Go ahead and read the literature on so many of today's new and more effective topical anti aging skin care products, and there it is time, and again. The word “antioxidant”. So then, just what is an antioxidant, and also what about the free radicals that they supposedly fight, or neutralize in your skin?
Now, for sure, free radicals don't sound good at all. In fact, just those two words alone can conjure up images of little “hell raisers” in spiked black leather garb, roaming around freely under your skin causing mischief, and vandalism. So then, just what are they, and are they as bad as the makers of these products would like to have us all believe?
To understand “completely” what free radicals are and how they work to damage and kill skin cells requires a fairly thorough knowledge of chemistry. You see, free radicals are involved in a lot of chemical reactions because by nature they are “reactive”. That is that due to their electron configurations they “respond more readily” in the presence of other molecules.
Just What Are Free Radicals Anyway?
You can think of them as little microscopic, molecular magnets, ready to attach themselves onto other molecules, and when they do, this and the molecule is part of a living cell, that cell will be damaged or killed. You see, it's one or more oxygen atoms in their molecular configuration that makes free radicals so reactive.
If you're like most people, you probably have some trouble understanding just how corrosive, and harmful oxygen is. It's perfectly understandable too because oxygen is all around us in the air that we breath, and we couldn't live without it. The simple fact is though that oxygen is responsible for a lot of the corrosion that takes place in nature.
The fading paint on your car, the rust on metal and even wood being turned to ash in a fire is all the result of oxygen molecules coming in and “oxidizing” atoms. Turning them into oxides and the same thing happens in your skin when free radicals with their attached reactive oxygen molecule are left to freely roam around inside your skin.
They do to your skin what the oxygen in the air does to the paint on your car or any unprotected steel or iron that's left out exposed. Given enough free radicals, and enough time your skin can be left prematurely aged. Free radicals are also contributory to a number of diseases, including cancer.
So Then, What Are Antioxidants?
So, hopefully now you have at least a general idea of what free radicals are, how they work, and that you are far better served by having as few of them as possible under your skin. Now the next step is to come to some level of understanding of what antioxidants are, and how they work to rid your skin of free radicals before they cause any damage.
Antioxidants are just that. “Anti”oxygen. They work to neutralize molecules that have one or more reactive oxygen atoms attached to them. Now one of the most popular antioxidants you can find being used today in skin care products today is vitamin C, and you can see vitamin C in action as a free radical killer right in your kitchen.
Watch Antioxidants at Work to See for Yourself
Simply cut an avocado in half then set each half side by side on your counter. Next rub one of the avocado halves with a slice of lime or lemon, so it's covered with a thin layer of juice. Leave the other half as it was. With no juice covering it. Now come back in about an hour or so, and you'll see is that the half that wasn't rubbed with lime is brown, while the one covered with lime juice will still be fresh.
It's the protective barrier of vitamin C in the lime juice reacting with the oxygen, preventing it from oxidizing the avocado flesh that's responsible for it remaining green, and undamaged. This is also how antioxidants function in your skin. They react with the oxygen molecules on free radicals before they have a chance to connect up with, and oxidize molecules contained in skin cells.