Friday, 15 December 2017

Why do we need antioxidants?

We hear the word Antioxidants a lot these day, but what exactly are Antioxidants and why do we need them?

An Antioxidant stops Oxidation. Some examples from every day of oxidation are when a freshly cut apple or avocado turns brown, a nail becomes rusty or a copper statue turns green.

Oxidation has created damage, by the formation of free radicals.  Free radicals are public enemy number 1 to the skin!  The technical name for free radicals is Reactive Oxygen Species – sounds even worse doesn’t it!!

The vast majority of skin damage, dysfunction, disease and premature ageing is caused by the activity of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms and need to be stopped in their tracks to limit their damage to healthy functioning cells.

How does a free radical develop?  A healthy oxygen atom becomes a free radical atom, when the healthy atom is agitated by an adverse energy source e.g. UV light, inflammation caused by pollution or stress. The agitated atom throws off one of its electrons to try and release the unwanted energy. So, the previously healthy atom is now missing an electron and gets even more agitated, the lost electron goes in search of another atom to join up to, that other atom in turn now has too many electrons and becomes agitated and throws off an electron and so on creating a chain reaction leading to Oxidative Stress and the oxygen molecules are now disfigured and cannot function properly.

Free radicals invade body cells, breaking through the membrane, negatively affecting the structures and function of the cell and deprive it of oxygen. If these free radicals damage the nucleus (“heart of the cell”), irregular cell reproduction will occur leading to irregular dysfunction in the skin, premature ageing and disorders and diseases of the skin, and if the DNA is changed, then cancerous change will occur.

Free radical damage to the skin occurs from exposure to UV light, pollution, stress, excessive exercise, poor diet, smoking, infra-red, x ray, alcohol, medication, inflammation, for example.

So, we need to neutralise the free radicals. All sounds very Star Trek! But it is of vital importance to our health. Because Oxidative Stress doesn’t just apply to our skin – but to all cells within the body.

Antioxidants neutralise free radicals. How do they do that?

An antioxidant will donate an electron without becoming a free radical itself.  Humans can’t manufacture antioxidants, we depend on their consumption through fruit and vegetables.  Many would say that it is difficult to obtain sufficient antioxidants these days as intensive farming and increased urbanisation has depleted our soil, while a more stressed society and processed foods depletes our digestive system’s capability.  Therefore, we are can’t provide our body with the essential nutrition required to counteract free radical activity. So this means we also need to think about supplementation.  And that’s a whole topic in itself.

We can also increase our Antioxidant usage by topical application to the skin. This is why you will see many products stating the word Antioxidant on the label. The quality of the antioxidant ingredients, their molecular size and therefore ability to be used by the skin’s cells all affect the efficacy of a topical product. And there are many sources of antioxidants so a product with a broad range of Antioxidants is best.

To quote Dr Des Fernandes, the founder of Environ skin care, plastic surgeon and skin cancer specialist, we need the Antioxidant Brigade!!

“This is the antioxidant network of the skin which comprises Glutathione, Coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, vitamin E and Alpha Lipoic Acid which recycle each component’s antioxidant activity. This is fortified by carotenoids and altogether, the network and carotenoids protect vitamin A in the skin.”

Another interesting fact is that whilst the use of SPF on a daily basis is vital, research is showing that the addition of antioxidants is even more effective than sunscreen alone, when protecting the skin from cancer.

Well by now, I hope you can see that Antioxidants are our natural protectors and vital to our overall health and healthy skin. So, here’s a few tips: 

  • Base your diet on whole foods in forms of fresh fruit and vegetables and good quality proteins. 
  • Minimise and ideally eliminate processed foods.
  • Keep hydrated. The body and skin cells need water to do their work.

Key nutrients in your diet that help support high antioxidant activity are:

  • Turmeric - containing the active ingredient curcumin. This spice is known, improving cognition and reducing the signs of ageing.
  • Vitamin C - improves immune cell function (neutrophils & lymphocytes), reduces tiredness and fatigue, acting as a co factor for iron absorption and supports collagen formation.
  • Vitamin D - appears to enhance immunity and inhibits the development of autoimmunity where the body turns on itself and destroys healthy tissue.

Take a look at your skincare. Is it giving your enough of the essential vitamins (A, C, D, E) needed for healthy skin?

Want to see Antioxidants at work on your skin? Book an Environ Active Vitamin Facial now and learn more.

Make sure to give me a call on 01748 889350 or send me an email at 

Thank You,

Kathy x

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