Skin ageing – it is one of the few things you can be certain of happening to you. Without any coaxing, your skin physiologically ages. At 25, you stop producing collagen, the protein that keeps your skin plump and gives it structure (eek!), and the collagen that you have will continuously degrade as the years go on – the same goes for elastin, the protein that keeps your skin taut to your face and clinging to those contours.
Although you cannot halt your skin’s natural physiological ageing, what you can help with stopping is accelerated ageing. Accelerated ageing is when extrinsic factors affect the rate of how quickly our skin is ageing physiologically. For example, exposure to pollution and UV rays cause our collagen to break down more quickly, hence why those who live in cities and jet away to sunbathe in the summer may look older than their staycation-loving, country counterparts.
Something that contributes to accelerated ageing greatly are free radicals. Be warned – these are not a rock band from the 80s. They are what cause damage to the skin through oxidation, which is when too much oxygen reaches a certain area – in this case, of the skin – resulting in damage to our skin’s DNA which has a knock on effect. Essentially, oxidation and the resulting free radicals mean that our skin is not functioning the way that it is meant to, leaving us susceptible to many skin concerns, including an increased risk of photodamage (aka damage caused by UV rays).
That got very nerdie for a second but let’s pull back to what causes oxidation in our lives: smoking, drinking alcohol, not sleeping well (whether not enough quantity or quality) and pollution, amongst others. Oxidation also occurs during cell turnover. We cannot, nor do we want to, stop this process!
Free radicals are what are created through oxidation. To put it as simply as possible, they are a molecule with an unpaired electron, which makes them unstable. They need to be paired up so they thrash around, trying to find something to latch their unpaired electron on to. What happens is that it latches onto another healthy cell which means that the healthy cell is now unstable too. In the words of Diana Ross, you’re in the middle of a chain reaction – and it ain’t a good one.
Too many free radicals (without enough antioxidants to balance them… more on this soon) equals something known as oxidative stress. Like other stresses we know of, there is nothing fun about it, as it is what causes damage to cellular structures within the skin, including but not limited to fat cells, DNA or collagen and elastin.
This damage means that your collagen and elastin become damaged and depleted. Now, this may not sound the worst to those not in the know but the physical implications of this are…
- Crepe-like skin
- Lax skin
- Deeper wrinkles
- A higher likelihood of fine lines
Antioxidant skincare: the key anti-ageing skincare
Are you shaking in your boots? There is no need to as there are thousands of bottles, tubs and tubes out there already that are proven to be effective against free radical damage. Yes, really!
Antioxidants are what you need to tackle skin-related free radical damage. Easy peasy, no? Basically, antioxidants work to stabilise wily free radicals, stopping them from causing cellular devastation. Here’s a visual example: it is oxidation which causes the exposed flesh of an apple to go brown. When you squeeze lemon juice on to an apple, it stops this browning from occurring. This is what antioxidants do too – they neutralise the free radicals, protecting your skin.
There are more antioxidants than you can shake a stick at out there but here are some of the key (particularly potent) ones that you’ll find in cleansers, serums, masques and creams:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Green tea extract (camellia sinensis)
- Coenzyme Q10 (coQ10, ubiquinone)
Personally, I’m fond of an antioxidant serum as it means I can easily mix in it with any of my other serums or add it to moisturisers, creams or masques. The IMAGE Vital C Hydrating Antioxidant A C E Serum (€64.00, available on The Skin Nerd store) does what it says on the tin – provides your skin with a multivitamin shield of antioxidant protection, including vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. It’s truly ACE… Sorry. In the past, this product was more like a booster with a slightly thicker, stickier consistency but it has been reformulated into this standalone serum which is suitable for everyone, even sensitive skins. With the vitamin C inside as well as the bearberry, it will additionally help to lighten, brighten and even skin tone.
I don’t talk about eye creams or eye gels too often as I believe that the benefits of the majority of eye creams out there can be gotten from a good serum instead. However, there are maximum a handful of eye products that we will wholeheartedly recommend to hoomans and one of them is the Environ Youth EssentiA Vita-Peptide Eye Gel (€65.00, available on The Skin Nerd store). This lightweight eye gel contains both vitamin A and vitamin E to protect from that dastardly free radical damage as well as peptides, the bossy boots ingredients that tell the skin to create more collagen for a plumper eye area.
I always see masques as a way to add in more of certain ingredients to your routine quickly and easily and why not use masques as a way to get those delightful antioxidants onto you? As mentioned earlier on, oxidation occurs during skin cell turnover which happens at a 30x faster rate at night compared to during the day. Basting yourself in antioxidants can help to keep your skin protected when you are sound asleep. Pop on the Seoulista Brightening Instant Facial (€9.00, available on The Skin Nerd store) sheet mask on your me-time pamper night and allow the vitamin C inside to work its science.
If you lean towards more traditional cream masques, go for the Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque (€42.00, available through the Nerd Network store). It is beloved by celebrities, skin experts, beauty editors and many others the world over, including Victoria Beckham and our very own Amy Huberman. However, as it is a skin sin, you should not purchase a product because of celebrity endorsement alone. Thankfully, this masque lives up to its own hype as it is full of vitamins A, C & E (if it ain’t broke…), brightening, soothing liquorice root extract and plenty of other skin-beneficial ingredients. It it a yellow colour – do not fret, this is how it is supposed to look.
From the inside out
The skin is an organ and so we must feed it from within… Don’t forget that you need to get your antioxidants in through diet and/or supplements too.
Foods rich in antioxidants include:
- Goji berries
- Dark chocolate
- Red wine (in the form of resveratrol – but remember that it is causing free radical damage at the same time)
One more nerdie tip…
Don’t fool yourself. A serum or a masque will not be able to counteract all of the damage done if you are smoking, drinking and not getting enough sleep regularly. Take care of yourself first and foremost. Antioxidants will be your backup dancers!
For even nerdier info on antioxidants and for antioxidant products recommended with your life and your skin in mind, book in for your first online skin consultation and join the Nerd Network: