What Antioxidants Really Do For Your Skin

Following on from last weeks blog post "5 Ways to Protect Your Skin Against Pollution - Now!" we dive into the use of Antioxidants in your skin care routine, how they are vital for both preventing and repairing age-related damage, and protecting from external stressors - think pollution. Botanical ingredients are a rich source of vitamins, antioxidants, essential oils and oils, hydrocolloids, proteins, terpenoids, and other bioactive compounds. According to their composition, these extracts can provide different properties during skincare formulation.

What are Antioxidants?

In nature antioxidants are plants' version of sunscreen, the same nutrients that give plants their colourful appearance also protect foliage from the damaging rays of the sun. Tomatoes contain lycopene this makes them red, beta-carotene gives pumpkin their orange colour. Other antioxidants you may be familiar with are - polyphenols, flavonoids, isoflavones, and anthocyanins.

Just like plants for humans antioxidants protect us from the ravages of oxidative stress and free radicals. Working in two ways, firstly protecting cells from both endogenous (internal cause) and exogenous (external cause) oxidative stressors, keeping electrons from spiraling out of their orbit and preventing the formation of free radicals. Secondly, they travel the body scavenging and eliminating already created free radicals. This process turns free radicals into harmless compounds, preventing them from destroying collagen and elastin, repairs some of the free radical damage and stimulates age reversal changes (cell repair and collagen production). antioxidants

Phenolic compounds are bioactive substances widely distributed in plants, being important constituents of the human diet. Plant phenolics comprise a great diversity of compounds, such as flavonoids (anthocyanins, flavonols, flavones, etc.) and several classes of non-flavonoids (phenolic acids, lignins, stilbenes). Natural antioxidants are effective in preventing free radical formation by scavenging them or promoting their death. 

Vitamin E is the major lipophilic antioxidant in the skin, and it is the most commonly used natural antioxidant in topical formulations. It is found in all parts of the skin, the dermis, and epidermis as well as in the stratum corneum (SC), and is believed to play an essential role in the protection of biomolecules from oxidative stress.

Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is one of the most important water-soluble antioxidants, which is present in high amounts in the skin. While most species are able to produce ascorbic acid, humans lack the enzymes necessary for its synthesis. In the skin, vitamin C is found in all layers. In Stratum Corneum, it forms a similar gradient as vitamin E with decreasing concentrations toward the outside. Vitamin C is depleted by O3 and UV radiation. One of the earliest discoveries of vitamin C benefits in the skin was the observation that it stimulates collagen synthesis in dermal fibroblasts. Vitamin C is essential in the formation of competent barrier lipids in reconstructed human epidermis.

Flavonoids - are widely distributed plant pigments and tannins occurring in barks, roots, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Their roles in plants include photoprotection and contributing to the plant color. Consequently, our diet contains flavonoids, which can be found in a variety of foods from green vegetables to red wine.

Procyanidins - also known as “condensed tannins” are flavonoids found in pine bark, grape seeds, and fruits, By direct protein interaction, they were shown to protect collagen and elastin, two dermal matrix proteins, against their degradation. Flavonoids display a broad spectrum of properties particularly helpful in preventing UVR-caused harmful effects in human skin.

Antioxidants can be oil-soluble - examples: Vitamin E // Curcumin (Turmeric) or water-soluable - examples: Vitamin C // Coffeeberry.


    External oxidative stressors - The effects of sun exposure on the skin are well known, but the global ozone pollution epidemic continues to spread. According to the American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report in 2017, nearly 40% of people live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution.

    Ozone pollution damage - Appears in the skin as excess oiliness, rough texture, and increased sensitivity. Exposure to ozone pollution may cause visible skin aging by reducing collagen expression in the skin, it oxidizes lipids and depletes the skin's natural antioxidant reservoir, triggering a progressive cascade of damage that may contribute to signs of skin aging. Free radicals can also trigger inflammation and other harmful pathways in the skin, such as increased production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which break down collagen in your skin.

    1. After exposure to 0.8ppm ozone, collagen was reduced
    2. Antioxidants can help by neutralizing free radicals on the upper layer of the skin

    CLINICAL TRAILS (in humans) have shown these natural antioxidants reduce the signs of free radical damage

    • Ferulic Acid – Comes from cereal like rice bran oil and other botanical plant-based sources like Borage Seed Oil, great at boosting the stability of vitamins C and E
    • Green Tea Polyphenols – Most notably epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which is estimated to have 25-100 times as much antioxidant ability as vitamins C and E. Other polyphenols in tea (epicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, epigallocatechin) are active antioxidants as well
    • Genistein – An isoflavone from soy
    • Lycopene – A red vitamin A compound that comes from tomatoes, watermelons, and apricots
    • Resveratrol – Found in grape skins, peanuts, and red wine
    • Vitamin A - Is a fat-soluble vitamin that is also a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A plays a critical role in maintaining healthy skin. Vitamin A like all antioxidants is involved in reducing inflammation through fighting free radical damage. Beta Carotene is obtained from colorful fruits and vegetables, is in the form of “pro-Vitamin A” namely carotenoids.

