Free Radicals and Your Skin
By now you probably know that oxidation caused by free-radical damage is bad news for your body and skin. Oxidation is thought to play a role in diseases like cancer, arthritis, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. It also wreaks havoc on your skin, resulting in diminished elasticity, uneven skin tone, age spots and wrinkles.
A Good Diet Isn’t Enough
The ideal diet includes a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats (like olive oil, fish, flaxseed). However, once eaten, a variety of factors can impair their absorption. For example, medications like antibiotics, birth control pills and antacids cause vitamins and minerals to absorb at a much lower rate. Taking vitamins and minerals doesn’t give you license to eat crap, but it helps ensures that our daily nutritional needs are being met.
Antioxidants (such as Vitamins A, C and E) in our diet, as supplementation, and in topical products, help lessen the damage.
How Topical Vitamins Work
In addition to internally nourishing your skin and cells internally, you can deliver antioxidants to your topically. From what I’ve read, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and polyphenols (found in Green tea) are the most effective topical ingredients available without a prescription.
Vitamin C: The Multi-tasker
Our bodies can’t create Vitamin C and there’s a limit to how much we can absorb from food and supplements. However, when applied directly to the skin, we are able to absorb and retain much more of this potent antioxidant. Vitamin C fights free radical damage, promotes collagen growth and helps reverse sun damage. When formulated with Vitamin E, its antioxidant properties are greatly enhanced—-even boosting the efficacy of sunscreen!
However, Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is fragile and degrades quickly in the presence of water or light. For a Vitamin C serum or cream to be effective and stable, it should be formulated in a non-aqueous solution (without water) and packaged in a way that limits its exposure to light. A clear tube or jar won’t cut it!
Vitamin E: The Helper
Vitamin E works synergistically with Vitamin C to protect the epidermis from the early stages of UV damage. On its own, Vitamin E helps to reduce the severity of sunburn and protects the skin’s lipid balance during cleansing or exfoliating. Because Vitamin E is fat soluble, the skin absorbs and maintains topical Vitamin E, making it effective between applications.
Polyphenols are plant-derived substances with antioxidant properties. Also called flavonoids, polyphenols used in skincare include green tea, grape seed extract, and pomegranate. While the jury is still out on whether polyphenols can reverse sun damage, studies show that they play a role in reducing inflammation, and therefore, help repel early signs of skin aging.
The Role of Retinoids
Retinoids (synthetic Vitamin A) like Retin-A or Renova are powerful anti-aging products. Studies show that when delivered through the skin, Retinoids have positive measurable effects at the cellular level. They aren’t for everyone. Drawbacks:
- Only available by prescription.
- Can cause major sun sensitivity (sun protection is a must)
- Irritation/sensitivity— Retinoids are unsuitable for reactive skin types or pregnant/nursing women.
Recipe for Glowing Skin
Follow these tips for skin that’s beautiful on the inside and outside:
- Do the best you can with your diet, given your lifestyle. Aim for a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables, fish and lean protein. Limit or cut sugar and processed.
- Take a high-quality multivitamin daily.
- Boost skin benefits with antioxidant supplements, B-complex vitamins, and minerals like calcium, selenium and zinc.
- Consume anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid supplements like fish oil, flax seed oil or evening primrose oil.
- Feed your skin with a topical stable Vitamin C serum that also contains Vitamin E and Ferulic acid.
- Consider using a serum made with concentrated extracts of green tea or grape seed.