• Dawn Naylor BS, RN, MSN, ACNP

Antioxidants in Skin Care: How do they work and which ones are the best?

Image: Healthifyme


Antioxidants are compounds produced in your body and can be found in several different types of foods. They help defend your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals.

According to an article published on PubMed about free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health, "when an overload of free radicals cannot gradually be destroyed, their accumulation in the body generates a phenomenon called oxidative stress. This process plays a major part in the development of chronic and degenerative illnesses such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, aging, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases" (Pham-Huy LA, He H, Pham-Huy C.)

For the sake of this blog I will discuss skincare; however, don't forget that you can get numerous important antioxidants in your diet! We also offer antioxidant IV therapy!!

Antioxidants in Skin Care

Free radicals and frequent sun exposure can trigger changes in our skin's melanin production, causing dark spots and uneven skin tone. By reducing photodamage, antioxidants can help prevent abnormal skin pigmentations by brightening skin tone.

Some antioxidants (like vitamin C) also work as a tyrosinase (an enzyme that stimulates melanin production) inhibitor. This helps decrease the risk of photodamage and hyperpigmentation.

Antioxidants help skin repair itself.

Inflamed skin impedes the skin's rejuvenation process. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants allow the skin to repair itself and correct visible damage. Some antioxidants, like vitamin C, can also stimulate collagen production, which is vital for youthful skin.

Antioxidants may help prevent skin cancer.

Some antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, have anti-carcinogenic properties and may help prevent skin cancer.

What are some of the common antioxidants (highlighted are my favorites)?

  • Vitamin C

  • Retinol (Vitamin A)

  • Vitamin E

  • Resveratrol

  • Coenzymeq10

  • Niacinamide

  • Polyphenols

  • Flavonoids

  • Glutathione

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant having the ability to protect the skin against free radical damage. It also evens skin tone, and promotes collagen production, and is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of tissues. It is inherently unstable and the product needs to be kept out of the sun (hence the opaque packaging).

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an important vitamin required for the proper function of many organs in the body, including the skin. Aside from being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is widely recognized for its ability to accelerate the skin's healing process. No wonder it is often found in moisturizers, creams, and lotions formulated to treat dry skin as well as products designed to reduce stretch marks. See my recommendation for SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic. This has both Vitamin C and Vitamin E!

Retinol (Vitamin A)

If there's one anti-aging ingredient that's been proven time and time again to help turn the clock back on aging skin, it's retinol. A derivative of vitamin A, this ingredient is particularly effective due to its small molecular structure, giving it the ability to penetrate deep enough into the skin that it can effectively stimulate collagen production and accelerate cell renewal and repair, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin tone in the process. Whether it's over-the-counter or prescription-strength (tretinoin), retinol is a powerful antioxidant for fighting environmental aggressors that cause premature skin aging. Read more about Retinoids in my previous blog post.


A chemical compound found mostly in the skins of fruits like grapes, berries, peanuts, tea, and red wine; Resveratrol serves as the plant's defensive armor. It's an antimicrobial substance produced by plants to protect themselves from air pollution, infection, intense UV radiation, and extreme climate changes. Some studies also vouch for its cancer-fighting abilities. I tend to recommend this to patients who don't tolerate Vitamin C due to acne. Top choice SkinCeuticals Resveratrol BE.