Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This Means War: Antioxidants vs Free Radicals

I'm sure everyone has heard the terms "free radical" and "antioxidant" before. You generally know, one is bad and the other is good, but do you really know what they are and why they are? Marketing of cosmetics depends on the consumer being a little naive and the marketer sensationalizing the truth. Armed with the facts and a sense of understanding, you can start to chop through some of the claims out there and get to the meat of what the product(s) are all about.

So what is a free radical?

The body, like all matter, is made up of countless molecules. Sometimes oxygen comes along and reacts with molecules that it should not react with, leaving the molecule "undone" and looking for a partner. I like to think of free radicals as renegade puzzle pieces. I know that sounds crazy, but follow me on this one. So these renegade puzzle pieces are on the hunt for a piece that fits, whether it belongs to that puzzle or not. Imagine how crazy the finished puzzle will look if it has pieces that don't even belong. That sort of chaos is the effect that free radicals have on our bodies. In essence, free radicals attack good cells rendering them damaged or destroyed. This process is disastrous to our skin, causing us to age beyond our years, though we're all on a quest to look younger than our years. #conundrum

So how do we fight free radicals?

With antioxidants, of course! Antioxidants (in this sense) do exactly what the name implies, combat oxygen. *side note-- My fellow chemists know this is not the whole truth, but it explains antioxidants' role in this topic.* The antioxidant's job is to keep oxygen from reacting with molecules that it shouldn't, thus preventing the creation of free radicals. Hopefully, this explanation gives you a little more insight as to why cosmetic companies love to claim antioxidants. In a nutshell, they are key ingredients for any anti-aging product.

What should you look for?

The next time you're on the hunt for a great product that will improve the health of your skin and is also anti-aging, look for the antioxidants. The most common antioxidants in a cosmetic product are: tocopherol (Vitamin E), ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), beta-carotene or retinol (think Vitamin A), and green and white teas. Remember, antioxidants are a great addition to your product regimen, but they also work wonders when you add them to your diet. Eat plenty of berries, broccoli, tomatoes, grapes, carrots, etc for your fill of antioxidant goodness.

Here's to the Glam Life!


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