What Are Antioxidants In Skin Care, And What Do They Do For Your Skin?

Written by Annie Jangam

Green tea extract, curcumin, retinol, tocopherol, and resveratrol – you must have come across at least one of these ingredients when you looked through the ingredients list at the back of your skin care products. They all are basically antioxidants and have a special ability to capture free radicals. Free radicals are rogue molecules that are highly unstable. These radicals, in excess, can damage our skin and even cause premature aging. Hence, including antioxidants in your diet and skin care is crucial for preserving your skin health. Here, we discuss the skin benefits of antioxidants and the best ones you may choose, along with their potential side effects. Read on.

Why Are Antioxidants Essential For Skin?

Antioxidants protect the skin from premature aging by capturing excess free radicals during oxidative stress (1).  Free radicals (unstable molecules with missing electrons) are normally produced during bodily functions such as cellular respiration or from external triggers like pollution, UV rays, medication, and radiation (2).

Although free radicals are essential for the body’s immune response, excess of these molecules can cause inflammation and damage healthy cells (2).  Hence, it is important to counteract their effects with antioxidants. Research has shown that including antioxidants in one’s diet and using them topically from skincare products can fight free radicals and oxidative stress (1).

In the next section, we discuss how antioxidants can benefit skin health.

  • Protect The Skin From Photodamage: Antioxidants prevent and repair the skin damage caused by UV rays (1). A double-blind, randomized study published in the Journal Of Photochemistry and Photobiology has demonstrated that applied antioxidants such as grape seed extract, vitamin E, ubiquinone, and vitamin C, along with the use of sunscreen, effectively protected human skin against IRA (Infrared A radiation) (3). Thus, antioxidants offer partial protection from sunburns and UV rays.
  • Fight The Early Signs Of Aging: Vitamin A or retinoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E are used to reduce the early signs of photoaging (4). These antioxidants help stimulate collagen production and improve skin elasticity and firmness for a more youthful look (4). They help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Help Treat Acne-Prone Skin: Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives popularly prescribed to manage acne (5). The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) approves the use of retinoids to fight acne and related issues (6). It is speculated that these antioxidants help reduce acne due to their comedolytic and anti-inflammatory properties (5).
  • Help Skin Repair Itself: The anti-inflammatory properties of antioxidants help skin repair and rejuvenate itself. Antioxidants boost the production of collagen that helps in skin cell regeneration (7).
  • Help Brighten Skin Tone: Vitamin C helps in skin brightening by reducing hyperpigmentation (8). It reduces the rate of melanin (the pigment responsible for skin color) formation by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase (8). Ferulic acid is another antioxidant that may help in skin brightening (9).
  • May Help Reduce Skin Cancer Risk: Animal studies found that Vitamin A derivative inhibited the growth of skin papillomas and skin cancer (10). Green tea and beta-carotene were powerful antioxidants that helped in fighting cancer (10).

There is no doubt that antioxidants are vital for healthy skin. In the next section, we discuss a few popular antioxidants and how they can help promote your skin health.

The Best Antioxidants For Your Skin Needs

1. Vitamin C

What It Does

  • Vitamin C helps promote the formation of the epidermal barrier (4). This barrier protects the body from pathogens, toxins, and water loss.
  • It also boosts collagen production and makes skin plump and supple (4).
  • It prevents skin oxidation and protects the skin from sun damage (4).
  • It delays the signs of aging by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (4).
  • It reduces hyperpigmentation by fading dark spots and making the skin tone even (8).

Best Use

  • Skin brightening

2. Retinol (Vitamin A)

What It Does

  • Increases healthy cellular turnover (4). Its small size is an obvious advantage as it can easily penetrate the cells and accelerate cell repair and renewal. It gently exfoliates the dull upper layers of the skin and reveals new skin cells. It helps smoothen the skin and minimizes the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
  • It also makes skin firmer and supple (4).
  • It regulates the function of the sebaceous glands and limits sebum production. It also helps balance the oil production and reduces acne scars (4).
  • It improves complexion by influencing the distribution of melanin in the skin (4). It helps reduce hyperpigmentation, acne spots, and scars.

Best Use

  • Acne Management

3. Vitamin E

What It Does

  • Vitamin E (tocopherol) is an antioxidant that moisturizes and nourishes dry skin.
  • It helps the skin look younger by boosting collagen production and reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, stretch marks, and age spots (4), (11).
  • Makes the skin firm and supple by improving its elasticity (4).
  • Protects the skin from photodamage (4).

Best Use

  • Moisturizing

4. Resveratrol

What It Does

  • Resveratrol protects against UVB-induced photodamage (12). This antioxidant is found in grapes, berries, and dark chocolate. It protects the skin from sun damage by fighting free radicals.
  • It reduces pigmentation and helps brighten the skin complexion as well as improves the skin texture (12).
  • It prevents collagen degradation. As we age, the rate of collagen production reduces. This antioxidant keeps the collagen from degrading quickly and helps delay the aging process (12).
  • It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties (13). It can help soothe skin irritation, redness, and inflammation.

Best Use

  • Anti-aging

5. Co-enzyme Q10 or Ubiquinone / CoQ10

What It Does

  • It protects the skin from free radicals (14). It scavenges the free radicals from metabolic processes and helps fight oxidative stress.
  • It helps maintain a healthy skin barrier (14). This antioxidant is found in the skin barrier and helps defend the body from pathogens, toxins, and allergens.
  • It prevents collagen breakdown (15). Co-enzyme Q10 suppresses an enzyme called collagenase responsible for the breakdown of collagen. The antioxidant helps keep the skin firm and healthy for longer.
  • It improves skin tone by reducing pigmentation (16).