      The benefits of applying antioxidants topically  

      Topical application can boost your skin’s ability to neutralize free radicals. The following antioxidants have been backed up by clinical studies:

      Acai Berry Seed Oil - The seeds of this fruit are cold-pressed to produce oil that is a rich source of antioxidants being rich in anthocyanins and phenols making the oil a very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Its significant content of anthocyanins is reported to be 10-30 times higher than the anthocyanin content of red wine grapes. Along with phytoestrogens, omega-5 conjugated fatty acids, and conjugated linolenic acid (punicic acid). These fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents and free radical scavengers.

      Rose Hip Seed // Berry Oil - Contains a range of antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene as well as Vitamins A and E

      Sea Buckthorn Seed // Berry Oil - Loaded with antioxidants - phenols, terpenes, and glucosides; vitamins A, and E; beta-carotene.

      Red Raspberry Seed Oil - Contains Elegiac Acid this compound has been shown to reduce the destruction of collagen as well as protecting against Ultraviolet damage from the sun. Phytosterols - their antioxidant activity prevents skin damage, encourages healthy skin growth and may protect against cancer. They encourage new collagen production, leading to healthier, younger-looking skin.

      Vitamin C - A water-soluble vitamin naturally found in the skin that protects the inside of the cell. Essential in collagen synthesis and reduces pigmentation.
      Vitamin E - A fat-soluble vitamin that protects cell membranes and is regenerated by vitamin C. 

      Camellia Seed Oil - (Green Tea) Naturally contains Vitamins A, D, E and K, and polyphenols – all of these are antioxidants that can combat the effects of free radicals.

      Pomegranate Seed Oil - Recent studies have shown that pomegranate actually contains three times the total antioxidant potency of green tea or red wine, making it a powerful resource for both skin and whole-body health. The major constituents are tannins (25–28%), including punicalagin; polyphenols, such as ellagic acid; ascorbic acid; niacin; potassium; and piperidine alkaloids. Methylellagic acid - (Ellagic) is a polyphenolic compound that is found in pomegranates along with red raspberries and other fruits. It is an antioxidant that has been shown to help prevent skin cancer as well as preventing UV damage and wrinkle formation. Ellagic acid also lightens and brightens the skin. 

      Prickly Pear Seed Oil - the Highest botanical source of Tocopherols (Vitamin E), they are responsible for the impressive effectiveness of prickly pear seed oil as a natural antioxidant. Tocopherols are in charge of protecting all valuable unsaturated fatty acids against the destruction by free radicals.

      Turmeric Extract- contains a mixture of phenolic compounds called curcumin and volatile oil with turmerone and zingiberene. Curcuminoids are responsible for the yellow colour of the turmeric, and the essential oil that it contains for its aroma and taste. 

      Hemp Seed Oil - contains high amounts of Phenolic compounds - flavonoids, such as flavanones, flavonols, flavanols and isoflavones.

      Antioxidants usually perform better in a combination - synergistically to replenish each other. Vitamin C together with vitamin E protects against UV damage twice as well as vitamin C alone. Antioxidants are more effective when applied before free radicals are formed this basically means before you head outside into pollution and UV rays.

      The Role Antioxidants play in Product Formulation

      Antioxidants are ingredients that are added to a product either to protect the product from oxidative reactions, helping to maintain its physical characteristics and functions during the product shelf life. Antioxidants are also used to provide benefits for the skin. Exposure to oxygen and sunlight are the main factors of cosmetic oxidation, being lipids, especially unsaturated fats the ingredients mostly affected by the oxidation process. Adding an antioxidant to the formula will prevent the oxidation, or rancification of the product, which can change the colour and smell of the product. The most common antioxidants used in natural cosmetics are Vitamin E and Rosemary CO2 extract.

        Two difficulties faced when formulating skin care products

        1. Keeping antioxidants stable in product formulas - Antioxidants can rapidly
        breakdown on exposure to light known as being vulnerable to photodecomposition (light sensitive). We have specifically chosen to package our formulas in Biophotonic Glass Bottles which block the complete spectrum of visible light with the exception of the violet, UV-A, and infrared light thus protecting the ingredients from the quality lessening influences of light, allowing only life-giving violet rays to permeate. Such rays protect and improve the longevity of our formulations. These bottles are fully recyclable are made from sustainable and renewable resources and have no danger of leaching toxins into the product contained within. 

        Additionally, a plant compound called ferulic acid is also emerging as an effective stabilizer, based on new scientific research. We add Borage Seed and Acai Berry oil into our formulations, they contains two important polyphenols; ferulic acid, which is a very effective antioxidant that can repair sun and weather-induced skin damage and ellagic acid, which reduces collagen destruction.

        2. The percutaneous absorption - are antioxidants actually absorbed into the skin? - There have been concerns that when applied topically the antioxidants in formulations sit on top of the skin and may, therefore be washed or rubbed off instead of being absorbed into the skin cells. Studies now show that antioxidants do have the ability to be absorbed into skin cells of the stratum corneum (top layer of skin) where they neutralize free radicals.

        Cell Affinity Coactive Serum | TANU is packed with 28 Certified Organic and responsibly wildcrafted ingredients rich in antioxidants, each working synergistically with the next protecting from pollution and neutralizing free radicals.

        Until next time..

        Be human | be kind | be you








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