Take a look at your social media feed; doesn’t it seem like everyone defines themselves by being “pro” something or “anti” something? Here at Sally B’s, we’re ready to take our stand: we are unabashedly, confidently, very pro-antioxidant.
Antioxidant is one of those words that we’ve all heard for years. You may know that antioxidants fight free radicals* but not much else. So let’s go back to high school chemistry and learn exactly what all of that means.
*Side note: Isn’t it a shame that the “bad” thing has such a cool name and the “good” thing sounds so negative? We’d much rather be known as free radicals than anti-somethings. If anyone knows who makes the decisions about what we call these things, send them our way.
What is a free radical?
Anyone remember protons, neutrons and electrons? A quick refresher: protons and neutrons are in the middle of an atom while electrons spin around the outside of the atom. When a cell undergoes a chemical reaction, an atom can lose an electron to a neighboring atom. These unbalanced atoms are called free radicals. To balance itself, the free radical atom will “steal” an electron from a neighboring, healthy atom, setting off a chain reaction of atoms stealing from one another. This process is known as free radical damage or oxidation because oxygen atoms are typically the victims of this electron thievery (it’s the same process that causes rust in iron-based metals). In our bodies, this process can ultimately lead to cell damage or cell death.
Chemical reactions that can cause free radical reactions are pretty common: it can happen when our bodies are exposed to outside elements (think sunlight, cigarette smoke, or air pollution); in times of stress; or when we metabolize glucose (check out our recent blog about sugar here). When an abundance of free radicals are present, the body cannot naturally defend itself and skin damage results. This damage can include inflammation, wrinkles, and dark spots. In worse case scenarios, free radical damage can lead to skin cancer.
How do we ‘neutralize’ free radicals?
Once free radicals are present in your body, the only way to keep them from causing lasting damage is to present them with their missing electron and break the chain. Enter in antioxidants! Antioxidants are compounds that remain stable no matter how many electrons they have; think of them as electron banks that are willing to share. This makes them an excellent means of neutralizing free radicals. By sharing their electrons, they can make an unstable free radical whole again without becoming unstable themselves. Unfortunately, antioxidants do not have an infinite number of electrons, so you have to keep your body well-stocked.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants - like blueberries, blackberries, dark green vegetables, nuts, green tea, and cranberries - is a great way to fuel your body with free radical neutralizers. You can also apply antioxidants topically. Many skincare products incorporate antioxidants into their formulations to help restore and repair cell damage. There are even some that provide preventative care like our Antioxidant Daytime Serum, which uses ingredients from nature to create a protective barrier to cells underneath the skin.
Vitamin C is an important and well-known antioxidant. In its more effective forms like L-ascorbic acid, Vitamin C can protect skin cells from UV-related damage, strengthen skin, reduce inflammation and promote collagen production. We use L-ascorbic acid in our Antioxidant Skin Boost, but we have also added a handful of other ingredients that deserve attention, like Resveratrol and Pomegranate Extract. Resveratrol is an antimicrobial substance produced by plants to combat stress, infection, and UV radiation. In people, it does all of that while hunting down free radicals AND preventing their formation. Studies show that its potency and effectiveness are even greater than Vitamin C.
One of our favorite antioxidant ingredients is Coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10). Your body naturally produces CoQ10 to help cells grow and to provide protection against cancer. As we age our levels of CoQ10 drop significantly. This is thought to be one of the contributors to the signs of aging. Because of this, we add a lab-created, non-toxic CoQ10 to our Antioxidant Nighttime Serum. And a fun fact, it is the CoQ10 (as well as Sea Buckthorn Oil, another antioxidant) that gives this product its orange hue!
Antioxidants are something that can be beneficial to oily or dry skin types. In our experience, they help repair damage and give healthy skin a fantastic glow.