Want to make sure you’re using a well-rounded skincare routine? Incorporate antioxidants. Any dermatologist will stress this point because they play a vital role in eliminating free radicals that cause skin damage and ultimately signs of aging. These are seven of the most powerful and effective antioxidants to look for in your skincare products for a brighter, healthier, and younger-looking complexion.
Arguably the most popular antioxidant of the bunch (dermatologists praise its skin-lightening power), vitamin C comes in many forms and therefore goes by many names. Ascorbic acid (or L-ascorbic acid) is the pure form of the vitamin, but it is very unstable and prone to oxidation. It is sensitive to heat, light and oxygen, especially in the presence of water. It also means it has a shorter shelf life. To improve its stability, cosmetic chemists have developed derivatives of ascorbic acid – ascorbyl palmitate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate are the two most common – and often use them in products instead of ascorbic acid. However, cosmetic formulator Stephen Alain Ko claims that this requires altering the vitamin’s chemical structure to make it more stable, and research proving that this altered version is more effective is scanty, if not inconclusive. “That’s why I prefer to use vitamin C in its pure ascorbic acid form, despite its stability issues,” he notes.
Vitamin C helps protect the skin from free radical damage, including that from UV exposure, environmental pollutants, smoke, alcohol, and more. also stimulates collagen production,” says Ko, naming SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic as one of his favorite products. “These effects help minimize skin changes associated with aging, such as fine lines and sun damage.”
Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill says it’s one of her favorite antioxidants (it’s also known as the longevity molecule and, like vitamin C, can be ingested for a host of benefits healthy). “Resveratrol is a natural antioxidant that comes from the skin of grapes and other berries, and it may act as a shield against environmental stressors and protect the skin from UV damage. Additionally, it has anti-aging properties, reduces redness, evens skin tone and hydrates the skin!My favorite product that contains resveratrol is Doctor’s Daughter’s Extremolyte Stem Cell Serum.
Also known as vitamin B3 (you’ll often see it listed as such on skincare products), niacinamide is like a multivitamin for our skin: from lightening dullness and reducing redness to blurring large pores and fine lines, it not only refines skin’s appearance, but also acts at the cellular level to strengthen barrier function. “Niacinamide is another powerful antioxidant that improves skin tone and texture,” says Dr. Longwill. “It’s one of the secrets to glowing skin because it has incredible brightening benefits, reduces acne and prevents signs of aging.”
Also called coenzyme Q10, coQ10 is a cellular antioxidant that occurs naturally in our bodies to help neutralize free radicals and build collagen and elastin in our skin. “CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that helps repair aging and negative environmental effects on our skin,” says Delray Beach, FL, dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby. “Oxidants are like the ‘Pacman’, in that they chew up our good cells. We capture oxidants with antioxidants as the name suggests, so they are part of our body’s military force to reduce aging skin and environmental stresses.
“The polyphenols in green tea are my favorite antioxidant,” says New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. “They stop oxidative damage at various points in the oxidative pathway and fight free radicals, helping to reduce or eliminate the damage they cause. This makes green tea the most powerful antioxidant among the antioxidants. At Plastic Surgery & Dermatology of NYC, we include green tea in most of our products because we believe an antioxidant is essential to the skincare routine.Green tea gives a bronzed tint to a product, which can explain why they can’t be found in beauty stores, as white goods are traditionally considered more stylish.However, it’s important to note that the tan tint does not cause a change in skin tone and is certainly worth the benefit polyphenols.
Many people may not realize that retinol is also an antioxidant. “Retinol is another antioxidant that’s high on my list,” says Dr. Longwill. “Derived from vitamin A, it increases cell turnover, helps eliminate acne, improves skin texture, reduces signs of aging and helps reverse the effects of sun damage.”
Beloved by skincare professionals for its ability to speed up the skin’s healing process, vitamin E is found in almost all moisturizers, creams and lotions formulated to treat dry skin. It has also been shown in studies to help stabilize other antioxidants and improve their effectiveness. You will therefore often find it combined with vitamin C or resveratrol in skin care products.
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