What are antioxidants and how do they help with sun damage?

What are antioxidants and what is their relevance to sun damage?

Essentially, antioxidants are molecules that help our bodies to neutralise free radicals.

Antioxidant tree

Sun damage to the skin will create free radicals that the body will need to combat using antioxidants. If you are able to create an extra supply of antioxidants, the body will be better enabled to neutralize the harmful effects of too many free radicals.

We all have antioxidants as well as free radicals present in our bodies at all times. We can make some antioxidants ourselves, but we can also eat high antioxidant foods for an extra boost. 

Some examples are:

  • The liver will produces and use free radicals to detoxify our bodies.
  • White blood cells send free radicals to destroy bacteria, viruses and damaged cells.
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Experts views on what antioxidants are.

Wikipedia describes antioxidants as molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules, where the oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from one substance to an oxidising agent.

Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions like that illustrated in the video above. When the chain reaction occurs in a cell, it can cause damage or death to the cell. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions.

This short video gives a different view in answering the question about what antioxidants are. It acknowledges that as your brain represents just 2% of your body weight, but demands 20% of your resting metabolism, it needs help with your selection of the right foods high in antioxidants:

What are Antioxidants to Skin Aging?

What is understood about antioxidants helping to slow the aging process and minimising free radical damage?

Our bodies manufacture antioxidants such as superoxide dismutaze and catalase, but in doing so they eventually reach our skin in small amounts. Even if eating a fabulous diet rich in fruits and vegetables containing quality antioxidants, only about 2-3% will reach our skin.

This is where topically applied antioxidants help enormously to boost the health of and protect the skin, which is subjected to thousands of free radical exposures every day. These include:

spinach for antioxidantsEat spinach for great antioxidants
  • Unprotected sun exposure
  • Topical chemical-based treatments that can produce free radicals
  • Pollution

Free radicals damage skin by leading to:

  • collagen destruction or skin sag
  • age spots
  • wrinkles or fine lines
  • skin cancer

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