Aug 26, 2023

Antioxidants for skin: Benefits, drawbacks, and sources

Antioxidants may benefit the skin by preventing or slowing aging and cell damage. People consume antioxidants in food and supplements, or they may use antioxidant skin care products.

Many skin care products contain antioxidants, such as retinoids, vitamin C, or vitamin E. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends these products for some people but advises caution for others when using them. Experts suggest that a healthy and varied diet may be a cost-effective way to look after the skin and improve its condition.

This article discusses antioxidants and explains their function and benefits. It describes how they interact with the skin and lists antioxidants in foods, supplements, and skin care products. It explains how to choose a skin care product and cautions about potential drawbacks.

Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or delay some types of cell damage by counteracting free radicals and oxidative stress.

A 2018 article explains that the body has exposure to oxidative stress as part of its metabolic activities and through environmental sources, such as pollution, tobacco, and alcohol.

Oxidative stress and free radicals cause aging and diseases, such as:

Antioxidants can be synthetic or natural substances. They are present in fruits, vegetables, and supplements containing vitamins and minerals. Some substances, such as glutathione, are antioxidants that the body produces while others come from eating a healthy diet.

Antioxidants include the following:

Research indicates that scientists still do not know enough about how antioxidants work, as they can have adverse and beneficial effects.

According to a 2021 review, antioxidants help protect the skin from harmful UV radiation, which can accelerate skin aging.

The researchers suggest the most cost-effective way to improve the skin's condition is to supply it with essential nutrients externally and internally through a varied diet.

Antioxidants, such as carotenoids, are a vital part of the epidermis, and zinc is necessary for new cells to form. Selenium helps inhibit wrinkle formation, and vitamin E may protect against skin cancer.

Antioxidants may improve the skin by:

Antioxidants may also play a beneficial role in preventing skin conditions. For example, a 2021 review of 20 studies indicated that vitamin E levels were lower in patients with conditions, such as vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, and acne. The reviewers highlight a need for further research to evaluate vitamin E for improving skin diseases.

A 2022 review notes the potential of antioxidants to counteract the involvement of oxidative stress in psoriasis.

Learn more about vitamin E for skin here.

A review suggests that the key antioxidants for skin health include:

While the review stresses the importance of diet, some of the antioxidants it mentions are available as supplements or in skin care products.

A popular antioxidant ingredient in skin care products is vitamin C. According to a 2017 review, vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in human skin. Even with high-dose oral supplements, only a fraction of vitamin C will be biologically available and active in the skin.

Therefore, topical vitamin C products may be a good option. The review notes that the topical application of vitamin C may have anti-aging and anti-pigmentation properties and protect from the effects of the sun. Additionally, vitamin C replenishes vitamin E levels.

The AAD recommends that people should take time to identify their skin type before choosing skin care products. A person's skin may be:

If a person understands their skin type, it can help them find a suitable skin care routine and choose the right products.

The AAD also advises wearing sunscreen daily with an SPF of 30 or higher on all skin not covered by clothing. To save time, a person may wish to choose a moisturizer containing SPF.

Additionally, people must be careful to avoid skin care products that irritate their skin.

Retinoids are vitamin A-based products and include retinol. Retinol is a popular ingredient in skin care products and may improve uneven skin tone, pigmentation, and texture. The AAD advises that products containing retinoids are a good option for people with mild acne or fine lines and wrinkles.

However, the AAD recommends that people with skin allergies or dryness avoid retinoids. Additionally, pregnant people must not use retinoid products, and those with hormonal acne should consult a dermatologist first.

People who use retinoid products must use sunscreen, as they make the skin more sensitive to sun damage.

Find 15 of the best retinol creams for all skin types here.

A 2017 study states that antioxidants may be valuable in skin care, both topically and orally.

However, the author advises against using large doses for prolonged periods without seeking medical advice, as this may cause adverse effects.

The review also notes that despite many antioxidant skin care products being available, evidence varies regarding their impact on skin cells.

Antioxidants are present in a wide range of foods. The best food sources of antioxidants include:

Find a guide to antioxidant foods here.

If someone has concerns about their skin health, they should speak with a doctor or dermatologist.

Supplements contain antioxidants that may interact with medications doctors prescribe, so it is always best to check first before taking them.

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions.

Evidence suggests a connection between oxidative stress and conditions, such as acne and seborrheic dermatitis. However, no studies demonstrate the impact of antioxidants on these conditions.

Antioxidants work together in a complex manner. The most abundant antioxidant in the skin is vitamin C. Retinoids may be potent for people with certain skin conditions, such as acne.

The skin contains antioxidants, and the most abundant one is vitamin C. Antioxidants help protect skin cells from damage and aging and may improve skin texture and appearance. People can consume them in their diet or apply them to their skin by using skin care products.

Retinoids are popular in skin care products and may benefit some people but cause dryness in others. People must wear sunscreen when using a retinoid product, and pregnant people should not use retinoids.

If someone has concerns about their skin or needs help choosing skin care products, they can consult a dermatologist.