What is free radical damage?
There’s much talk about damaging ‘free-radicals’ in the beauty world but what exactly are these beauty ‘devils’ and are they always harmful? Free radicals are unstable molecules in the body that can cause DNA mutation, they have been linked to ageing as well as serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and Parkinsons, but are not always bad. Free radicals occur as part of a natural metabolic process in the body called oxidation and are a vital part of the body’s natural defenses (immune cells shoot out free radicals to fight invading bacteria, for example), however too many and they can cause damage.
This is because external factors, such as pollution, smoking, and UV rays (otherwise known as the Exposome) can generate so many free radicals that the bodies natural defenses are overwhelmed - a phenomenon known as oxidative stress - which causes free radical damage at the cell level. Triggered by these external factors, free radical damage has been shown to accelerate visible signs of ageing as well as disease.
So, where do antioxidants - known to combat free radicals - come in?
Any molecule that protects your body against free radicals is known as an antioxidant, as they are “anti-oxidation”. Antioxidants help to fight the negative effects free radicals have on our skin by offering themselves as a shield and acting as a substitute for the skin molecules that free radicals usually latch onto. With over 8000 varieties, including vitamins, polyphenols and flavonoids there are plenty of antioxidants that can be effective, both imbibed in foods and supplements and applied externally to skin.
Whether its key minerals the body can’t produce on its own, such as calcium, or dietary supplements for improved general health, such as ginkgo biloba, we know that what we eat can have a significant impact on our skin’s future. Good nutrition has been linked to a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles, with certain micronutrients shown to be as or more effective than topical cosmetics.
Nutrition rich in antioxidants tends to be associated with brightly-coloured foods, such as fruits (red berries in particular), vegetables and even spices, but antioxidants can also be found in other, more unlikely places like chocolate. What’s more, they don’t just help skin respond to ageing. Research has shown that polyphenols, which are found in dark chocolate and grapes, can help improve circulation. Another antioxidant, lycopene, found in tomatoes, has been shown to help reduce inflammation linked to sunburn.
Your Free Radical fighting beauty regime
Just as foods can help aid the body fight free radical damage, your beauty regime is another vital way of injecting skin with antioxidants and also protecting it against the environment. First up, it’s vital to start and finish your day with a thorough cleansing routine, especially if you’re living in a polluted urban area. Pureté Thermale 3-in-1 One Step Cleanser is a wash off cream that acts as a cleansing milk, toning lotion and eye make-up remover in one. Moreover it’s effective even on sensitive skin, leaving it feeling soft and looking radiant.
Up to 80 percent of skin’s ageing signs are caused by environmental exposure, so once pollutants and impurities have been washed away, protect and hydrate skin to ensure it’s barrier function is working at an optimum. Vichy Slow Âge Fluid Moisturiser, for normal to combination skin, contains antioxidant Baïcalin, probiotic-derived Bifidus and Vichy Mineralizing Thermal Water along with SPF25. It is specifically designed to combat some of the effects of pollution and clinically proven to slow down the appearance of signs of ageing.
Tackle excess free radicals from the inside and out and you can make a real difference to skin health as well as the health of the rest of your body, for a glow that lasts day after day.
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