Free radicals. One of the biggest buzzwords in skincare since I can remember. Beauty editors, salespeople, and estheticians alike have told us to protect our skin from these reviled entities as if they’re Bathsheba from The Conjuring.
Vera, I told you, they’re called free radicals. Given my background in science (B.S. in Neuroscience and former pre-med’er), I felt that I wanted to demystify these babies so that you’re not foolishly upsold by an overzealous spa employee, and so you’re more informed to care for your skin properly.
So, I’m sure you want to know, what exactly are free radicals?
Basically, a free radical is an atom that has an unbalanced charge. Atoms are made up of positive charges, protons, and negative charges, electrons. You can think of them almost like little batteries! It has an unbalanced charged because one of its tiny electrons has been stripped away. So why is this bad? When an atom has an unbalanced charge, it’s going to want to react with another atom to try and steal one of its electrons, in order to balance itself out. If you’ve ever had a boy/girlfriend that tries to steal your happiness for themselves because they’re such a miserable asshole.
Guess what has a lot of unbalanced atoms in them (besides my exboyfriend)… pollution and sunlight! Pollution consists of lots of nasty molecules that try to steal your electrons. Sunlight, on the other hand, works a bit differently. The suns UV rays actually cause your own skin’s electrons to move around and have chemical reactions with each other!
I know. This is hard to take. It’s these unwanted reactions on your skin that can lead to the breakdown of collagen and even skin cancer. So, not that I’ve sufficiently scared you, how do we protect ourselves?!
First off, sunblock is always key. Read my article about sunscreen here in order to help you pick out the kind that will protect your skin the best. Sunblock in and of itself doesn’t protect against free radicals in pollution, though. This is why we anti-oxidants. I know, more science words.
Anti-oxidants are essentially anti-free radical! The word oxidant relates to the fact that reactions with free radicals are typically called oxidation reactions. Anti-oxidants prevent these oxidation reactions!
So, to prevent the unwanted chemical reactions brought on by free radicals caused by pollution and sunlight, use skincare, sunblock, and makeup products with anti-oxidants! It will help mitigate the breakdown of collagen and prevent old-face. Your skin will thank you.