Now that summer is around the corner, we need to be more conscious of the consequences of sun exposure. Did you know that UV-rays, cigarettes, lack of sleep, and several other factors promote the formation of free radicals and cause Oxidative Stress?
Skin oxidation or Oxidative Stress is one of the most important triggering factors of skin aging and other skin problems. Preventing and counteracting oxidative stress with the use of antioxidants should be paramount for all of us.
Oxidative stress not only affects your skin; preventing the overproduction of free radicals also helps to prevent all kinds of diseases.
MECHANISM OF OXIDATIVE STRESS
In general terms, oxidative stress occurs when a type of molecule in the body, called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), cannot be controlled by the body’s natural antioxidants, and spread.
To understand why ROS can be damaging for your body, you need to know what exactly ROS and antioxidants are and how they work.
REACTIVE OXIGEN SPECIES (ROS)
There are different types of ROS, and not all of them are damaging. Some of them are generated by the organism to work as signaling messengers involved in cell differentiation, fight potential microbial invasions, and take part in other essential functions. However, their production is also triggered by external stimuli such as sun exposure, pollution, cigarettes, and others. Exposure to these factors can lead to an excess of Reactive Oxygen Species.
ROS are unstable molecules, derived from molecular oxygen, that can easily react with other molecules in a cell and turn into Free Radicals.
Knowing that molecules are a group of atoms bound together and that ROS are unstable, it occurs more than often that they split into atoms. Several of these resulting atoms have an unpaired number of electrons. These atoms with unpaired electrons are what we call Free Radicals. They are the ones that attack our cells and tissues.
To go on, we need to refresh some basic chemistry.
Atoms contain electrons, and electrons like to be in pairs, so atoms with an unpaired number of electrons will spend their time searching for other atoms to which they can steal electrons and be paired again.
Therefore, Free Radicals attack other molecules in the body to steal electrons. Moreover, the “robbed” atom will also be unpaired and turn into a Free Radical, creating a chain reaction.
This chaos is controlled by the great work of antioxidants, which are molecules that wander around carrying extra electrons on purpose to give them away to all those Free Radicals and make them stop chasing atoms and destroying our cells.
Unfortunately, your body produces fewer antioxidants as you get older, and external stressors promote free radical formation. These two factors induce Oxidative Stress.
So, keep scrolling down to know how to provide your skin with more antioxidants.
In terms of skin aging, oxidative stress promotes the formation of wrinkles and fine lines, loss of skin firmness, elasticity and glow, dehydration, etc. The result is unhealthy-looking and aged skin.
MAIN EXTERNAL STRESSORS THAT TRIGGER OXIDATIVE STRESS
These are the main external factors that promote an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants.
UV-photons from sunlight and sunbeds interact with atomic oxygen and significantly promote the formation of ROS and free radicals.
One of the reasons why cigarettes are so dangerous is that tobacco smoke significantly promotes chemical reactions with oxygen, highly increasing the number of free radicals. It also explains why smoking accelerates skin aging so much.
Your body produces natural antioxidants when you sleep. Therefore, poor sleep promotes a decrease in the number of antioxidants.
It has been proven that traffic-related pollution, coal dust, and combustion residues, in general, carry Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals (EPFRs), in other words, nanoparticles in the polluted air that induce Oxidative Stress.
Drinking one or two glasses of wine seems to be fine, but more than that has not so funny consequences. Besides dehydrating your skin and swelling your blood vessels, ethanol (alcohol) highly promotes the formation of free radicals, prompting skin aging, liver diseases, and so many other problems.
Pesticides, medical drug abuse, or even contact with harsh household products can unchain free radical spread. It is recommended to thoroughly remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables with water (you can also use some drops of vinegar with water, but do not use soaps nor detergent) and protect yourself with gloves and masks when using chemical compounds.
HOW TO PREVENT OR COUNTERACT OXIDATIVE STRESS IN SKIN
Use a good sunscreen when sun-exposed
Even in winter! To know what sunscreen to choose according to your skin phototype learn more here: Determine your Skin Phototype
Protect your skin from pollution
Some skin moisturizers, such as INNO-EPIGEN® Urban Day Cream, create an invisible shield that protects your skin from pollutive particles.
Eat foods rich in antioxidants
- Green Tea
- …and Dark Chocolate!
Aesthetic therapies to combat Oxidative Stress
Some aesthetic treatments are designed to reduce the formation of free radicals and promote the formation of antioxidants. Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and Glutathione, for instance, are powerful antioxidant active ingredients that have shown outstanding results.
Skincare products to provide your skin with antioxidants
You can find moisturizers and serums with antioxidant ingredients that effectively help to prevent Oxidative Stress.
Remember that Serums can penetrate deeper into the skin than moisturizers, as explained in our older post, Face Serums vs Moisturizers