If you’re even the slightest bit into skincare, you’ve probably heard of the umbrella term “free radicals”. Free radicals here, free radical damage there…what in the world does it even mean?
Not to worry––we’re here to break it down for you.
WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?
In simple terms, free radicals are atoms or molecules with an odd number of electrons. They are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. They are also called unpaired electrons because they are “unbalanced”.
ARE FREE RADICALS GOOD OR BAD?
Unpaired electrons aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Many free radicals are necessary for life and are used by our body's cells to kill invading bacteria.
However, free radicals are unstable molecules, which means they do in fact damage skin cells. Because these molecules are missing an electron, they're on the hunt, so to say. Free radicals are always “looking” to steal an electron from stable molecules in order to balance themselves out.
WHAT DO FREE RADICALS HAVE TO DO WITH SKINCARE?
Human skin is constantly exposed to solar radiation (UVA/UVB rays), environmental pollutants, and many other mechanical and chemical elements that float in the air around us––and all of these things generate free radicals.
Essentially, these free radicals cause damage to our skin cells every day. Yet, this external skin damage isn’t always visible at first. However, over time, the extrinsic skin damage physically appears and develops even more due to factors like pollution, dust, UV & ionizing radiation, physical and psychological stress, alcohol intake, poor nutrition, overeating, environmental pollution, and more.
The effects of free radicals on the skin pop up in several ways, like:
- Discoloration and brown spots
- Broken blood vessels
- Wrinkles (caused by an acceleration of collagen breakdown)
- Loose and saggy skin (caused by damaged elastic fibers)
SO…HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR SKIN FROM FREE RADICALS?
Because we doubt any of you are keen on the effects listed above, be reassured: there are some ways to protect yourself from unnecessary free radical damage. While we can’t avoid them completely (like we can’t avoid aging!), we can mitigate their effects with antioxidants.
The skin is already equipped with a network of protective antioxidants, but you can up your antioxidant game by consuming kale, spinach, raspberries, blueberries, dark chocolate, coffee, tea, colorful fruits, and leafy veggies, and many more antioxidant-rich foods & drinks.
A topical application of antioxidant-rich serums is another great way to get antioxidants. A vitamin C serum, for example, will help build collagen and help protect your skin from harmful, free-radical-producing UVB rays. And of course, the avoidance of excessive sun exposure and daily SPF application is also key.
Have any more questions? Feel free to drop us a comment below or reach out on our socials!
Until next time,
The BSE Team