When it comes to your body, free radicals have some benefits, such as regulating cell growth and destroying pathogens. However, generally, they cause a great deal of harm and are particularly damaging to our skin, being responsible for multiple signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles, discoloration, and loss of volume.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are unstable molecules that are not bound to other molecules and can cause damage to cell membranes, DNA, and other important cellular components, leading to inflammation and disease. In the body, free radicals can be produced by normal metabolic processes, but they may also be generated by exposure to environmental stressors like UV radiation and pollution.
While the body has mechanisms to protect itself from free radical damage, these defenses can become overwhelmed as we a
ge or with exposure to chronic stressors. That is why it’s important to take steps to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins and support your body’s natural detoxification processes. One way to do this is with the use of antioxidants, which can help neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing so much harm.
How Free Radicals Damage Your Skin
As noted above, the body has antioxidant defenses to combat free radicals, but when the production of antioxidants becomes overwhelmed by them, oxidative stress and damage can occur.
In the skin, this damage manifests as fine lines and wrinkles, a dull and uneven skin tone, increased pigmentation, and the breakdown of essential proteins, such as collagen. In other words, free radicals can cause many of the most common visible signs of aging skin. To avoid this damage, it’s important to use products that contain antioxidants while limiting exposure to environmental factors that can trigger free radical production.
Ways To Protect Your Skin & Reduce The Damaging Effects Of Free Radicals
1. Use targeted skincare treatments
There are many skincare products on the market with antioxidant-rich formulas, including serums, creams, and oils. Look for those that contain vitamins A, C, and E, and substances such as ferulic acid and squalene, as these are some of the most beneficial for your skin.
2. Eat antioxidant-rich foods
Another way to protect your skin against free radicals is to ensure that you get enough antioxidants in your diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those that are brightly colored, such as blueberries, kale, beets, and carrots, as these tend to have the highest levels of antioxidants and will produce the most powerful effects.
3. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
Wearing sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect your skin from the damaging effects of free radicals. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and apply it liberally to all exposed skin before going outdoors. Reapply every 2 hours or as directed on the label.
4. Avoid sun exposure
In addition to wearing sunscreen, it is also important to avoid sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm. If you must be outdoors during these times, stay in the shade as much as possible and wear protective clothing such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.
5. Quit smoking cigarettes
Another way to reduce your exposure to free radicals is to quit smoking cigarettes as they contain many toxic chemicals, that in addition to being extremely harmful to your overall health, accelerate premature aging in the skin.
6. Reduce stress levels.
Stress is extremely detrimental to many aspects of our well-being and can cause an increase in free radicals in the body. If you feel that you have too much stress in your life, try incorporating some relaxation techniques into your daily routines such as yoga, meditation, or even deep breathing exercises.
As you’ve seen, while free radicals may have some benefits for the body, they’re bad news for our skin and responsible for numerous signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration. However, by following the tips above – increasing your antioxidant intake, using protective skincare, shielding your skin from the sun, and making some important lifestyle changes – the degree of damage they cause can be reduced.
If you’d like more help preventing skin damage from free radicals, talk to a dermatologist about the most effective products to use for your skin type and a nutritionist to learn more about the best foods to introduce into your diet. And of course, always see your doctor if you need assistance in quitting smoking or lowering levels of stress.
So, although you may not be able to eradicate free radicals, with a little know-how, limiting the amount of havoc they create can be done!