If there’s one term that floats around freely in the skincare space, it’s antioxidants. But do you know what it means and how many types of antioxidants are there? To get answers, we spoke with two Mumbai-based dermatologists Dr Jamuna Pai and Dr Abhijeet Desai on this skincare jargon. Here’s your ultimate guide to antioxidants, including why it’s good for you and which ones to add to your skincare routine.
“When skin is exposed to UV light, smoke, and air pollution, it produces free radicals and other molecules which cause damage to the collagen, skin cells, and DNA that leads to accelerated signs of skin ageing. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from the damage caused by these unstable molecules (free radicals),” says Dr Pai.
Dr Desai, on the other hand, describes antioxidants as “either natural or synthetic [substances that] can prevent, minimise, or stop cellular damage. Free radicals get created either internally or externally to breakdown collagen and elastin, and affect the functionality of healthy cells. This can lead to visible signs of ageing like lines, wrinkles, dullness, uneven texture, and significant photo damage.”
Coloured fruits and vegetables like berries, mango, papaya, carrots, pumpkin, tomato, spinach, broccoli, lemon, sweet potato, beet, and wheatgrass are rich in antioxidants, which prevent the damage on the inside (when taken orally) and outside (topically) from unhealthy environments, UV rays, pollution, and even the air we breathe. “The antioxidant-rich creams exfoliate the skin to preserve radiance as it stimulates cell renewal, collagen, elastin production, and aid healthy circulation. It helps brighten the skin by reducing the discoloration that occurs from years of sun exposure,” Dr Pai further adds.
Here’s a cheat sheet of important antioxidants and their benefits.
You’ve probably heard of Vitamin C in relation to skin brightening—after all, that is where its powers lie. “Vitamin C is anti-inflammatory, brightens the skin, blocks melanin production, and stimulates collagen,” says Dr Desai. Also known as ascorbic acid, the vitamin aids in “tissue repair and regeneration too,” adds Dr Pai.
What to try: Beginners can give the Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Vitamin C 10% a go.
Acne or fine lines, retinol or Vitamin A can tend to them. “Commonly termed as ‘the skin vitamin’, retinol is best known for its anti-wrinkle effect. Besides fighting the onset of wrinkles, it disperses pigment, regenerates collagen, and acts an an exfoliating agent. With all the beneficial effects, it is among one of the widely used ingredients in skincare as well as cosmetic products,” says Dr Pai. No wonder it’s part of the composition of a multitude of anti-ageing products.
What to try: Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream is quite the winner when it comes to this antioxidant.
Apart from helping reduce acne, green tea comes with other skin benefits too. “It’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which is why it helps reduce sun damage and sun-induced redness,” says Dr Desai.
What to try: Make the Innisfree Green Tea Seed Cream a part of your beach bag, we’d say.
Think Vitamin E and the first thing that comes to mind is hydration. “Vitamin E has antioxidant and has moisturising capabilities,” says Dr Pai. “It forms a barrier around cells to keep them healthy and hydrated, and indirectly helps skin stay moisturised and supple. By consuming foods containing Vitamin E, you can protect and nourish your skin.
What to try: Try the Body Shop Vitamin E Moisture Cream for a tall drink of hydration.
Also known as uniquinone, this antioxidant is found in the body, but its production reduces with age. Dr Desai describes it as “a lipid antioxidant that prevents the generation of free radicals.” Taken orally or applied topically, CoQ10 helps “help fight sun damage, fight oxidative stress, and boost overall skin quality,” says Dr Pai.
What to try: We lay our bets on the It’s Skin Power 10 Formula Q10 Effector with Coenzyme Q10 serum.
This is the golden ingredient, literally, which gives turmeric brightening powers. “Turmeric is an antioxidant that targets the free radicals to give you brighter, youthful looking skin,” says Dr Pai.
What to try: Invest in the newly launched Dr Sheth’s Haldi and Hylauronic Acid Sleeping Mask to wake up to plump, radiant skin.
Whether you’re in conversation with a nutritionist or a dermatologist, both will ask you to introduce coloured fruits and vegetables in your diet. This is because the colour signifies that they are rich in polyphenols, a category of “plant-based micro-nutrients that are rich in antioxidants and are found in abundance in dried spices, vegetables, red wine, fruits, and berries. They give the deep and vibrant colours to the fruits and vegetables,” says Dr Pai. Flavonoids are a potent variety of polyphenols found in skincare.
What to try: The Perricone MD Hypoallergenic Nourishing Moisturizer is a blend of olive polyphenols and Vitamin E, combining two potent ingredients in one.
Studies suggest that red wine is good for your skin (in moderation, of course). It’s thanks to this antioxidant. A type of polyphenol, it’s found in peanuts, the skin of grapes and berries among other foods. “It helps reduce inflammation and has anti-aging properties. It is present in red wine, therefore, limited consumption of red wine is recommended for both your health and skin,” says Dr Pai.
What to try: If not wine, try The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% to get your daily dose.
If you’re someone who’s dealing with a rough, uneven skin tone, niacinamide, aka Vitamin B3, will help you achieve your skin goals. “It is one of the most potent ingredients in topical skincare,” says Dr Pai. “It not only targets the enlarged open pores, but also works on perfecting an uneven skin tone.”
What to try: The La Mer The Regenerating Serum combines this with Glutathione to create a power-packed blend.
Often taken orally, Glutathione is a master antioxidant that looks after your health on the inside, and your skin and hair on the outside. “It is the master antioxidant which works on improving immunity, skin health, hair and nails, and also brightens the skin complexion,” says Dr Pai.
What to try: Head to Dr.Jamuna Pai’s clinic Skinlab that has a few treatments of Glutathione. For details, click here.