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Antioxidants in skin care

Focus on Ingredients 19.08.22 8 min. read

Summertime is the time for free body culture: sitting outdoors on the balcony or in the garden, stays in the swimming pool or at the beach and a glowing vacation tan. But sunbathing, as beautiful as it is, means stress for the skin. The underlying cause is free radicals, which attack the skin cells. Fortunately, there are antioxidants. They are mentioned in skin care in the context of anti-aging, among other things, and protect the skin from oxidative stress. Thus, they can prevent your face from aging faster and from developing skin sensitivities and diseases. Because they are so important for skin health, we would like to introduce them to you in more detail. In addition, you'll get an idea of why antioxidants play such an important role in our skin care products.


      Antioxidants in Skincare

      Antioxidants (also called radical scavengers) are the protective cartridge of your cells. They are naturally present everywhere in and on your body, for example in the form of vitamins and minerals. Their task is to ensure that your tissues and organs remain functional and oxidative stress or free radicals are fought before they can cause major damage. This is necessary because your cells are constantly confronted with free radicals (harmful molecules). They are formed as an intermediate product in the course of your metabolism and also have a good function, because they help to fight pathogens and to generate energy [15].

      However, if they get out of hand, oxidative stress and cell damage occur - throughout the body and in all layers of your skin [3]. But what are free radicals? Simply put, they are reactive oxygen compounds that lack a negatively charged particle. They gain stability by snatching an electron from other molecules (oxidation). This is where antioxidants come into play. They give up an electron comparatively easily, neutralize the free radicals and thus take away their ability to damage your cell structures [1].

      How are free radicals formed?

      Free radicals are not only produced during metabolism. The biggest enemy of our skin in terms of oxidative stress is UV radiation. It is significantly involved in premature skin aging. In addition, there are internal and external factors such as: 

      • Environmental toxins, such as ozone, pesticides, particulate matter and heavy metals
      • stimulant poisons, such as tobacco and alcohol
      • unhealthy diet
      • Stress and lack of sleep
      • competitive sports
      • certain medications
      • inflammations
      • rancid skin care products (see below) [2]

        In addition, the antioxidants that release an electron can themselves become harmful and thus trigger chain reactions. Also, with advanced age, your skin contains fewer antioxidants than in younger years - its resistance thus decreases [8]. All these influences prevent their regeneration and promote degenerative processes as long as there are not enough balancing antioxidants. 

        Consequences of oxidative stress

        Because free radicals "steal" electrons, important cell and membrane components are destroyed. They make holes in your skin barrier, irritate the cell metabolism and your skin's own immune system. In addition, they activate harmful enzymes and can even attack your genetic information [4; 5].

        As a result, moisture escapes and pathogens penetrate the skin. Thus, it can become dry and sensitive. In addition, the formation of skin impurities and skin aging will be advanced. The reason for this is that they destroy the lipids of your skin barrier and break down proteins such as collagen, keratin and elastane. In the worst case, chronic inflammation and skin diseases develop and your risk of skin cancer increases [5; 6]. In this respect, antioxidants are not only important in the field of anti-aging, but also belong - regardless of age - in every care product to maintain the youthfulness and health of your skin.

        Which antioxidants are there?

        In skin care, there are very different antioxidants that can prevent oxidation damage, for example from UV radiation, where they are applied. The general goal is to restore the original balance between oxidants and antioxidants in the skin.

        So the more your skin is exposed to harmful molecules, the more antioxidant-rich your facial care should be. However, too much of certain antioxidants can also have the opposite effect and increase oxidative stress (prooxidative effect). As is so often the case, it is not always the case that a lot helps a lot [1].

        Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (tocopherol) are certainly among the most effective radical scavengers in cosmetics. In combination, these vitamins have the greatest protective effect, since vitamin C is not only a potent radical scavenger itself, but vitamin E can also regenerate after reacting with free radicals [10]. A favorable additional effect is that both vitamins also increase collagen formation in the skin and can prevent or reduce wrinkles [9; 11].

