Free radicals - how can something with such a free-spirited, innocent sounding name cause so much destruction? And yet these pesky split molecules can cause an enormous amount of damage to the DNA of skin cells, leading to premature skin ageing. If right now you’re thinking to yourself, “how and why does this happen and what can do to halt the formation of free radicals?”, then read on to find out.
How and why free radicals are formed
Essentially, free radicals are formed when weak bonds between atoms within a cell split. Due to the unstable nature of free radicals, they will generally attack the nearest stable molecule in an attempt to take its electron and balance themselves - that molecule will then become a free radical itself and a chain reaction is set in motion, often leading to the destruction of the cell. Some of these unstable molecules can be useful and as such are formed purposefully by the immune system to neutralise viruses and bacteria, but environmental factors such as UV rays, pollution, stress and pollution can create unneeded free radicals.
How free radicals damage the skin
Under normal circumstances, free radicals can be contained by naturally occurring antioxidants and antioxidants ingested from a healthy diet but if there is an excess of free radicals or antioxidant levels are diminished, free radicals really do have free reign over your body. Although the body produces enough antioxidants to counter free radicals when we’re young, our levels start to diminish from the age of about 25, leading to an increase in free radicals and thus also an increase in skin damage.
How to protect the skin from free radical damage
In addition to avoiding the environmental factors which cause the formation of free radicals, antioxidants are key to countering free radicals, thus heading them off before they can do any damage. Antioxidants prevent the production of harmful free radicals and allow the skin to produce healthy cells which, in turn produce more healthy cells, slowing down the ageing process and resulting in glowing, smoother, more supple, youthful looking skin.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, nuts, red grapes, beans, and dark chocolate is hugely beneficial to the body’s overall health but only 2-3% of those antioxidants make it to the skin so it is important to apply a topical cream containing a high level of powerful antioxidants too. The ability to donate one of their electrons to balance molecules (thereby ending the chain reaction of electron stealing which propagates free radicals) without themselves becoming free radicals, allows antioxidants to prevent the cell damage which leads to skin ageing.
Emily Buckley is a beauty journalist and copywriter who has spent nearly a decade within the industry, researching and reporting on the newest skincare news and breakthroughs. She is currently writing a series of articles in conjunction with MitoQ, an exciting new anti-ageing product which utilises a powerful antioxidant to slow skin ageing.