The Effect of Free Radicals on Your Skin

Okay, so you haven’t yet heard of free radicals? They have been linked to ill health; specifically, the initial stages of cancer, various illnesses and the visual effects of aging. Scientists are conducting ongoing research on the subject. For a better understanding of how free radicals work, the effect upon our bodies, and how to limit the damage, read on

For those interested in how free-radicals affect the skin, let it be said that free-radicals are definitely harmful to the skin. They diminish your skin’s structural support and decrease its elasticity, resilience, and suppleness. Free-radicals are frequently identified as the cause of wrinkles, liver spots and poor skin condition.

Damage due to free-radicals isn’t something that is easily explained, as it happens on an atomic level. When oxygen molecules are involved in chemical reactions, they usually lose one of their electrons. Similarly, these molecules referred to as free-radicals, deprive neighboring molecules of electrons. This will set off the chain reaction known as free-radical damage.

So pretty much anything that contains oxygen – for instance carbon monoxide, hydrogen peroxide, exhaust fumes – can cause free-radical damage.

An every-day cause of free-radical damage in the natural world is damage caused by browning food. Steam cook your food where possible. Frying can damage otherwise healthy oils. Small servings of olive oil and butter are less liable to oxidate.

Too much sunlight should be avoided. A sensible preventive measure is to use a good quality sun-block product whenever you’re outside, even if the sun doesn’t seem particularly strong.

What other ways do free-radicals damage the skin?


Radiation may cause the build up of free-radicals. X-rays, gamma rays and others may increase the presence of free-radicals in the body.

Cigarette Smoking

Smoking, aside from being a health hazard to the lungs, has been known to cause dry, unhealthy skin, and pale, unhealthy complexion. Cigarettes are known to promote free-radicals in the body, worsening the adverse effects tobacco brings. Even if you are not a smoker, being in a smoky atmosphere still exposes you to increased free radical damage. If you smoke in the presence of others, for instance your children, you may care to reflect on the harm you are causing.

Inorganic Particles

There are also other substances that cause free-radical damage. Among these substances are asbestos, quartz, silica.


Although ozone is not a free-radical, it is a very powerful oxidizing agent. Ozone which degrades under certain conditions, contains two unpaired electrons. This suggests that free-radicals can be formed when this decomposition happens.

It sounds a gloomy picture, and of course you’re wondering, don’t we all need oxygen to live? Yes, we do. Fortunately, we have antioxidants to help us survive!


Antioxidants help prevent free-radical damage by preventing the free-radical molecules from interacting with other molecules, therefore stunting the chain reaction of the process. Other ingredients are vitamins A, C and E; flavonoids; superoxide dismutase; beta carotene; selenium; glutathione; and zinc. The good news is that these antioxidants exist bountifully in the human body and the plant world.

So how do free radicals affect your skin? Studies are pointing to the fact that wrinkles and other age related skin factors are directly related to free-radical damage that is not countered by antioxidants. If you do not obtain enough antioxidants from your diet and other sources, your skin cells could break down and lose their ability to function well. Some scientists think that antioxidants are the answer to halting, delaying and possibly even reversing free-radical damage, and that increased presence of antioxidants in the body will play a part in slowing down free-radical damage.

To increase antioxidants in your body the most obvious solution is to increase your intake of antioxidants from dietary sources (fruit – particularly colored berries, and green vegetables). Another solution is to take good quality antioxidant supplement regularly. You won’t have to hunt far to track down a wide choice.

A lesser known solution – best practiced alongside good diet and supplementation – is to use topical applications of products containing antioxidant compounds to increase your defense against free-radical damage.

Most lotions and moisturizers nowadays advertise an antioxidant formula specifically targeted to those who are concerned about the free-radical damage. Some are better than others, depending on the quantity and quality of the active ingredients. Obviously you need to be patient since it isn’t practical to expect results immediately.

It is however, still a good idea to apply skin products containing antioxidants as the benefits of these compounds are well-known. I recommend applying an anti-oxidant compound and leaving it to stay on your skin over-night, to avoid conflict with your sun-screen or cosmetics. A warm shower or bath will open the pores of the skin, and increase the rate of absorption.

Although science has yet to put the finishing touches on the studies regarding free-radicals, there is enough evidence to suggest that antioxidants can benefit the body.

Increasing your use of antioxidant intake cannot effect an overnight skin miracle, but it will at least stymie the effects of free-radical damage, and possibly, reverse them.

Source by Joy Healey