The Good Fight

A girlfriend of mine recently sent me an Instagram photo of her medicine cabinet full of skin and hair care products with a comment mentioning how she use to pride herself on being low maintenance. Now, compared to my bathroom drawers and linen closet that would give Sephora a run for its money, she’s still low maintenance in my opinion. Taking a closer look at her picture I realized that even though all of her products are working on different issues the majority of them have one thing in common: antioxidants.

I asked her if she knew what antioxidants did and her reply was, “Eat free radicals?” This woman is very intelligent with a successful law career and that’s the answer she could provide, gleaned from TV commercials. This is probably the extent of knowledge for most people who want to take care of themselves… Antioxidants are good and we should use them. But why?

Let’s first take a look at free radicals. That seems like such a buzzword thrown around by cosmetic companies to build alarm but free radicals are legitimate biological cell killers. These incredibly unstable atoms go around stealing electrons from other atoms. (Nguyen, 2012) Flashback to Chemistry 101 and you might remember that an atom’s goal is to be balanced so when it’s missing an electron its mission is to find another one. Since free radicals aren’t balanced, a chain reaction of electron theft keeps happening and more unstable atoms are formed. When an over proliferation of free radicals build up it starts to destroy cells through oxidative stress and oxidation. (Pham-Huy, 2008)

Free radicals naturally occur in the body through our metabolic processes but extrinsic factors like smoking, UV exposure, environmental pollution, alcohol, and industrial solvents form them as well. (Pham-Huy, 2008) The cell membrane is one of the first and most vulnerable areas that free radicals start to attack. When the membrane’s integrity is compromised, the function of the cell starts to break down and affects mitochondria, RNA and DNA, among other things. (Vina, 2013)

Enter antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that inhibit or delay the process of oxidation promoted by oxygen, peroxides or free radicals. (Merriam-Webster, 2017) Essentially they go around scavenging these harmful particles to reduce tissue damage. (Halliway, 1994) A good, everyday example of oxidation and antioxidant protection is an apple. If the apple is cut in half and left on the counter exposed to oxygen (free radical) it turns brown (oxidizes) and starts to shrivel up. If the other half of the apple is coated with lemon juice (Vitamin C is an antioxidant) and left out it does not turn brown and stays plump and juicy.

Research has shown that oral and topical antioxidants help to maintain the body’s natural supply in order to promote healthy cells but optimum dosages are still being studied. There are hundreds of antioxidants but when it comes to skincare, a few definitely reign supreme. Vitamins C, E, A, green tea polyphenols, resveratrol, niacinamide, and coffee berry are at the top of this list. Boosting collagen formation, repairing lipid-based cellular material, decreasing inflammation, having depigmenting properties, and having an effect on UV-induced damage are just some of the biological benefits of these antioxidants. (Nachbar, 1995)(Allemann, 2009)(Bissett, 2006)(Burke, 2007) Many of these ingredients can be found in the products that Aesthetics by Design carries like the B2B Antioxidant serum and night cream, Obagi C-Clarifying Serum and NIA24 product line.

I could go on and on about the value of each individual vitamin listed above. Know that the importance of incorporating antioxidants into a skin care regimen has definitely been on the rise as more research comes out to back their benefits. Like anything, though, more research is needed, especially around finding the most optimum dosages and most potent combinations. Antioxidants are easily incorporated into any at-home program so if you’re interested in fighting the good fight against free radicals, give our office a call.

- Sarah Rutherford


Allemann, Inja Bogdan, and Leslie Baumann. “Botanicals in Skin Care Products.” International Journal of Dermatology 48.9 (2009): 923-34. Print.

“Antioxidant.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 25 July 2017.

Bissett, Donald L., John E. Oblong, and Cynthia A. Berge. “Niacinamide: A B Vitamin That Improves Aging Facial Skin Appearance.” Dermatologic Surgery 31 (2006): 860-66. Print.

Burke, Karen E. “Interaction of Vitamins C and E as Better Cosmeceuticals.” Dermatologic Therapy 20.5 (2007): 314-21. Print.

Gloria Nguyen MD, Abel Torres MD JDb ADepartment of Internal Medicine, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA BDepartment of Dermatology, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA. “Systemic Antioxidants and Skin Health.” JDDonline. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.

Nachbar, F., and H. C. Korting. “The Role of Vitamin E in Normal and Damaged Skin.” Journal of Molecular Medicine 73.1 (1995): 7-17. Print.

“Natural Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease.” (1994). Print.

Pham-Huy, Lien Ai, Hua He, and Chuong Pham-Huy. “Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health.” International Journal of Biomedical Science : IJBS. Master Publishing Group, June 2008. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.

Viña, Jose, Consuelo Borras, Kheira M. Abdelaziz, Rebeca Garcia-Valles, and Mari Carmen Gomez-Cabrera. “The Free Radical Theory of Aging Revisited: The Cell Signaling Disruption Theory of Aging.” Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 10 Sept. 2013. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.