Common Antioxidants In Skincare Products: Which Ones Are Best For You?

by Gio
most common antioxidants in skincare

Let’s play a game!

Grab your fave moisturiser and serum and tell me how many antioxidants you can spot.

1, 2, 3, Go!

Vitamin C.

Vitamin E.

Green tea.

Some antioxidants are easy to spot. Others go by weird name that makes them look like dangerous chemicals when they’re the friendliest allies your skin could have.

Time to end the confusion once and for all, me thinks. Here’s a roundup of some of the most common antioxidants found in skincare:

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

What it is: An enzyme soluble both in water and fat. It easily penetrates the skin.

What it does: It has powerful antioxidants properties and is able to regenerate Vitamins C and E, enhancing their effectiveness.

Side effects: All antioxidants degrade when exposed to light and air, but ALA is more vulnerable to this. Plus, in high concentrations (about 5% or more) can cause burning and stinging.

Best Picks:


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Coenzyme Q10 (aka Ubiquinone)

What it is: A fat soluble antioxidant present in all human cells. It’s also known as Ubiquinone.

What it does: It helps fight free radicals, stimulate the production of collagen and reduce UV damage.

Side effects: None.

Best Picks:

Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Coenzyme Q10

use vitamin c and glycolic acid together

Ferulic Acid

What it is: A plant-based antioxidant naturally present in the cell walls of whole grains, coffee, spinach, orange, apples, parsley,  grapes and other vegs and fruits.

What it does: It fights three types of free radicals (superoxide, hydroxyl radical, and nitric oxide) and boosts sun protection. It works better when paired with Vitamins C and E.

Side effects: None.

Best Picks:

Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ferulic Acid

Grape Seed Extract

What it is: An extract that contains lots of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, flavonoids proanthocyanidins and polyphenols.

What it does: It helps fight free radicals, improve collagen synthesis and reduce sun damage.

Side effects: None.

Best Picks:

  • Exuviance Age Reverse HydraFilm ($79.00): Available at Dermstore and Ulta
  • Paula’s Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Mattifying Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ ($33.00): Available at Paula’s Choice and SpaceNK
drunk elephant c-firma day serum

Green Tea

What it is: An extract derived from green tea, which is loaded with polyphenols.

What it does: Polyphenols fight free radicals and protect skin from the harmful sun rays. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, the most powerful antioxidant in green tea, reduces collagen breakdown, too.

Side effects: None.

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
  • MD SolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen ($30.00): available at Dermstore and Sephora.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($34.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice

Related: The Complete Guide To Green Tea In Skincare

spotlight on superoxide dismutase

Superoxide Dismutase (SOD)

What it is: It’s an enzyme found in all living cells. It’s possibly the most powerful antioxidant your body creates.

What it does: It can destroy the worst type of free radical ever, Super Oxide. It also reduces UV damage and soothes sunburn-induced redness.

Side effects: None.

Best Picks:

Related: The Complete Guide To Superoxide Dismutase In Skincare

medik8 retinol 6 TR 01

Vitamin A

What it is: A fat-soluble vitamin that comes in many forms, including retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinoic acid and retinaldehyde. If it has “Retin” in the name, it’s usually a form of Vitamin A.

What it does: It’s the only thing that really reduces wrinkles. It does it in three ways: it speeds up cellular turnover (the skin’s natural exfoliating process) and boosts collagen.

Side effects: It can cause redness, stinging and irritation. Start with small concentrations twice a week and build your way up from there.

Best Picks:

Related: Which Form Of Retinoid Is Right For You?

paula's choice vitamin c products guide

Vitamin C

What it is: Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that comes in many forms, including L-Ascorbic Acid, Ascorbic Palmitate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium ascorbyl Phosphate and Ascorbyl Glucoside. If it has “Ascorb” somewhere in the name, it’s usually a form of Vitamin C.

What it does: It fights free radicals, increases the production of collagen, reduces inflammation, and boosts the protection of your sunscreen (it does this better when paired with Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid).

Side effects: L-Ascorbic Acid (the pure form of Vitamin C) can irritate sensitive skin.

Best Picks:

Related: The Most Common Types Of Vitamin C In Skincare: Which One Is Right For You?

ecooking vitamin e serum

Vitamin E

What it is: A fat soluble vitamin that comes in many forms, including Alpha-Tocopherol and tocotrienols.

What it does: It fights free radicals and boosts sun protection (it does this better when paired with Vitamin C and Ferulic Acid).

Side effects: None.

Best Picks:

Related: 4 Reasons To Use Vitamin E (And 1 Why You Shouldn’t)

How To Get The Most Out Of Antioxidants

Now you know what antioxidants to look for in your skincare products, here’s how to make the most of them:

  1. Packaging matters: Antioxidants go bad faster when exposed to light and air. Skip jars and opt for opaque, air-tight tubes and bottles.
  2. The more, the merrier: No antioxidant is better than the other. Just like you’d get sick if you ate only kale, your skin needs more than one antioxidant to stay healthy and youngeer-looking. The more you use in your routine, the better.
  3. Go high: The higher an antioxidant is on the ingredient list, the better it’ll work. Just be careful not to go too high, especially with Vitamins A and C. They can be irritating in high doses.

Do you use skincare products with antioxidants? Share your faves in the comments below.

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12 comments

Celeste May 17, 2011 - 6:02 pm

this is very useful!!
at the moment, I’m using a witch hazel daycream with vitamin a, c, and e!

thanks for posting 😀

beautifulwithbrains May 17, 2011 - 7:05 pm

Celeste, I’m glad you find it useful. The cream you’re using contains some great antioxidants. 🙂

Tammy May 18, 2011 - 6:53 am

I never knew I used so many products with antioxidants until I read this. My serum and moisturizer contain Vitamins A, C and E, and green tea extract. Some of my face makeup has antioxidants too. So, why don’t look younger? LOL!

beautifulwithbrains May 18, 2011 - 10:35 am

Tammy, lol. It’s great that you use so many products with antioxidants. They may seem like they aren’t doing much now, but you’ll see the difference when you’re older and you won’t look your real age. 😉

Alejandra May 19, 2011 - 7:21 am

Speaking about antioxidants, im willing to buy a vitamin C serum cause is not expensive as many others with this active ingredient and claims to have 10%, its Orangedaily 10% vitamin C serum. It comes in an opaque and airtight package and has no water but since ascorbic acid is not too stable I have some doubts….
Here are the ingredients:
Isododecane, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Jojoba (Buxus Chinensis) Oil, Ethylene Mixed Copolymer, C12 15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A), Peueraria Thunberigiana Extract, Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa) Extract, Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) Extract, Sarsaparilla (Smilax Aristolochiaefolia) Extract, Tansy (Tanacetum Vulgare) Extract, Citric Acid, Glyceryl Oleate, BHA, BHT, Propyl Gallate, Propylene Glycol, Soybean (Glycine Soja) Oil, Corn (Zea Mays) Oil

What do you think?? would it work?

Thanks a lot, i really appreciate that theres (few) blogs like yours who has a serious approach to beauty.

beautifulwithbrains May 19, 2011 - 7:28 pm

Alejandra, thank you, I’m glad that you enjoy my blog, I hope to see you around often.

As for the serum, I think it has a good formula and I like that it contains a few antioxidants. You are right when you say that Ascorbic Acid is not very stable but if it is in an airtight and opaque packaging, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. What worries me most about Ascorbic Acid is that its acid part can cause irritations, although the other antioxidants in the formula should soothe it. It’s not a bad product at all and it should work well (of course antioxidants prevent premature aging so you would see the results overtime, not straight away) but personally, I prefer products with more stable, less irritating forms of Vitamin C as I think they work better. Hope this helps.

Alejandra May 28, 2011 - 6:15 pm

Thanks a lot, the thing is I need a product with at least 5% of vitamin c and most are over 50 dollars, besides I have to pay for shipping costs (im in South América, here we cant buy a loot of products, it really sucks). Theres a good Paula Begoun product for 25 bucks, ill try to buy it too.
Ill definitely be around often!!.

beautifulwithbrains May 29, 2011 - 8:13 pm

Alejandra, you’re welcome. I live in Italy and a lot of products aren’t available here either unless you buy them online and the shipping charges can be quite high so I know how frustrating it can be without breaking the bank. *sighs* I haven’t had the chance to try Paula Begoun products but they are well-formulated and I think her Vitamin C product would work very well. 🙂

I’m glad to hear that. 😉

Janessa May 22, 2012 - 2:47 am

I was trying to learn and find common antioxidants just a few days ago and you’ve answered my prayers. Bookmarked ;]!

beautifulwithbrains May 22, 2012 - 6:12 am

Janessa, what a coincidence! I’m glad I could be of help. 🙂

Camille November 25, 2018 - 6:43 am

Sorry to comment on an old post, but I just discovered your blog and thoroughly enjoying it! Question that came to mind as I was reading this post: what (if any) is the real difference between eating anti-oxidants and applying them on your skin? Are there some that we should be consuming one way or the other, and does bioavailability change? I thought this as you mentioned green tea, which I drinks liters of everyday – aren’t we fundamentally better off trying to eat them instead? Does it matter? Are the celeb vitamin drips somehow even more optimal? Keen to hear your thoughts!

Gio December 9, 2018 - 9:47 am

Camille, thank for your comment and your support, I appreciate it. You’re absolutely right, it’s way better to get your antioxidants from your food than skincare products and vitamin drips. That’s how nature designed us to consume them and make the most of them. But a lot of people, for one reason or another, don’t have the chance to eat many antioxdants-rich foods. Getting their fix from skincare won’t be as effective but hey, every little bit helps. I personally try to eat a healthy diet but I always look for antioxidants in my skincare products just to give my skin that extra boost. 🙂

Comments are closed.