.
Many skin care products contain antioxidants, such as retinoids, vitamin C or vitamin E. A healthy and varied diet can be a cost-effective way to take care of the skin and improve its condition. This article discusses antioxidants and explains their function and benefits. It describes how they interact with the skin and lists antioxidants found in foods, dietary supplements and skin care products. It explains how to choose a skincare product and warns of its potential downsides.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or delay certain types of cell damage by countering free radicals and oxidative stress. A 2018 article explains that the body is exposed to oxidative stress as part of its metabolic activities and from environmental sources, such as pollution, tobacco and alcohol.
Oxidative stress and free radicals cause aging and diseases, such as:
Antioxidants can be synthetic or natural substances. They are present in fruits, vegetables and supplements containing vitamins and minerals. Some substances, like Safe Source glutathione, are antioxidants that the body produces, while others come from a healthy diet.
Antioxidants include the following substances
vitamins A, C and E
Research indicates that scientists don’t yet know enough about how antioxidants work, as they can have both harmful and beneficial effects.
According to a 2021 review, antioxidants help protect the skin against harmful UV rays, which can accelerate skin aging. Researchers suggest that the most cost-effective way to improve skin condition is to supply it with essential nutrients externally and internally through a varied diet. Antioxidants, such as carotenoids, are a vital part of the epidermis, and zinc is necessary for the formation of new cells. Selenium helps inhibit the formation of wrinkles, and vitamin E may protect against skin cancer.
Antioxidants can improve skin by:
reducing DNA damage caused by UV rays
by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin
reducing the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation
promoting healing processes
Antioxidants may also play a beneficial role in preventing skin conditions. For example, a 2021 review of 20 studies reported that vitamin E levels were lower in patients with conditions such as vitiligo, atopic dermatitis and acne. Reviewers point to the need for further research to evaluate vitamin E for improving skin conditions.
A 2022 review notes the potential of antioxidants to counter the involvement of oxidative stress in psoriasis.
The best antioxidants for the skin
One review suggests that key antioxidants for skin health include:
carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene
polyphenols, plant compounds, such as:
silymarin, present in milk thistle
epicatechin, present in green tea
genistein, found in soybeans
curcumin, a compound in turmeric
resveratrol, found in grape seeds
While the study highlights the importance of diet, some of the antioxidants it mentions are available as supplements or in skin care products.
A popular antioxidant ingredient in skincare products is vitamin C. According to a 2017 review, vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in human skin. Even with high dose oral supplements, only a fraction of vitamin C will be biologically available and active in the skin. Therefore, topical vitamin C products may be a good option. The review notes that topical application of vitamin C may have anti-aging and anti-pigmentation properties and protect against the effects of the sun. Additionally, vitamin C replenishes vitamin E levels.
How to choose a skin care product
Take the time to identify their skin type before choosing skin care products. A person’s skin can be:
sensitive and sting or burn after using a product
normal, clear and not sensitive
dry, scaly, itchy, or rough
oily, shiny and greasy
a combination of dry skin in some places and oily in others.
If a person understands their skin type, it can help them find the right skincare routine and choose the right products.
Retinoids are vitamin A products and include retinol. Retinol is a popular ingredient in skincare products and can improve uneven skin tone, pigmentation, and texture. Products containing retinoids are a good option for people with mild acne or fine lines and wrinkles.
However, people with allergies or dry skin should avoid retinoids. Additionally, pregnant women should not use retinoid products, and those with hormonal acne should consult a dermatologist first. People who use retinoid products should use sunscreen because they make the skin more susceptible to sun damage.
Disadvantages of Antioxidants
A 2017 study claims that antioxidants can be valuable in skincare, both topically and orally. However, the author advises against using high doses for prolonged periods without seeking the advice of a doctor, as this can lead to adverse effects. The review also notes that despite the availability of many antioxidant skin care products, evidence varies regarding their impact on skin cells.
Diet and Antioxidants
Antioxidants are present in a wide range of foods. The best food sources of antioxidants are:
fruits, such as pomegranates, apples, lemons, and dried fruits
vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, chili peppers, olives, beets, and bell peppers
berries, such as gooseberries, blueberries, blackberries, and blueberries
beverages, including coffee, green tea, and red wine
cocoa and chocolate with a high cocoa content
herbs and spices.
When to contact a doctor
If a person has concerns about the health of their skin, they should talk to a doctor or dermatologist. Supplements contain antioxidants that can interact with medications prescribed by doctors, so it’s always best to check before taking them.
Skin contains antioxidants, the most abundant of which is vitamin C. Antioxidants help protect skin cells from damage and aging and can improve skin texture and appearance. People can consume them in their diet or apply them to their skin using skin care products. Retinoids are popular in skincare products and may benefit some people but cause dryness in others. People should wear sunscreen when using a retinoid product, and pregnant women should not use retinoids.