Best Use

  • Anti-aging

6. Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)

What It Does

  • Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has potent anti-inflammatory and depigmenting properties (17). It helps improve the texture and tone of the skin. It is known to reduce brown spots, hyperpigmentation, and skin redness (18). It soothes the skin and is recommended for treating skin conditions such as rosacea.
  • Niacinamide helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles by improving skin elasticity (18).
  • It makes skin soft and radiant.

Best Use

  • Improves skin tone and texture

7. Ferulic Acid

What It Does

  • Topical ferulic acid may protect against sun damage (9).
  • It also helps in skin repair and wound healing (9). It protects the skin cells by preventing the degradation of enzymes that are vital for skin health.
  • It inhibits melanin production and reduces hyperpigmentation and an uneven skin tone (9).

Best Use

  • Skin brightening

8. Green Tea

What It Does

  • Green tea is rich in catechins (4). These antioxidants protect the cells from free radical damage. Green tea also helps repair the skin by decreasing collagen degradation. This reduces fine lines and wrinkles and gives the skin a more youthful appearance.
  • It also protects the skin from sun damage. It soothes the skin and reduces redness and irritation (4).

Best Use

  • Calms the skin

9. Curcumin

What It Does

  • Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory polyphenol. It soothes the skin. It is often recommended to manage skin conditions such as psoriasis and skin inflammation (19).
  • It fights the early signs of aging (20).
  • It has anti-bacterial properties too (19).

Best Use

  • Skin brightening and anti-bacterial

No products found.

When it comes to skincare products with antioxidants, we are spoilt for choice. We have a simple checklist that will guide you to pick the right product. Check it out!

What To Look For While Choosing Skin Care Products With Antioxidants?

  1. Always look for products with multiple antioxidants. Not only do they stabilize each other but they also work synergistically.
  2. Look at the quality of the ingredients, their concentration, and bioavailability. Consult a licensed esthetician or a dermatologist for further information.
  3. Test the products and choose the one that works best for your skin and your skin concerns (like wrinkles, blemishes, pigmentation, and acne).
  4. Check the packaging. Since most antioxidants degrade quickly when exposed to sunlight, ensure the product you pick comes in dark or opaque air-tight containers.

The Downside Of Antioxidants

  1. They oxidize or break down quickly. Hence, it is important to package them properly for better shelf life. They are vulnerable to external conditions such as air, temperature, and light.
  2. The formulations tested in the lab or in research studies do not guarantee consistent results in real time (1).

Conclusion

Antioxidants capture free radicals and protect the skin. Apart from including antioxidants in your diet, you also can use products containing them. Although the research on the effectiveness of topical use of antioxidants for skin health is still in its early stages, the results look promising. You can include different antioxidants in your skin care routine to solve skin concerns such as redness, wrinkles, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and sunburns. So, go ahead and include these antioxidants in your skin care regimen for beautiful and healthy skin!

Recommended Articles

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Antioxidants in dermatology
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514576/
  2. Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/
  3. Effective photoprotection of human skin against infrared A radiation by topically applied antioxidants: results from a vehicle controlled, double-blind, randomized study
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25349107/
  4. Bioactive Compounds for Skin Health: A Review
    https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/1/203/htm
  5. Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574737/
  6. Acne Clinical Guideline – American Association Of  Dermatology
    https://www.aad.org/member/clinical-quality/guidelines/acne
  7. Skin anti-aging strategies
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/
  8. Vitamin C in dermatology
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673383/
  9. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology
    https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/491755
  10. The Role of Antioxidants in Skin Cancer Prevention and Treatment
    https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2014/860479/
  11. Vitamin E in dermatology
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4976416/
  12. Resveratrol as an active ingredient for cosmetic and dermatological applications: a review
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29737899/
  13. Antibacterial and antifungal properties of resveratrol
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924857919300457#:~:text=Resveratrol%20has%20inhibitory%20activity%20against%20a%20range%20of%20bacterial%20pathogens.&text=Resveratrol%20affects%20the%20activity%20of%20conventional%20antibiotics.&text=Resveratrol%20has%20antivirulence%20properties%2C%20such%20as%20inhib
  14. Topical treatment with coenzyme Q10‐containing formulas improves skin’s Q10 level and provides antioxidative effects
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737275/
  15. Coenzyme Q10, a cutaneous antioxidant and energizer
    https://iubmb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/biof.5520090238?sid=nlm%3Apubmed
  16. The in vitro and in vivo depigmenting activity of Coenzyme Q10 through the down-regulation of α-MSH signaling pathways and induction of Nrf2/ARE-mediated antioxidant genes in UVA-irradiated skin keratinocytes
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006295219301509?via%3Dihub
  17. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance.
    https://insights.ovid.com/pubmed?pmid=16029679
  18. Nicotinamide in dermatology and photoprotection
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22256624/
  19. Evidence of curcumin and curcumin analogue effects in skin diseases: A narrative review
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jcp.27096
  20. Curcumin induces heme oxygenase‐1 in normal human skin fibroblasts through redox signaling: Relevance for anti‐aging intervention
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.201000221
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Annie Jangam is a Molecular Biologist with 7 years of research experience in Rice Functional Genomics and Nutrient Signalling with International Publications in Abiotic stress, Nitrogen, and G-protein signaling. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has been an avid reader since childhood and is passionate about stories that help decipher life and its meaning. She believes in Human Rights for all and that one should "love others like we love ourselves."