Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals otherwise might cause. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, selenium, vitamins C, E, and A, and other substances.
Antioxidants: Their Benefits to Your Skin
Products: General Information
Antioxidants are substances that act as scavengers of oxygen-free radicals, the unstable particles that can damage cells and which are implicated in sun damage and even skin cancers. Antioxidants in the skin are depleted when exposed to sunlight and must be replaced. Antioxidant topical products (such ointments, creams, and lotions) may help reduce the risk of wrinkles and protect against sun damage. Unlike sunscreens, they accumulate in the skin and are not washed away, so the protection may last. The antioxidants marketed for skin protection include:
Some research has been conducted on the effects on wrinkles using oral antioxidant supplements. One small study found that taking a combination of vitamins oral C and E supplements may help reduce sunburn reactions, although the protection is much less than from sunscreens. (Taking the vitamins singly does not appear to have the any effect.)
Vitamin C is also a highly effective antioxidant. Even in small amounts vitamin C can protect indispensable molecules in the body, such as proteins, lipids (fats), carbohydrates, and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) from damage by free radicals and reactive oxygen species that can be generated during normal metabolism as well as through exposure to toxins and pollutants (e.g. smoking). Vitamin C may also be able to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol)
The main function of alpha-tocopherol in humans appears to be that of an antioxidant. Fats, which are an integral part of all cell membranes, are vulnerable to destruction through oxidation by free radicals. The fat-soluble vitamin, alpha-tocopherol, is uniquely suited to intercepting free radicals and preventing a chain reaction of lipid destruction.
Aside from maintaining the integrity of cell membranes throughout the body, alpha-tocopherol also protects the fats in low density lipoproteins (LDLs) from oxidation. Lipoproteins are particles composed of lipids and proteins, which are able to transport fats through the blood stream. LDL transport cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body. Oxidized LDLs have been implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases. When a molecule of alpha-tocopherol neutralizes a free radical, it is altered in such a way that its antioxidant capacity is lost. However, other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, are capable of regenerating the antioxidant capacity of alpha-tocopherol.
Several other functions of alpha-tocopherol have been identified, which likely are not related to its antioxidant capacity. Alpha-tocopherol is known to inhibit the activity of protein kinase C, an important cell signaling molecule, as well as to affect the expression and activity of immune and inflammatory cells. Additionally, alpha-tocopherol has been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation and to enhance vasodilation.
Antioxidants: Vitamin A Topical Products
Vitamin A is a generic term for a large number of related compounds. Retinol (an alcohol) and retinal (an aldehyde) are often referred to as preformed vitamin A. Retinal can be converted by the body to retinoic acid, the form of vitamin A known to affect gene transcription. Retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and related compounds are known as retinoids. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids that can be converted by the body into retinol are referred to as provitamin A carotenoids. Hundreds of different carotenoids are synthesized by plants, but only about 10 % of them are provitamin A carotenoids.
Vitamin A is important for skin health and UV radiation produces deficiencies in the skin. Topical products containing natural forms of vitamin A (retinol, retinaldehyde) or vitamin A derivatives called retinoids (tretinoin, tazarotene) have proven to be beneficial for skin damaged by the sun and also by natural aging.
Antioxidants: Other Topical Products
Although there are wide claims about the benefits of antioxidants for wrinkles when used in skin creams, to date, only vitamins E and C and selenium applied topically have been proven to have any benefits for reducing sun damage in the skin. Even with these antioxidants, however, most available brands contain very low concentrations of them. In addition, they are also not well absorbed and they have a short-term effect. New delivery techniques, however, may prove to offset some of these problems.
Vitamin E. Studies suggest that topical vitamin E, particularly alpha tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) cream decreased skin roughness, length of facial lines, and wrinkle depth. Studies on mice have also reported reductions in UV-induced skin cancer with its use.
Selenium. In the form of L-selenomethionine, selenium has protected against sun damage and even delayed skin cancer in animal studies. It is not known if such benefits apply to people.
Selenium is a mineral found in small quantities that is essential to the diet. Selenium contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system and the thyroid gland. It is the central element in glutathione peroxidase (GPx), an antioxidant enzyme that protects cells against the oxidative damage caused by peroxides and free radicals. (For more information on free radicals and antioxidants, click here.)
Because of its antioxidant role, selenium has been studied for its potential to protect the body from many degenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Selenium is thought to protect against cancer because a form of selenium from yeast was found to have caused cancer cells in test tubes and in animals to undergo apoptosis, or programmed cell death.
Selenium can be found in a variety of foods including brazil nuts, yeast, whole grains, and seafood. Plant foods in most countries are also major dietary sources of selenium.
One 1999 study found that topical application of the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) improved the skin's resistance to the oxidative stress of UV radiation, and when applied long-term, could reduce crow's feet.
Aging is generally associated with decreases in tissue CoQ levels. For example, levels of CoQ10 in the skin are low in childhood, reach a maximum at around 20-30 years of age, and then decrease steadily with increasing age. Topically applied CoQ10 can penetrate into the living cell layers of the skin and attenuate both the depth of deep wrinkles characteristic of photoaging, as well as the turnover of epithelial cells. CoQ10 is also highly effective in protecting skin cells known as keratinocytes from oxidative DNA damage induced by ultraviolet light. CoQ10 is found in foods such as fish and meats.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is manufactured in the human body. Antioxidants are substances that work by attacking "free radicals," waste products created when the body turns food into energy. There are also many sources of free radicals in the environment such as ultraviolet rays, radiation, and toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and pesticides. Free radicals cause harmful chemical reactions that can damage cells in the body, making it harder for the body to fight off infections. As a result a person becomes more susceptible to long term diseases such as diabetes and liver damage.
Alpha-lipoic acid works together with other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. It is important for growth, helps to prevent cell damage, and helps the body rid itself of harmful substances.
Good food sources of alpha-lipoic acid include spinach, broccoli, beef, yeast (particularly Brewer's yeast), and certain organ meats (such as the kidney and heart).
Use natural skin care products that contain natural sources of antioxidants. Products that use isolated or even artificially manufactures sources of antioxidants are not natural and should not be used in products labeled‘Natural’, as these substances are not complete and may cause unexpected side effects or skin irritations.
Wildcrafted's Age Defying Essence, an anti-aging natural skin care formula, is a rich liquid moisturiser formulated for Mature, dry and damaged skin types and contains plant extracts that are known to be high in essential fatty acids (Borage and Evening Primrose Oils), anti-oxidants (Wheatgerm Oil and Vitamins A & E) and phyto-hormones (Clary Sage and Wild Yam).
These factors have been shown to have rejuvenating, preservative and restorative effects on the skin. Essential oils of Sandalwood, Geranium, Patchouli, and Neroli are soothing and calming while Oils of Jojoba and Calendula have moisturising effects.
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