Antioxidants burst on to the commercial beauty scene around the 1980’s as a marketing buzzword, but in truth, they have been used for centuries in bath, skincare and makeup products. And they keep growing in popularity – it’s hard to find beauty products now that don’t mention something on their packaging about antioxidants. But the key is knowing WHEN they matter (for use), and HOW they will benefit you (beauty concerns). Before we start, let’s define what antioxidants are, and why they are important:
Antioxidants are basically molecules that prevent the oxidation (damage) of another molecule, or a healthy cell. Oxidation is when pollutants (free-radicals) attack healthy cells and damage them – think of cutting open an apple, and after a short time the inside part starts to turn brown. That is oxidation. Animals and plants have an internal system for maintaining this natural process, but there are known vitamins in nature that combat the damaging effects: A, E, and C. However, they are all used in various ways to achieve different results, and reverse or prevent damage.
Tip #1: Only use them in products that absorb into or sit on the skin
Why? Well, a cleanser that brags it’s chock-full of antioxidants isn’t really going to give you much benefit – you apply the cleanser for 30 or 60 seconds max, and then it washes down the drain. The skin barely had time to benefit from any antioxidant exposure. Also, you don’t have to have every skincare or makeup product you own contain antioxidants to get the benefit. Here’s my recommendation: use a serum, eye cream or a moisturizer that contains any of the vitamins (A, E, or C) so that it’s absorbed readily into the skin, and keeps working over time. This will help save you money, as typically even the word “antioxidant” can command a higher price tag on a product.
Tip #2: Know which antioxidants are right for your skin type
Why? Not all of the antioxidants should be used by everyone. Vitamin E is probably the safest, most gentle of the group, and is fantastic for dry or sensitive skins that have a hard time maintaining healthy cell structure (flakiness, dry patches). It’s also fantastic for healing cuts, sunburns, stretch marks, irritation, and Vitamin E oil can be used as eye makeup remover. Vitamin A is also known as it’s commercial name “Retinol”, or it’s drug name “Retin-A”. Caution – while Vitamin A is great at erasing fine lines and wrinkles, it can also be very harsh on the skin. It’s often prescribed for acne treatment too, as it causes hyper-exfoliation to rid skin of clogs and dead skin cells. However, it can create redness, peeling, and high tendency to sunburn. Vitamin A is best used by oilier or combination skins that don’t have a concern for sensitivity. Lastly, Vitamin C is best used for brightening dull or uneven skin tones, and can fade dark spots over time. Vitamin C is very volatile (unstable) as an ingredient, so any packaging that is worth buying should be opaque – otherwise, sunlight damages it’s potency if it’s in clear packaging. Ever see a chef squeeze a lemon over a fruit salad before serving? Vitamin C brightens the appearance/colors of fruit and prevents delicate fruit (like apples or bananas) from turning brown quickly.
Tip #3: ALWAYS wear sunscreen to prolong the benefits of using antioxidants
This is probably the most important. UV rays damage the effects of antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight the free-radical damage that UV rays cause, but why not give the products a chance to work at their best by covering up daily with a proper sunscreen? Also, make sure it’s safe sunscreens (see my previous post for recommendations), and you’ll receive the fastest results in both CORRECTING skincare concerns, and PREVENTING any UV damage to the skin. Also, don’t apply Vitamin C or A to any sunburnt skin – your skin is already hyper sensitive at that point, and these two antioxidants will probably cause more irritation as they are way too active of ingredients. Vitamin C also keeps working over time, so you can easily use it for years to reap the benefits of brightening and evening of the skin tone. Vitamin A can cause the skin to build a tolerance, so you may find that switching between the two can also deliver benefits, based on your skincare concerns. If you take precaution to use sunscreen regularly, and year-round, you’ll probably find that you don’t have to invest too much in other products. Also, foundations now are great ways to combine both antioxidant ingredients with sunscreens – it’s a way to make your dollar stretch further, and have a multi-tasking product work optimally.
I hope this clears up the topic of antioxidants, especially as we approach summer – more skin will be exposed, and it’s a great time to think about your skincare concerns and how you want to address them. Enjoy!
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