How do antioxidants work?

by Gio
how antioxidants work in skincare

I can’t get enough of antioxidants. If a serum or moisturizer isn’t loaded with them, chances are I won’t even give it a second look.

Antioxidants are your skin’s police force. They patrol your body looking for free radicals felons ready to form wrinkles, give you dark spots and inflame your skin. Once they get hold of one, they destroy it before it can wreak its damage.

Here’s how antioxidants work and why you should load your skincare routine with them if you want younger-looking skin:

What are free radicals?

First things first: to understand antioxidants, you must first get to know free radicals.

Free radicals are your skin’s #1 enemy. They’re highly unstable molecules caused by something called “oxidization process”.

Here’s the simple version: a healthy molecule turns into a free radical when it loses one its electrons. Without it, it goes crazy. It must get it back and become whole again.

When it spots a healthy molecule, the free radical attacks it and robs it of its electron. The robbed molecule is now a free radicals. Now, it’s its turn to become a thief.

It’s the beginning of chain reaction that destroys anything in its path, including vital proteins such as collagen and elastin and even cellular DNA.

Free radicals speed up the aging process. In the best case scenario, this only gives you wrinkles and dark spots. In the worst case scenario, it can lead to deadly diseases, such as cancer and heart diseases.

But, what starts this nasty chain and turns a healthy molecule into a free radical in the first place? All the usual culprits:

  • Alcohol
  • Body processes like metabolism and breathing
  • Diet rich in sugar and poor in vegs
  • Pollution
  • Smoking
  • UV rays

You can’t stop breathing or eating, but you can nourish your body with healthy foods, drink alcohol in moderation, wear sunscreen every day and quit smoking.

The healthier a lifestyle you lead, the fewer free radicals your body has to deal with. But, that’s not always fun. So, let’s see how to destroy those nasty free radicals.

Related: I Went On The Low Glycemic Diet And It Transformed My Skin

how antioxidants fight pollution

What Are Antioxidants And How Do They Keep Skin Young?

Enter antioxidants. They’re your body’s natural defence mechanism against free radicals. The most famous members of the antioxidant family are:

  • Beta-carotene
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Flavonoids
  • Green tea
  • Resveratol
  • Superoxide dismutase
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Their job is to destroy every free radical they see before they can wreak their damage on your skin. They do this in two ways, depending on the antioxidant’s MO:

  • Chain-breakers: these antioxidant break the free radical chain after it’s started. Examples include vitamins C and E.
  • Chain-neutralizers: these antioxidants neutralize the initiating free radicals, slowing down or even preventing the chain reaction. Examples include superoxide dismutase.

Related: Is Superoxide Dismutase The Most Powerful Antioxidant Of All?

best vitamin C serum: drunk elephant c-firma day serum

How To Use Antioxidants To Help Prevent Free Radical Damage

Because EVERYTHING (well, almost!) causes those pesky free radicals, free radical damage is constant. Every single day your body has to deal with these felons and destroy them.

But, it can’t do it alone. Your body is well-equipped to cope with free radicals caused by metabolic processes, but these days it has to also put up with antioxidants caused by pollution, our unhealthy Western diet, tanning habits… It’s too much for it to handle alone.

Your body needs your help. Quitting bad habits like smoking and heavy drinking is a great place to start. But, your body also needs you to constantly replenish it with a new stream of antioxidants. You can do it in two ways:

  1. Eat a healthy diet full of antioxidants-rich fruits, vegs and berries
  2. Use skincare products loaded with antioxidants

Skincare is my area of expertise, so I’m sharing with you my fave antioxidant serums and moisturizers below:

Best Picks:

Related: 5 Things No One Ever Told You About Antioxidants

The Bottom Line

Antioxidants are your skin’s BFF. Eat them up. Slather them all over your face. Give your skin the daily dose it needs. You’ll age a lot more slowly and keep your complexion clear and younger-looking for longer.

Are you using antioxidants in your skincare routine? Share your picks in the comments below.



Tavia February 8, 2010 - 7:46 pm

Thanks for this post Gio! I use Clinique antioxidant moisturizer so this was great info πŸ™‚
.-= Tavia´s last blog ..Update: MAC Prep for Colour Collection for Spring 2010 + Added Photos =-.

Jamilla Camel February 8, 2010 - 8:20 pm

Glad I love my brocolli and apples, lol!
.-= Jamilla Camel´s last blog ..Test Drive – Maybelline Pure.Cover Mineral Concealer 01 Nude Beige =-.

beautifulwithbrains February 8, 2010 - 9:18 pm

Tavia, you’re welcome and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I love Clinique products, they are usually well-formulated and effective.

beautifulwithbrains February 8, 2010 - 9:41 pm

Jamilla, I’m glad you do too lol πŸ™‚

Dao February 8, 2010 - 9:50 pm

I bought a Vitamin C serum yesterday from health food store. I’m so glad I did!
.-= Dao´s last blog ..GILTY Pleasures Weekly Blog Tour: Vol 4, 2010 =-.

Carolina February 8, 2010 - 10:11 pm

Ciao!! I m really liking your blog! I added as a favorite in my Blog Roll!
.-= Carolina´s last blog ..Adorei!! =-.

tanveer February 9, 2010 - 3:51 am


Gr8 article. I agree with you. I try to be as regular as I can with my vitamin & mineral supplement, coz it is difficult to be healthy with food all the time πŸ˜€ .

And I also use a vitamin c serum once a week overnight on my face, neck and arms (they get the most exposure to the sun)
.-= tanveer´s last blog ..Lip and Cheek Tints – Some Reccomendations =-.

beautifulwithbrains February 9, 2010 - 12:40 pm

Dao, me too, Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant πŸ˜‰

beautifulwithbrains February 9, 2010 - 1:28 pm

Carolina, thanks for adding me and I’m glad you love my blog! I hope to see you around here often πŸ˜‰

Connie February 9, 2010 - 5:10 pm

such a helpful post! Thanks for sharing this information. I’ve always been confused about free radicals

beautifulwithbrains February 9, 2010 - 10:03 pm

Tanveer, hi and thank you for your comment. I prefer getting all my vitamins from food but that’s not always possible so supplements are a a great alternative, as long as not abused. πŸ™‚

beautifulwithbrains February 9, 2010 - 10:04 pm

Connie, you’re welcome and I’m glad you found it useful πŸ™‚

Weekend Reading Beauty Blog Roundup | Girl Gloss February 14, 2010 - 9:29 pm

[…] Gio from Beautiful With Brains explains how antioxidants work. […]

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[…] Gio from Beautiful With Brains explains how antioxidants work. […]

Thelma Sansome November 21, 2018 - 4:51 pm

Does Olay’s Regenerist Serum contain antioxidants and destroy free radicals?


Gio November 23, 2018 - 12:46 pm

Thelma, it has a couple of antioxidants, yes.

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