        Other important antioxidants in skin care products are, for example:

        • Provitamin A (beta-carotene), carotenoids or retinol
        • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacinamide)
        • Amino acids, peptides and proteins such as cysteine and glutathione
        • Fatty acids such as α-lipoic acid
        • Uric acid, urea
        • Hyaluronic acid
        • Cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp
        • Ubiquinone/Ubiquinone
        • Trace elements like zinc and selenium
        • Plant compounds such as bakuchiol, resveratrol, chlorophyll, pomegranate extract
        • Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC as in grape seeds) [5; 7; 8; 12; 13; 14; 15].

        Benefits of antioxidants in skin care

        Antioxidants in skin care can therefore help to keep your skin structures intact. They are effective drivers in terms of anti-aging and enable the outer barrier layer to maintain its protective function, preventing moisture from escaping and pollutants from penetrating. This keeps your skin supple, firm, resistant and pure.

        In deeper layers of the skin, they ensure the maintenance of the collagen network, the functioning of the metabolism and immune system, the protection of hyaluronic acid and the unhindered division of cells for skin regeneration. This can prevent the formation of wrinkles, age spots and skin diseases.

        Depending on which antioxidants are included in your skin care, they can perform even additional functions. For example, some contribute to skin firmness, others stimulate collagen formation, cell division or self-healing, while others inhibit inflammation, reduce redness or soothe your skin.

        The efficiency, target structure and effectiveness of antioxidants depend on various factors, such as their type and formulation, their concentration and whether they are combined with penetration enhancers in the skin care product. There is no antioxidant that works universally.

        Wie kannst Du Produkte mit Antioxidantien in Deine Hautpflege integrieren?

        How to integrate products with antioxidants into your skin care routine?

        Among antioxidants there are fat-soluble (like vitamin E) and water-soluble (like vitamin C) substances. The former act in deeper layers of the skin and are particularly interesting for oily and mature skin, the latter more on the skin surface, which makes their use useful for a dry and sensitive skin type. Regardless, of course, the combination of both types can be useful for all skin types.

        You can do this by combining oils, serums, emulsions and creams with toners and/or sprays, for example. For example, you can combine a toner containing the water-soluble antioxidants vitamin C, glutathione or uric acid with an oil containing vitamin E, ubiquinone or alpha lipoic acid.

        Ideally, your products should contain several different antioxidants from different sources to create a synergistic (mutually reinforcing) effect in terms of protection and stability. This is where variety is needed.

        That's why we use plant-based ingredients (such as pomegranate and bakuchiol in The Evening Glow, carrot extract and green microalgae in The Morning Glow or Ceylon cinnamon tree bark in The Glow, grapes) and natural oils (such as hazelnut oil, sunflower oil, moringa seed oil, jojoba oil and lemongrass oil in The Morning Glow or grapeseed oil in The Evening Glow) in our products that meet these requirements. Very important: The last step of your skin care in the morning should always be a sunscreen.

        Oxidation process in skincare products 

        You have probably also noticed that some care products change their color, consistency and/or odor when they come into frequent contact with the ambient air. This can be especially the case with products containing mineral oils. The fats they contain can become rancid, forming free radicals. In contrast, products with natural oils such as jojoba oil contain a large number of antioxidants. Thus, they are protected to some extent from becoming rancid without the need to add synthetic preservatives.

        However, other substances, such as some fragrances, can also be oxidized by light and oxygen. If this is the case, then you should no longer use the product. In general, make sure to buy products that are packaged away from light and air (for example, in amber glass bottles) and have little contact with the outside world, such as tubes and airless dispensers. Also make sure that you store your care products appropriately, ideally in a cool, dark place.

        What else you can do for your skin health

        The fact that stress, unhealthy nutrition and environmental toxins are not good for the skin is no longer a secret. Persistent periods of stress usually take revenge with a negative change in the appearance of the skin. In addition to the external use of antioxidants, you should also protect your body from free radicals by:

        • integrate different types of fruit and vegetables into your diet,
        • avoid stimulants (such as nicotine and alcohol) as much as possible,
        • reduce sunbathing to a healthy level,
        • take time out from time to time and pay attention to a healthy sleep hygiene,
        • keep stress away from you and
        • get out into the fresh air more often.


