You hear of them everywhere.
And for good reason.
They help protect us from disease and keep us healthy and vibrant.
Antioxidants have even been shown to fight acne and promote clear skin.
Let’s dive into antioxidants, what they’re all about and how they can help the skin.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants can be vitamins such as vitamins C and E, minerals such as zinc and sulfur, or phytochemicals such as astaxanthin. The main purpose of antioxidants is to give one of their electrons to free radicals, thereby neutralizing them. Free radicals are molecules that are missing electrons and can cause inflammation and what is known as “oxidative damage.” Because free radicals are missing an electron, they grab electrons from other atoms and molecules that make up our cells. When free radicals steal electrons from atoms, it causes the atoms to become unstable. The atom that just got its electron stolen tries to steal an electron from its neighbor, and that process continues in a cascading fashion until antioxidants stop the cycle.
The inflammation caused by free radicals is oftentimes called oxidative damage, or oxidative stress, because the process of losing an electron is called oxidation. The damage caused by free radicals may be the main reason why we age and get acne.
How Do Free Radicals Form?
Free radicals are made by every cell in our body and are a normal result of cellular metabolism. Our bodies have a lot of ways to keep free radical damage, or oxidative stress, under control. The problem comes when the amount of stress overwhelms our body’s natural ability to cope. This is due to dozens of different factors, including toxins in the air we breathe (such as exhaust fumes or asbestos), the chemicals our livers must filter (from drugs, alcohol, chemical-laden products, and pesticides), the stress we’re under (from relationships or money issues), the amount of sun we get (or don’t get), our sleep (or lack of sleep), our thoughts and, of course, our diet.
The two main reasons why free radicals and oxidative stress overwhelm our bodies and cause so much damage stems from our diet which is inadequate in antioxidants and our lack of sleep which hinders the repair process of our bodies. Luckily, diet is an aspect of our lives that we have the most power and control over.
Where Most Free Radicals Come From
Most of the inflammatory free radicals come from oxidized or rancid fats such as corn, soy and vegetable oils when they are processed. We can decrease the oxidative damage and inflammation caused by free radicals by eliminating inflammatory foods and adding in massive amounts of anti-inflammatory foods loaded with antioxidants.
Where Most Antioxidants Come From
Antioxidants are found in a range of healthy foods, from lemons, oranges, grapes and pineapples to nuts, seeds, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, kale, chard and sprouts, to salmon and eggs. Fruits and vegetables have the highest amounts of antioxidants. They are also found in supplements such as astaxanthin and glutathione. I recommend including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich foods into your diet and taking astaxanthin in supplement form to boost your body’s healing capacity even more. I also like green powders in shakes to get even more antioxidant power.
Getting enough antioxidants into our diets is something that we all should strive to do. In fact, it is something we must do if we want to be healthy in the polluted world we live in today.
Oxidative Stress And Acne
So what do free radicals, oxidative stress and antioxidants have to do with acne?
It comes back to inflammation.
A major component of acne is inflammation. Inflammation causes heat and redness. A major driving force of inflammation is oxidative stress. Antioxidants combat this oxidative stress and defend your body from the damages of free radicals and, therefore, heal your skin. While I almost exclusively promote eating our way to clear skin, applying topical antioxidants can serve as a helpful tool in clearing up acne and other skin conditions and for healing scars as well. It’s not something that you have to do — I usually don’t apply any topicals except for renu28 — but antioxidants can be helpful and possibly speed up the healing of the skin as well. Things like turmeric masks might help. Nicotinamide gel (vitamin B3) along with a green tea lotion and sodium ascorbic phosphate (SAP), which is a stable form of vitamin C, can be a powerful antioxidant combination and help improve your skin.
The reason I don’t give out links to these things, but I do for renu28, is because I actually tried all of these things and they never really helped me, even though in scientific studies they were proven to help with acne.
To really fix your skin and heal your body, you need to get to the root causes. That means changing your diet and lifestyle, and if that doesn’t work, testing for hidden internal stressors such as hormonal imbalances, gut pathogens, heavy metals and food sensitivities can help you discover what is truly going on.
You can learn how to change your diet and lifestyle to optimize your skin and life by signing up to the Clear Skin Nutrition newsletter here!