The Free Radical is the enemy of youthful skin and the champion of aging. It roams free, mercilessly damaging cells on its endless mission of destruction complete with skintight leather pants and post-apocalyptic mad max muscle car blaring ACDC’s ‘Highway to Hell’. Well maybe not quite, but the caricature isn’t far from the mark. Knowing what a free radical is and how it inflicts damage is however crucial knowledge in the glorious quest for the holy grail – ever youthful skin.
Free radicals are the common name for a group of molecules that, due to their chemical composition, ‘steal’ electrons from other molecules. This happens naturally when a free radical comes into contact with another molecule such as a protein.
When a protein loses an electron, its electric charge its shape change. This is catastrophic to a protein as the function of a protein is characterized by its shape. For instance, our skin is mainly comprised of two key proteins, the spring like elastic that gives elasticity and the fiber like collagen that gives strength. If a collagen fiber bends, or a elastin protein uncoils, then their function is lost. This type of free radical damage to collagen and elastin is the major cause of aging and wrinkles in our skin.
Free radicals themselves can be beaten. The enemy of the free radical is the enzyme, which can target a free radical, attach to it and then ‘break’ it into different, un-reactive molecules. This enzyme process is often referred to as ‘lock and key’, where the enzymes shape is such that it perfectly fits the free radical, holding it just long enough to react with it and destroy it.
The ‘lock and key’ way that enzymes destroy free-radicals.
The best way to fight free radicals is with anti-oxidants and enzyme enhancing molecules such as coenzyme q10, which happens to be a popular active ingredient in anti-aging and anti-wrinkle cream.
Now you know your enemy, the skin damaging, wrinkle causing free radical, you are much better armed to combat it for healthier and younger looking skin.