5 Things You Need To Know About Antioxidants

by Gio
antioxidants things to know

You know that antioxidants serum you’re using?

It probably doesn’t work.

Antioxidants are delicate things. You can’t just put one in a pretty bottle and expect it to get rid of your wrinkles. Things are a little more complicated than that.

If you want to effortlessly pick an antioxidant serum that really works you need to get to know these skincare heroes a little better. Here are 5 things you need to know about antioxidants:

1. Antioxidants are antiaging multitaskers

First things first: what the heck do antioxidants do? What is their job?

Antioxidants protect your skin from free radical damage. This damage is the main cause of premature aging. The list of things that trigger it is super long: unprotected sun exposure, irritating skincare products, smoking, alcohol, and even breathing and metabolism!

Antioxidants neutralise free radicals (you can check out this post if you’re curious to find out how exactly they do this), preventing new wrinkles from appearing on your face too soon.

But, that’s NOT all they do. They also:

All things that help you age better and more slowly, too.

Related: How Do Antioxidants Work?

the ordinary resveratrol and ferulic acid 02

2. Stronger together than alone

Nivea loves co-enzyme Q10. Korres is mad about quercetin. And Caudalie has a crush on resveratrol.

They’re all powerful antioxidants, don’t get me wrong. But there’s only so much even the most powerful of antioxidants can do without his friends.

Science is very clear on this point: antioxidants work best together. The more you use, the better your skin will age.

My fave combo? Vitamins C + E + ferulic acid. Studies show that adding ferulic acid into “a topical solution of 15%l-ascorbic acid and 1%alpha-tocopherol improved chemical stability of the vitamins (C+E) and doubled photoprotection.

In other words: they boost one another’s effectiveness and that of your sunscreen!

Related: Common Antioxidants Found In Skincare Products

3. Vitamin C isn’t just one ingredient

It’s a dozen. Vitamin C comes in many different forms.

L-Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of Vitamin C. It’s the most effective but also the most irritating and unstable. By unstable I mean it breaks down when exposed to light and air. Eventually, it stops working completely.

That’s why scientists have been hard at work to create Vitamin C derivates that are gentler and more stable. The catch? They’re not as effective. But, if you ask me, the tradeoff is worth it.

A few examples? Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and ascorbyl palmitate.Basically, if it has “ascorb” somewhere in the name, it’s a form of Vitamin C.

Related: Types of Vitamin C In Skincare

drunk elephant c-firma day serum

4. Antioxidants aren’t the one night stand types

Antioxidants demand loyalty.

You can’t just use an antioxidant serum every now and then, and expect great results. You need to be consistent. Use them every single day. Morning and night.

Your body is bombarded with free radicals every hour of every day. It’s an ongoing fight that needs a never-ending supply of antioxidant defences.

5. Antioxidants are shy

Antioxidants don’t like fame. They just want to do their job, unseen.

Put them in a jar, and light and air will soon make them ineffective. Opaque, air-tight tubes and bottles are a much better choice. They keep them safe from their enemies so they stay effective for way longer.

You can finish your bottle at your leisure, fully confident that even the last drop can help you keep wrinkles at bay.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Skincare Products Packaged In Jars

If you’re curious to know what the best antioxidants serums are, I’ve shared my favourites in this post. Check it out.

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



Natalye February 25, 2015 - 6:39 am


Gio February 25, 2015 - 8:00 pm

Natalye, glad you enjoyed it.

Alan December 9, 2017 - 6:03 am

Hi Gio
Great article as usual ! I am currently using Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum which has a lot of Niacinamide I think that’s one type of antioxidant right? I am thinking of trying Paula’s Choice RESIST Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum. Can I use both of them (mixing) together? if not which one is better? Also I was wondering what’s the difference between Peptides vs Antioxidants? I am also currently using Dr. Denese Wrinkle Rx 76% Peptide Solution Concentrate. Can I use it together with antioxidant serums? or alternate them in different days? Do I need both? or it’s good to use them together? Love your bog !

