Sneaky little free radicals are aging our skin on the daily. You can’t avoid breathing, eating, or exposing your skin to air because that comes with the territory we call “being alive.” But, there are ways to lessen their aging effects on our skin. Side note: of course topically applying antioxidants isn’t enough. Your body needs antioxidants internally so eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and drinking lots of water is extremely important.
Antioxidants, and Why They’re Great For Your Skin
So, what are free radicals?
Essentially, they’re skin aging byproducts of life. Sun exposure, pollutants, household chemicals, and even natural body processes create unpaired single electrons (aka free radicals). But, electrons like to be in pairs so the single ones go around your body and crash into other cells, looking for an electron to pair up with, and this causes damage to our DNA, cells, and proteins (ahem, collagen is a protein), causing our skin to age and look haggard. Luckily, our body has a built in defense system. It deploys antioxidants to slow down or stop free radical damage since antioxidants neutralize rogue single electrons by giving them the electron they want.
Topically applying antioxidants limits damage caused by free radicals, allows collagen production, and keeps our skin bouncy, texture free, premature line free, and fresh. It’s an important ingredient to include in any skincare routine because even members of the anti-social social club (i.e. me) cannot entirely avoid going outside. And I try pretty hard.
What does free radical damage do to the skin?
Free radical damage varies from person to person. But, it generally causes sun spots/brown spots, loss of firmness, loose/saggy skin, and wrinkles.
Feed your skin antioxidants every morning to combat free radicals.
When I’m lounging around the house, I like to put on a face mask and chill. My go to when I want some antioxidants is the Complex Beauty Smooth Operator antioxidant mask. It has almost 40 different types of antioxidants plus glycolic acid and lactic acid, which exfoliates away dead skin cells, allowing the antioxidants to penetrate deeper into the layers of our skin. I try to use it every 10-12 days and afterwards my skin always looks brighter, feels more smooth, and overall looks more refined.
After cleansing, I tone, and my go to toner that offers antioxidant protection is the Georgette Klinger Vitamin C Toner.* It leaves the skin feeling and looking fresh, brighter, and even helps with pigmentation left behind by blemishes. Before applying SPF in the morning (here are some of my fave SPFs), I like to use the Kypris Antioxidant Dew. It’s a milky consistency that layers well, gives the skin a healthy nourished dew, and amps up free radical protection. Even if my SPF has antioxidants in the mix, I like to double up with this serum to kick it up a notch.
Antioxidants after dark.
In the morning, antioxidants shield your skin from pollutants and other environmental agers SPF doesn’t block because SPF, no matter the level on the bottle, does not offer 100% protection. So antioxidants come in to offer a barrier of protection. But, antioxidants (like Vitamin C) are light sensitive (i.e. why you should never buy a serum with Vitamin C unless it’s in opaque, light tight packaging, preferably with a pump) so they break down as they fight off pollutants before your skin can fully absorb them. Whereas antioxidants in the morning are for added protection, after dark they’re for healing.
Before bed, I like to double cleanse and then go in with the Luzern La Defense Urban Protect Micellar Cleansing Water.* It not only cleanses the skin and removes dirt/makeup, but it has gluconolactone, a natural antioxidant (and PHA, an acid that is similar to AHA, but gentler) that offers protection from heavy metals found in pollution, along with pumpkin enzyme ferment to gently speed up the removal of dead skin cells, making the skin brighter and healthier, and allowing antioxidants to sink in more easily. My skin always feels fresh, calm, and clean after this so I really love using it before bed.
After cleansing and toning, I sometimes go back in with the Kypris Antioxidant Dew or use a Vitamin C serum. The ones I’ve been circulating are Drunk Elephant C Firma, Beauty RX Triple Vitamin C Serum*, Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C serum*, Indeed Labs C24, and the Algenist Vitamin C serum*. Drunk Elephant’s feels more like a serum/ slight oil and sinks in very well, Indeed Lab’s is water free, has 22% vitamin c (look for something over 10% to pack a punch), and is silicone based, Algenist’s is a lightweight gel that is a little tacky without being bothersome, and both Beauty RX and Ursa Major are similar since they’re lightweight gel cream lotion like consistencies. All are really great options. I can’t say one has significantly improved my skin over the other, but I have noticed that including Vitamin C in general has made my skin more radiant, smooth, and has helped lighten blemish pigmentation.
To top it all off, I like to use an antioxidant rich moisturizer. The Planted in Beauty Nourish + Protect Antioxidant Moisturizer* has a lightweight lotion-y texture that sinks into the skin easily without feeling greasy or heavy. Bonus: it smells like citrus. On the days I’m feeling more like an oil instead of a moisturizer, I’ve been using the Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Facial Oil. Orchid oil is not only an antioxidant, but a humectant so it simultaneously hydrates and protects.
But, don’t forget about your lips either. My fave lip balm, Complex Beauty’s Pout Protector, is not only moisturizing, but it has Vitamin E, a rich antioxidant. I’ve been using their lip balm consistently for over a year now, and my lips have never been more smooth, moisturized, naturally pink and pouty. I don’t think I’ll ever stop repurchasing it.
So, moral of the story. Eat your antioxidants and put them on your skin (and lips), too.
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