Free Radicals and Why You Need Antioxidant Skincare

Let’s talk about antioxidants skincare. Do you need it or are antioxidants just a marketing buzzword?

I had this same question, but much to my surprise, antioxidant skincare is incredibly important to your health!

But, before we dive into my favorite antioxidant skincare products, let’s talk about free radicals and oxidative stress.

Skincare companies are constantly going on about “nasty free radicals” and singing the praises of antioxidants; but I’ll be totally honest, for the longest time I wasn’t completely sure what those words meant.

Are free radicals really that scary? Do antioxidant products actually benefit my skin at all? I figured I couldn’t be the only one that was completely lost when it came to this antioxidant skincare stuff, so I did some research!

Skincare companies are constantly going on about "nasty free radicals" and singing the praises of antioxidants; but I'll be totally honest, for the longest time I wasn't completely sure what those words meant. Are free radicals really that scary? Do antioxidant products actually benefit my skin at all? I figured I couldn't be the only one that was completely lost when it came to this antioxidant business, so I did some research!Free radicals aren't all bad. They play a huge role in our biological processes, but can become problematic when too many of them exist in our bodies. This is where antioxidants come in!

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron.

From the way cosmetics companies talk about free radicals, you’d think we’d need to call a priest to exorcise every last one out of our bodies. But, the truth is, our body needs these little guys in moderation! They play a huge role in our biological processes. They’re the reason we can turn air and food into chemical energy and they also play an important role in our immune system.

What are Free Radicals? Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron. They play a huge role in our biological processes, but can become problematic when too many of them exist in our bodies.

We only start running into issues with free radicals when our body has too many of them.

So let’s get back to that unpaired electron that free radicals are going around with. This unpaired electron gives them the ability to easily interact with other molecules, meaning they can take an electron from another molecule. But by doing this, they’ve turned that molecule into another free radical that will then take an electron from yet another molecule, and so on. This chain reaction can cause damage to the cell.

Enter: antioxidants! These lil’ philanthropists are able to donate electrons without becoming destabilized, which prevents that cell-damaging chain reaction.

So what’s oxidative stress and how does it affect the skin?

The problems with free radicals arise when there are too many free radicals for the antioxidants to handle. This is called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can have a number of effects on our bodies, but for our purposes, we’ll stick to this – free radicals speed up aging.

They can cause:

  • A break down of collagen/lack of skin elasticity
  • Skin pigmentation
  • Wrinkles/fine lines
  • Dull skin
  • And, yes, even skin cancer

What Causes Free Radicals?

Again, some free radicals are produced naturally in your body. However, there are environmental factors that can increase your exposure to free radicals.

Some examples are:

  • UV exposure
  • Pollution
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Pesticides
  • Radiation

UV radiation is said to contribute the most to free radical damage, which is why it’s so important to wear SPF every day!

So…what now?

I know, I know. This post has been kind of a bummer so far. I’ve given you all this scary information, and you’re probably wondering what you can do to protect your skin from oxidative stress.

I wouldn’t be a proper skincare blogger if I didn’t shout “WEAR SUNSCREEN” multiple times in each blog post. But seriously, wear sunscreen! Protecting yourself from UV radiation is a great way to prevent oxidative stress.

But if you’re wondering what else you can do, here’s where antioxidants come back into play!

How do antioxidants protect your skin from Free Radical Damage? Antioxidants stabilize free radical molecules by donating an electron to them. Antioxidants are superheroes because they're able to donate electrons without becoming destabilized themselves!

Antioxidants are naturally present in your skin, but you can add more of them by using skincare products with antioxidants!

Some of the most well-researched antioxidants in skincare are:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Green tea
  • Ferulic acid

Using products with a blend of some of these in your skincare routine can help brighten your skin and fight signs of antiaging caused by oxidative stress.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase a product through these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that goes toward to costs of running Levitate Beauty. I only recommend products I have personally tried and love, and will always be upfront if I didn’t like a product.


Antioxidant skincare products I love

Some of my favorite antioxidant serums are:

And the good news is, there are plenty of cleansers and sunscreens that already include antioxidants in them! So be sure to look for them in the ingredients list.

When should you use antioxidants?

I prefer using my antioxidant products in the morning. Considering UV exposure and pollution are 2 of the main factors that increase your risk of oxidative stress, you’ll want to introduce extra antioxidants into your skin in the morning, before going outside.

You’re all caught up!

I hope this post was helpful in breaking down a lot of the info that’s out there about antioxidant skincare.

I just wanted to leave you with a quick note: I love reading about science, but I certainly wasn’t a science major in school. This post is the result of some heavy research I did in my free time and I did my best to hone in on the main ideas here and make them easier to understand.

But if you’re interested in reading more in-depth (aka science-y) explanations of free radicals and antioxidants, I highly recommend checking out the amazing articles I’ve cited and linked throughout this post!


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