Like tonic is for gin, jelly is for peanut butter and Game Of Thrones is for Sunday nights, some things are just meant to be. And when it comes to searching for the most effective skincare ingredient that everyone can benefit from, one stands out heads and shoulders above the rest.
Right up there with broad-spectrum sunscreen and medical-grade moisturizer, antioxidants are a super-important part of your skincare plan. Their main job is to protect the skin by fighting free radicals – chemically unstable atoms that damage the skin – but they are so much more than that. In fact, their skin benefits are almost endless. Sun protective? Check. Hydrating? Check. Anti-aging? Triple check.
Knowing where to turn to address your specific concerns, however, is where it gets slightly more tricky – which is where we like to come in.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you our top five antioxidant superheroes for addressing your every skin concern…
1. Skin Concern: Redness, sensitivities and age spots
Antioxidant To Try: Niacinamide
Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is a water-soluble nutrient with the ability to increase ceramide and fatty acid levels in the skin. This makes it a very effective ingredient for preventing water loss. Niacinamide has also been shown to calm and strengthen the skin and even suppress melanin from reaching the surface, therefore reducing the visibility of age spots, freckles and hyperpigmentation. All this, along with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – which include the ability to help repair UV-induced DNA damage and calm irritation– give it a real edge in the fight against premature aging.
We Love: PCA Skin Dual Action Redness Relief
2. Your Skin Concern: Dryness
Antioxidant To Try: Vitamin E (tocopherol)
Vitamin E is another skin-loving hero you’ll find in many top, medical-grade skincare products. A lipid-based antioxidant, it acts as an excellent moisturizing and healing ingredient and is very effective at preventing collagen breakdown and environmental damage. Its antioxidant properties work best when combined with vitamin C (heck, they are cousins, after all), which is why you’ll often come across combined C and E skincare solutions at the derm’s office.
We Love: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
3. Your Skin Concern: Acne Breakouts
Antioxidant To Try: Topical Green Tea
Antioxidants are key players when it comes to fighting the main cause of acne and breakouts: inflammation. Free radicals cause major oxidative damage to sebum which then starts a chain of events such as clogged pores, bacterial growth and eventually that dreaded pimple. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants have the power to significantly stop these wheels in motion, and one of our favorites for treating acne breakouts is green tea. Not only does green tea reduce sebum production due to its DHT (dihydrotestosterone) blocking effect, but it fights inflammation in a major way.
We Love: SkinMedical TNS Essential Serum
4. Your Skin Concern: Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Antioxidant To Try: Retinol
A fantastic cell-communicating ingredient, retinol (a vitamin A derivative) basically tells your skin to act younger by increasing cell turnover and collagen production. In the correct quantities and formulation, retinol can significantly reduce the signs of extrinsic aging such as sun damage, fine lines, poor tone and an uneven texture. However, it also increases transepidermal water loss, which is why your skin may feel dry when using a retinol product for the first time. Our advice? Start with a low dosage such as 0.25 percent and apply your product every other evening. As your skin acclimates, you can then build on both the percentage and frequency of use. Also, look out for retinol solutions containing hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to combat moisture loss.
5. Your Skin Concern: Dullness or Discolorations
Antioxidant To Try: Vitamin C
Known for centuries as a potent ingredient for maintaining youthful, glowing skin, vitamin C is one of the most widely used antioxidants in skincare because of its superhero-like abilities to ward off free radicals. Applied regularly, vitamin C treats the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps fade acne scars and uneven skin tone, boosts collagen production, reverses UV-related skin damage and enhances the overall effectiveness of sunscreen. Good effort. The problem, however, is that if it’s not formulated or packaged correctly, you may as well not bother. It should always come in an opaque, sealed, airtight container and be formulated in a low acidic pH level (anything above pH 3.5 won’t effectively penetrate the skin). For the most visible results, it should ideally be in a concentration of between 10 and 20 percent. Oh, and if you’re looking for the most effective forms of vitamin C, settle for nothing less than sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and the most researched vitamin C champion of all, pure l-ascorbic acid.
We Love: Jan Marini C-ESTA Serum