Treatment and protection go hand-in-hand in the fight against skin aging. And when it comes to protection, antioxidants are a close second to sunscreen at the top of many dermatologists’ must-have lists.
To better understand the role of antioxidants in preventing skin damage, it’s important to recognize how damage begins. Factors such as UV rays, pollution, environmental toxins and smoking encourage the formation of free radicals, the unstable electrons that attack healthy cells in the body and lead to oxidation, a process similar to rusting.
Free radicals also degrade collagen and elastin in the skin, which weakens the skin’s support structure and causes wrinkles to develop over time. Free radicals are also a significant contributor to disease in the body.
Free radical scavengers, known as antioxidants, work by attacking these unstable molecules and reducing the oxidation that causes skin damage and aging. Though different antioxidants offer varying levels of protection, popular sources include green tea, lycopene, resveratrol, and vitamins A, C and E.
Studies support a connection between the foods we eat and their effect on overall health so it makes sense that a diet rich in antioxidants can encourage the skin to perform better as well. In a 2009 study, Korean researchers found that ellagic acid (an antioxidant found in everyday foods like berries and pomegranates) protects against UV damage by blocking the production of MMP, the enzymes that cause collagen breakdown.
You can easily boost your antioxidant intake by incorporating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables into your diet. In addition to promoting healthy eating habits and overall wellness, foods like cranberries, blueberries, beans, potatoes, apples, and certain nuts (pecans, walnuts) all tout high antioxidant concentrations per serving.
Another simple way to incorporate antioxidants into your daily routine: try a sunscreen formulated with antioxidants to pack a one-two punch against UV-incurred damage. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that adding antioxidants to sunscreen can increase the level of protection provided by SPF alone.
Says Steven Q. Wang, MD, who presented the findings, “Theoretically, supplementing sunscreens with antioxidants could boost the body’s natural defense against the formation of UVA-induced free radicals; therefore serving as a second layer of protection against UV radiation that passes through the first layer of UV protection.” Try SkinMedica’s Daily Physical Defense™ SPF 30+ sunscreen, which is formulated with caffeine and potent antioxidant green tea to help protect against environmentally induced free radical damage.