The role antioxidants play in aging and skincare have become much more commonplace lately. I’ve been told that in order to protect your skin from free radicals and delay aging, antioxidants are key.

But what the hell does that actually mean?

Should I be using antioxidant-rich skincare, or consuming more antioxidant-rich food? And what are free-radicals really, and why, exactly, are they so bad for you?

I sat down with Lauren Wolk of Goldfaden MD to talk about the importance of antioxidants and learn the proper steps we should take in order to truly get that glow.

Can you share a little bit about the benefits of antioxidants?

Antioxidants come in many different shapes and sizes, including foods and topical plant-derived antioxidant actives, to name just a few… but the quality they all share is that they are able to neutralize free radicals, preventing them from damaging the body — both internally and externally. Free radical formation is normal. Plants, animals, and humans produce free radicals all of the time. Our bodies have defenses against free radicals, but when the strength of these defenses are outweighed by the amount of free radicals themselves, they can cause lasting harm, and even cell death. That’s why incorporating antioxidants into both your skincare and foods are crucial for obtaining a youthful existence.

Why are they so essential for skincare?

Research has been substantiating the benefits of super potent antioxidants for a long time and has found that antioxidants combat and protect the skin from toxic elements that are the leading causes for aging (photo-aging, sagging, loss of elasticity). Also, antioxidants in all forms contain various enzymes, nutrients, and vitamins that can help calm irritated skin and revitalize the skin’s texture and tone.

Can antioxidants in food have a similar effect on your skin?

Overall, wellness and healthy-looking skin certainly requires more than just incorporating topical treatments. So much of what we see on the outside (in terms of a healthy-looking complexion) is a result of how healthy we are internally. In the same way that antioxidants help to fight free radical damage to our skin cells caused by environmental stresses on the skin, ingesting antioxidants (mostly) come from fresh fruits and vegetables to help prohibit and also prevent the oxidation of harmful molecules that can form in the body. If free radicals are left to roam freely within the body, it can lead to a wide range of illnesses.

What are the best sources of antioxidants in food?

Fruits, vegetables, seeds, tea, and legumes.

We see free radicals thrown around as a buzzword, what are they and why are they harmful?

Cumulative exposure to toxins in the form of ultraviolet rays of the sun, pollution, and environmental stresses (smoke, UVA/UVB rays, pollution, etc.) produces free radicals that can damage the sensitive lipids, proteins, and DNA in your skin cells. This environmental-induced damage to your skin can result in gradual loss of tone, wrinkling, discoloration, increased redness, and even cancer. Topical treatment with green tea polyphenols has been shown to help prevent the DNA damage that leads to skin cancer and to support the general health and long-lasting beauty of your skin.

What are your favorite sources of antioxidants, and why?

Fruits and vegetables of course, but uniquely, red tea (also known as Rooibos) contains some of the most potent natural antioxidants known for protecting your skin from the free radical damage that can cause aging. These include Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene. Red tea is known to possess 50 times the antioxidant capacity of green tea due to a high concentration of a special enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD for short), a major scavenger of free radicals. The combination of these natural vitamins and enzymes found in red tea aids in promoting new skin health after the removal of dead and damaged cells, giving your skin a smoother, brighter, and healthier appearance. In addition, red tea also contains a number of powerful polyphenols and flavonoids that help heal and rejuvenate the skin.

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