What are free radicals, anyway?

Free radicals get a lot of bad press, and unfortunately, it’s all true.

Free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are unstable and highly reactive molecules that are produced naturally by cellular metabolism, and are also induced by UV light, air pollution, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke. Once they enter the body, they donate or steal electrons from other molecules in their quest for stability — and in the process, they wreak havoc.

Where beauty meets science

We feel the very real effects of free radical assault when our skin becomes wrinkled, sagging, or we experience hyperpigmentation and texture changes, all of which can occur when the amount of oxidants—free radicals and ROS—outweighs the amount of anti-oxidants in the body to cause oxidative stress. The key to preventing this premature aging of the skin is to actively shield the skin from environmental stressors, and to fortify and defend the skin’s natural anti-oxidant network so we can stay strong and healthy in the face of potential stress.

How the body fights back

Because free radicals are a natural part of cellular metabolism, healthy bodies are equipped with a network of anti-oxidants that neutralize endogenous (naturally occurring) free radicals. Anti-oxidants disarm free radicals by donating an electron, which satisfies and deactivates them. But the anti-oxidant network can become overwhelmed when the skin is exposed to undue stress from exogenous (environmentally induced) free radicals.

Environmental insult triggers early skin aging

When the skin absorbs photon energy from UVR, it induces highly damaging ROS that are able to degrade anti-oxidants and directly impact skin function. Once the anti-oxidant system is disarmed, additional damage can come swiftly as attacked molecules gain or lose an electron and become free radicals themselves, triggering a radical cascade within nanoseconds, and tipping the scales in favor of oxidative stress. This makes us vulnerable to a host of negative visible effects that we associate with older-looking skin: texture changes, ptosis, wrinkles, and sagging. This happens because behind the scenes, collagen and elastin fibers are breaking down in the face of lipid peroxidation. Pollution is another cause of oxidative stress: aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and ozone all induce free radicals and have been known to cause inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles.

Critical factors in enhancing skin health

Because the majority of exogenous free radicals come from UVR, UV filters are the first line of defense against free radical formation. Recent studies suggest that products with broad-spectrum sun protection are effective in diminishing UV-induced free radicals. UV filters act as a shield, absorbing or scattering exogenous free radicals to protect the skin from infiltration.

To further inhibit oxidation, consumers can bolster the skin’s endogenous anti-oxidant system. Studies have shown that a fortified anti-oxidant system can effectively combat the effects of pollution and other environmental stressors. However, not all formulations stay equally potent in the face of free radical assault, and brands looking to make a free radical prevention claim should ensure that efficacy testing has been performed.


Quenching Free Radicals with Solésence

At Solésence, it is our mission to improve skin health across the globe by providing beauty brands with products that quench free radicals. Our one-of-a-kind Active Stress Defense technology far exceeds the performance of standard sunscreens and anti-oxidant moisturizers to effectively mitigate oxidation. The result: your brand can enjoy patent-protected, best-in-class environmental protection products that thwart early skin aging, and your customers can enjoy the healthy, glowing skin they were born to have.

About Author

Posted in Health, Science & Technology.