          Important to know: Different types of fruits and vegetables provide your organism with different antioxidants that act in different places. Therefore, your diet should be balanced and varied [1].

          Bottom line

          Antioxidants are important for protecting the skin from free radicals from the environment and the metabolism. They are naturally present in the skin. If the balance between antioxidants and free radicals shifts in favor of the latter (such as due to an unhealthy lifestyle, increased sun exposure or environmental pollution), your skin needs antioxidants via skincare. They ensure that the skin retains its resistance, remains in balance and protected from premature aging and skin diseases. Potency antioxidants are vitamins E and C. But not only a suitable care, but also a healthy lifestyle and diet ensure a healthy, radiant and youthful skin.


          Are antioxidants good for the skin? 

          Antioxidants play an important role in your entire organism. They are your body's response to the damaging influence of destructive molecules from metabolism and the environment. As the name radical scavenger suggests, they intercept free radicals and neutralize them. In this way, they ensure that your skin remains young, healthy, fresh and smooth and the aging process can be delayed. They are often touted in the anti-aging field because they can effectively prevent wrinkles in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. However, the molecules have far more positive properties than just fighting wrinkles. They keep your skin layers in balance and ensure an energizing metabolism and their regular regeneration.

          What is the best antioxidant? 

          In general, the combination of all active ingredients, their storage and your lifestyle and diet are crucial for the effectiveness of a care product. Even the best antioxidants are overwhelmed if you flood your body with free radicals. An indication of this would be, for example, the formation of skin blemishes and premature wrinkles. Regardless, vitamin C and vitamin E are at the top of the list of antioxidants. They provide multiple functions and are considered the best antioxidants. Creams containing these two substances generally offer good protection and are top skincare products.

          What do free radicals do to the skin?

          As the term free radicals already makes clear, the reactive molecules radically damage the body's own structures. They exert their influence both inside your body and on the body surface. In this way, they drive the aging process in your body, cause irreversible damage and, in the worst case, lead to diseases and even cancer. In the face, oxidative stress caused by these reactive compounds becomes visible in the form of a negative change in the skin's appearance. The more you are exposed to UV radiation and pollution, the faster the process will progress. Here it is important to counteract the internal and external radical scavengers with care products and a healthy diet.

          What has the most antioxidants?

          Natural oils and plant substances are the best suppliers of many very different antioxidants. With a sufficient supply, negative environmental influences can be effectively compensated. They offer partly synergistic effects and reinforce each other in their antioxidant function. You do yourself good if you pay attention to balanced and healthy foods and supplement your care routine with natural products. Creams and moisturizers with natural oils and botanicals are beneficial for all skin types at any age to help ward off oxidative stress.

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          2. What are free radicals?, in Health Encyclopedia More Info
          3. Alexandra Stolzing, Alexandra and Grune, Tilmann, Oxidative stress makes the skin look old, 21.06.2004 in Pharmazeutische Zeitung More Info
          4. Gaboriau, F. et. al., Membrane damage induced in cultured human skin fibroblasts by UVA irradiation, October 1993 in Photochem Photobiol;58(4):515-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-1097.1993.tb04924.x. More Info
          5. Nixon, Rosemary, Occupational Factors in Skin Diseases, 2007 in Current Problems in Dermatology More Info
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          11. Maalouf, Samar et. al., Protective effect of vitamin E on ultraviolet B light-induced damage in keratinocytes, Juli 2002 in Mol Carcinog ;34(3):121-30. doi: 10.1002/mc.10055. More Info
          12. Blatt, T. et. al., Modulation des oxidativen Stresses in der humanen Altershaut, 1999 in Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie volume 32, 83–88 More Info
          13. Fuchs, J., Potentials and limitations of the natural antioxidants RRR-alpha-tocopherol, L-ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in cutaneous photoprotection, November 1998 in Free Radic Biol Med; 25(7):848-73. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(98)00161-0. More Info
          14. Kim, J. et. al., Protective effects of (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate on UVA- and UVB-induced skin damage, Februar 2001 in Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol;14(1):11-9. doi: 10.1159/000056329. More Info
          15. Dr. Lautenschläger, Hans, Antioxidants - an overview, in Dermaviduals. More Info