Gio December 10, 2017 - 1:59 pm

Hi Alan,

I wouldn’t mix them together but you can definitely use the Paula’s Choice serum first and follow up with the Olay serum. Or you can use one in the morning and the other at night if you want to make your skincare routine shorter.

Antioxidants neutralise the free radicals that cause wrinkles. Peptides have different jobs. Some tell the skin to produce more collagen, other soothe inflammation, and others hydrate skin. While there are many independent studies that prove antioxidants work, almost of all the studies on peptides are done by the manufacturers. That doesn’t mean they don’t work but it’s still best to take them with a pinch of salt. My stance is that, if a product contain antioxidants/glycolic acid/niacinamide (ingredients proven to work) + peptides, awesome! But I wouldn’t splurge on a serum just because it has peptides.

As for they Dr Denese Serum, yes, you can use that together with the antioxidant serum. Just apply the one with the lighter texture first.

N March 8, 2018 - 12:09 pm

Do you have any suggestions for people who want to use antioxidants but can’t find good products where they live?

It bums me out to read about the benefits of antioxidants for the skin because well-formulated antioxidant products are hard to come by in my country, especially at a price I can afford. I’ve to rely on whatever companies put in affordable products.

For example, Olay’s Total Effects and Regenerist lines have green tea and vitamin E in them, even though they cost a fair bit in our currency. L’Oreal has a sunscreen range (UV Perfect, not sure if this is available in Europe, since it seems to made in and for Asia) which claims to have some anti-pollution and antioxidant ingredients, but they just use descriptions like “powerful antioxidant complex”. I suspect it might be “Vitreoscilla Ferment”, but I can’t be sure. With other formulas that use such “complexes”, it’s hard for a layperson to tell if they’re actually effective or not.

To use another example of claims that are hard to assess, Nivea claims 40X and 50X vitamin C (don’t know compared to what!) for some of their body lotions, but Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is quite far down on the ingredient list. What is high up are several types of fruit juices and herbal extracts.

(I could share ingredient lists if you’re curious about what kind of product formulations companies sell in other countries.)

Gio March 9, 2018 - 6:42 pm

N, I understand your frustration! When I was living in Italy I had access to very few brands and they had none of the good stuff I wanted. I had to do most of my shopping online. A lot of brands ship worldwide these days, maybe you can look into that? May I ask where are you based? Olay is one of the best brands at the drugstore so I’d definitely go with that one instead of Nivea.

If Sodium Ascorbic Phosphate isn’t one of the top 5 ingredients, don’t bother. And if you don’t understand a claim a brand makes, 99% of the time that’s because it’s marketing nonsense. Just ignore what the labels say and look for products with as many antioxidants as possible. 🙂

N March 10, 2018 - 4:03 pm

Thanks for replying, Gio. I could’ve phrased my comment a bit more clearly! I meant to use the Olay and L’Oreal Paris products as examples of face cream/ sunscreen which have or claim to have some antioxidant ingredients/ complexes, but where we can’t tell how much or how effective. I use both and quite like Olay products.

The Nivea one I mentioned is a budget body lotion that I came across while looking for body products with antioxidants in general and vitamin C in particular. It *claims* to have a lot of vitamin C. However, I’m not sure how unless it’s from the Camu Camu and Acerola Cherry juices it contains.

Shipping products from other countries is expensive even when possible, so I’m trying to find sensible budget products here in India. This is where it gets tricky to figure things out; I know antioxidants are hard to stabilise, so how are so many companies using them in water-based formulas and keeping them stable?

In a situation like this, the end user has little apart from the company’s claims to go by. Most people cannot spend too much time and money on figuring out and choosing skin products. The lack of integrity and transparency in product claims just makes things harder.

Gio March 16, 2018 - 8:29 pm

N, yes, sometimes the vitamin C touted on the packaging does come from plant extracts. But unless that’s at the top of the list, you won’t get too much vitamin C. Personally, I don’t like neither Nivea or L’Oreal because I find their products too basic. If you want to stick to drugstore skincare, Olay is a much better option as they tend to use a higher amount of antioxidants and good preservative systems/packaging that keep the antioxidants stable for longer. But of course, you want to use anything with antioxidants as soon as possible.


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