Thursday, October 6, 2011

Antioxidants 101

We constantly hear buzzwords like antioxidants and free radicals in the news. They have us drinking more green tea and buying products with labels that claim to contain the marvelous compounds, but what are they?

It’s a little strange to think of our bodies rusting, but as we age a similar process of oxidation affects body tissues. Free radicals form in the body as oxygen interacts with certain molecules and trigger a chain reaction in the skin that damages its structure and weakens it on the cellular level. Antioxidants are our bodies’ defense against cell damage. They protect cells and promote healthy aging as they equip our bodies with the ability to fight free radicals caused from such factors as sun exposure, pollution, alcohol and stress.

Antioxidants can be taken orally as vitamins or delivered topically. They work under the skin's surface by fortifying the body’s natural repair systems and preventing new damage. Some antioxidants have been shown to reverse some of the discoloration and wrinkles associated with aging and over exposure to the sun.

Remember that even though a product may claim to contain useful antioxidants, it is difficult to know what quantities are in some antioxidant-based products. To be effective as a topical treatment, they need to be in high concentrations and formulated properly to remain stable. Common names to look for are coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid and retinoic acid. If you are considering using an antioxidant for your skin, we can talk about which products are best for you.

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