Without question, topically applied antioxidants are essential for skin and there are many brilliant ones that can and should show up in a skin care product. Antioxidants vary from different forms of vitamins A, C, and E; superoxide dismutase; beta carotene; glutathione; selenium; green tea, soy extract, grape extract, pomegranate extract, among dozens of others. And the more included in your skin-care product, the better!
There are hundreds of trendy antioxidants that show up in skin-care lines, but antioxidants don't need to be exotic or have a good marketing story to work brilliantly. Despite what marketers may claim about Tibetan berries or about melons harvested at dawn in the south of France, what matters most is treating your skin to a variety of antioxidants. In other words, take a cocktail approach, and give skin its very own happy hour with an array of potent, stable, and well-researched antioxidants!
Again, skin gets the most benefit when several antioxidants are applied together, much the same way that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is healthier than eating only apples or only broccoli. So, the search for, and the claims about, the one "best" antioxidant or the "best" ingredients for skin are fruitless.
Vitamin E, one of the most well-known antioxidants, is a fat-soluble vitamin available in both natural and synthetic forms. Research shows that both forms provide significant antioxidant benefits to skin, but that the natural forms are more potent and have a higher retention rate (meaning they are absorbed better by skin) than their synthetic counterparts.
Vitamin E works in several different ways to protect cell membranes from oxidative damage and from the early stages of ultraviolet light damage. It also works in powerful synergy with vitamin C; that is, a serum or treatment that contains both vitamins C and E can be doubly beneficial. Look for Vitamin E in serums and moisturizers.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that works particularly well for treating wrinkles, dullness, and brown spots. This well-researched water-soluble vitamin is considered an anti-aging superstar.
Note that vitamin C, like any antioxidant, must be packaged to protect it from excess exposure to light and air. Although ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid are the forms most prone to breaking down with repeated exposure to light and air, even the stabilized forms of vitamin C don't remain as potent if they are not packaged to minimize or eliminate their exposure to light and air. Avoid any vitamin C product packaged in a jar, unless what's inside the jar are individually sealed, single-use capsules.
When applied topically, vitamin C has been proven to increase collagen production (including dermal collagen, which is significant in the fight against wrinkles). There is also research showing that vitamin C reduces skin discolorations, strengthens the skin's barrier response, enhances skin's repair process, reduces inflammation, and helps skin better withstand exposure to sunlight, whether protected by sunscreen or not. How cool is that?! Amounts from 0.5% to 20% have shown impressive efficacy. Vitamin C is found in all sorts of products, from lip balms to eye creams, but you'll get the most out of this antioxidant in targeted treatment products and skin-brightening serums.
One cup of strawberries is 30% more than the daily recommended amount of vitamin C for an adult woman, and is a sweet addition to your diet that encourages the production of collagen fibers to keep skin smooth and firm. Strawberries are a delicious way to fight dry skin that can lead to wrinkles, and the abundance of the antioxidant ellagic acid in strawberries protects the elasticity of skin to help fight sagging.
Resveratrol is a potent polyphenolic antioxidant that's found in red grapes, red wine, nuts, and fruits such as blueberries and cranberries.
Resveratrol has incredible protective benefits for the skin. When applied topically, it protects against sun damage, improves collagen production, and reduces cell damage. It is a stable, potent antioxidant worth seeking out in a skin-care product. It also has significant anti-inflammatory properties—and inflammation is a major behind-the-scenes culprit of multiple skin issues, from acne to rosacea to eczema. In addition, studies have shown that resveratrol inhibits tumor development. Look for resveratrol in moisturizers and anti-aging makeup.
A sweet way to get a mega dose of antioxidants: blueberries! The antioxidants and nutrients in blueberries help neutralize free radicals that damage cells. Blueberries are one of the highest food sources of antioxidants, and including them as a regular part of your diet helps protect skin cells from disintegration and damage, resulting in skin that retains a youthful look longer.
Retinol, the term for the entire vitamin A molecule, has a long-established reputation as a brilliant ingredient for skin. It is a cell-communicating ingredient and an antioxidant, and provides multiple benefits when used on a regular basis. Although it is not the only ingredient to look for in an anti-aging product, it deserves strong consideration by anyone who wants to keep their skin younger and healthier over the years. An added benefit is that retinol also has been shown to reduce breakouts, brown spots, and red marks from past breakouts. In skin-care products, it's found in the form of retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinylaldehyde. In prescription-only skin-care products, it is in the form of retinoic acid (also called tretinoin); other prescription topical retinoids include adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac).
Retinol helps skin create better, healthier skin cells and increase the production of skin-support substances such as ceramides. Retinol has been shown to increase the skin's collagen production and glycosaminoglycan content (an important skin-protecting substance found in young skin), resulting in firmer skin with an improved texture and enhanced barrier function. If you want firmer skin—Use retinol! Retinol is found in all types of products, from moisturizers to serums to body treatments and many others.
Green tea is a potent antioxidant, whether consumed orally or applied topically. A significant amount of research have established that tea—green, black, or white—has many intriguing health benefits, including anti-aging benefits. The key compound in green tea that provides antioxidant protection is epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG).
Current research indicates that EGCG extract, applied topically, can prevent collagen breakdown and reduce UV damage to the skin, which is a very good reason to use skin-care products that contain one or more forms of tea! Green tea is also very good at reducing inflammation and protect cell membranes, limiting the damage of sunburns and overexposure to ultraviolet light. Green tea is loaded with polyphenols, compounds that help eliminate cancer-causing free radicals and cell damage.