Antioxidants have long been skincare superstars for good reason: they’re one of the most powerful ways to defend your skin against the aging aggressors it encounters every day. So what exactly are antioxidants, and what should you be looking for? Here’s everything you need to know.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are, by definition, substances that inhibit oxidation, the same chemical process that happens when an avocado turns brown after slicing. Antioxidants come in many forms including vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids.
Antioxidants counteract the effects of free radicals--damaging but common molecules responsible for skin aging. A free radical molecule has an unpaired electron, a negatively charged particle that likes to hang out with other electrons. When a molecule has an unpaired electron, that electron will try to find electron friends, pulling electrons away from neighboring molecules. When the neighboring molecule is left without an electron, it too will try to steal one from its neighbor. This domino effect of stealing electrons damages your skin tissues.
Antioxidants counteract this damage by acting as electron donors, giving out electrons to free radicals to prevent them from stealing from their neighbors.
What are the Benefits of Antioxidants in Skincare?
Antioxidants protect skin against free radical damage from the sun, environmental pollutants, and pollen. Free radical damage causes hyperpigmentation and a breakdown in collagen and elastin, resulting in premature skin aging. By using an antioxidant in your skincare, you help preserve and repair your existing collagen and elastin.
What are StackedSkincare's Favorite Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are easy to find in skincare, but some ingredients are more potent than others. Some antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, can lose their efficacy when exposed to light, air, and heat. It’s important to look for products with stable antioxidants that will truly deliver the benefits you’re looking for. Here are a few of our favorites.
PLANT STEM CELLS:
All multicellular organisms (plants, animals, humans) have stem cells, which are vital to healing and cell regeneration. Taken from the actual stems, or meristems, of plants, plant stem cells are rich in antioxidants. Plant stem cells never undergo the cell aging process but instead continue to generate new specialized and unspecialized cells. Commonly used plants include Swiss apples, edelweiss, raspberry, grape, lilac and rose. These botanicals are approximately 1000x more potent than previous generations of botanicals used in skincare.
CANNABIDIOL AKA CBD
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring plant compound derived from the cannabis plant. CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids (cannabis plant chemicals) present in hemp plants. While CBD is found in the marijuana plant, it is both completely non-psychoactive (won’t get you high) and legal to buy in its isolated form. CBD is a more effective and powerful antioxidant than both vitamin C and vitamin E. It has been shown to help reduce inflammation, and can help minimize the appearance of wrinkles.
SODIUM ASCORBYL PHOSPHATE (SAP)
Vitamin C is a great antioxidant, but it can be incredibly finicky in skincare due to its instability. It’s important to find a stable form of vitamin C: sodium ascorbyl phosphate is our favorite. It is a water-soluble form that not only fights free radicals, but also helps naturally brighten the skin. We use it in our TCA Multi-Acid Face Peel to boost the product’s anti-dark spot benefits. You can also look for a serum that contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate and apply it under your sunscreen to help ward off free radicals from pollution and sun exposure during the day.
NIACINAMIDE / VITAMIN B3
Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3. When applied topically to the skin, niacinamide helps manage breakouts, control oil, and promote even skin texture. Since niacinamide is water-soluble, it is a great ingredient for oily skin types that don’t want to add extra oil to the skin. Niacinamide is a more stable antioxidant than vitamin C and is gentle enough to use in the morning and night.
Vitamin E is the name for a group of oil-soluble nutrients our bodies need in order to boost the immune system, fight off infection, and help cells function properly. Our skin naturally contains more vitamin E than any other nutrient and uses it to protect our skin cells from damage. Vitamin E helps to stabilize vitamin C, making it the perfect partner for vitamin C serums. It also helps reinforce the skin’s lipid barrier and protect against free radical damage caused by sun exposure when worn under sunscreen.