All About Antioxidants

Fruits and veggies on silver forks - antioxidant power An insight into the world of antioxidants

The human body consists of as many as 1 trillion cells. Each of these cells are known to face constant threats from improper food consumption, infections, virus and the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals refer to a group of chemicals that are capable of damaging the genetic material of the human body. These free radicals can be found almost everywhere. The human body itself generates some amounts of free radicals as a byproduct of converting food into energy. Other sources of free radicals include sunlight, food and the air.

Free radicals are considered to be found in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can change the instructions that are coded in your DNA strands and can also make it more feasible for a lipoprotein molecule to get trapped in the artery wall. Furthermore, these free radicals can also alter the cell membrane, forcing it to change the flow of what leaves and what enters the cell.

Luckily, the human body isn’t completely defenseless to these free radicals. The body has always been used to the relentless attack that they crop up and it continuously creates free-radical defenders. These defenders are often grouped together as antioxidants. Antioxidants work by adding a few electrons to free radicals while ensuring that they don’t turn into electron scavengers themselves.

There are a number of substances that can play the role of antioxidants in the human body. Some of the most common antioxidants include Vitamins C and E, manganese, beta-carotene, lipoic acid, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, flavanoids and selenium.

However, the term antioxidant actually refers to a chemical property, i.e., the ability of a compound to act as an electron donor. In fact, there might be a number of compounds that act as antioxidants, but are electron grabbers in reality.

The Pros and Cons Of Using Antioxidants in Skin Care

Beauty and skin care companies have begun to harness antioxidants from a range of botanical compounds such as green tea, coffee berries, olives, grape seeds, mushrooms and pomegranates. According to Dr. Patricia Farris, a dermatologist based in Louisiana, topical antioxidants have become extremely popular. Scientific studies are proving the effectiveness of these antioxidants in terms of reducing wrinkles and aging, as well as preventing diseases like skin cancer and rosacea.

However, Dr. Richard Thomas, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, advises users to exercise some levels of caution while using topical antioxidants. He states that the idea behind topical antioxidants is an excellent one. He also believes that antioxidants still have a long way to go before their full benefits can be realized. Dr. Thomas states that they might not be harmful for the body, but their true benefits are still not crystal clear.

How Do Antioxidants Work

Oxidation mostly occurs because of the creation of free radicals at the cellular level whenever the skin gets exposed to UV light. Antioxidants help in relieving the oxidative stress caused by free radicals and bind with unstable electrons to prevent them from damaging the cells in the skin’s architecture. What makes antioxidants so wonderful is that they don’t end up turning into electron scavengers themselves.

How Do Antioxidants Help In Skin Care

It is essential to take care of your skin. After all, it is the largest organ in the human body and the major point of reference in terms of beauty. Antioxidants help in protecting the skin cells from the damage caused by free radicals and help to make your skin look younger and healthier. Here are some of the main skin care benefits offered by antioxidants.

  • Anti-Inflammatory. One of the biggest advantages of antioxidants is that they help in calming inflammation by increasing blood circulation and boosting cell metabolisms. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants also help in promoting an even skin tone and allow you to keep problems such as wrinkles and acne at bay. According to a study published in a book written by P.U. Giacomoni, the pro-oxidative factors that lead to accelerated skin aging might also end up activating inflammatory processes which interrupt with the elasticity and thickness of the skin. The study went on to show that topical antioxidants helped in decreasing the inflammation and offering protection to the skin structure.
  • Skin Firming. Antioxidants are also known to offer wonderful results when it comes to skin forming. In fact, antioxidants are known to reverse the effects of aging and promote healthier looking skin. Coenzyme Q10, a commonly used antioxidant is popular in products that help in toning the skin. According to a study published by Skin Research Technologies, an antioxidant named 19 DMAE managed to produce a firming effect on the human skin. According to clinical reports, DMAE also became the first topical agent that helped in firming sagging skin.
  • Reducing wrinkles. Antioxidants don’t just help you in reducing your existing wrinkles. They also help in delaying and/ or preventing the formation of new ones. Most antioxidants can help in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, but Vitamins C and E are considered to be the most beneficial. This is one of the main reasons why serums and anti-aging products are packed with antioxidants. According to a study made popular by R.E. Fizpatrick, Vitamin C helped in drastically increasing the collagen formation and reducing the formation of wrinkles within 12 weeks. The study was conducted with a group of people who were asked to use Vitamin C on one half of their face and placebo gel on the other half. Proper tests in terms of wrinkling, inflammation and pigmentation were performed before beginning the study, after 4 weeks, after 8 weeks and upon completion. The results of this study also correlated with biopsy evidence for formation of new collagen.
  • Treating scars. Antioxidants also help in reducing the appearance of scar tissues. Your scar tissues have a different cell structure that makes them extremely rigid. A number of antioxidants, particularly those found in onion extracts and aloe, help in increasing the blood flow to the scar tissue and assisting in the development of new skin in the problematic area.
  • Repairing the damage caused by the UV rays of the sun. It is common knowledge that excessive exposure to the sun can damage your skin cells, vaporize the moisture content and lead to pigmentation. Sun damage can also bring about wrinkles and toughen up your skin. Antioxidants negate the damage caused by the harmful UV rays of the sun by encouraging the growth of new skin cells and stimulating blood flow in the skin. According to a 3 month study published in the year 1999 by SS Traikovich, Vitamin C treated skin showed significant improvements in terms of ironing out wrinkles, making the skin supple, evening out the tone and improving the condition of photodamaged skin.

The Bottom Line

Free radicals lead to a number of diseases that  range from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer to heart diseases and loss of vision. This damage can be negated to a great effect by using antioxidants. Numerous studies have suggested that eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants as well as topical applications of antioxidants can help you negate a number of skin care problems. However, the world of antioxidants is still known to be relatively young in the medical field. Yes, antioxidants might be helping your skin to fight the damage caused by free radicals, but their full scope is still to be realized.

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