By Lorna Bowes
When asked about Vitamin C I cannot resist the question “do you mean Vitamin C or antioxidants?”
Well, the main reason people reach for a Vitamin C topical skincare product is to reverse or support their skin from the ravages of the oxidation processes triggered by sun, pollution and the myriad other factors we know are harmful to our skin. We are very aware that Vitamin C is an antioxidant, but what does that mean, how does it help, and importantly what other antioxidants might be helpful alone or in combination?
What is an oxidant?
Oxidation reactions (think rust on your old car!) are chemical processes leading to production of free radicals, sometimes usefully known as a ‘free radical cascade’. The end point of this reaction in the skin is cell death. There are myriad processes within oxidation, it is not a single reaction or process.
What is an antioxidant?
Substances that prevent, delay or remove oxidative damage are antioxidants. Many skincare ingredients have antioxidant properties, most working on one specific part of the free radical cascade. Antioxidants have been demonstrated to protect against photoaging and the visible signs of ageing, protect against UV-induced immunosuppression, protect against UV-induced skin changes, boost skin’s natural Vitamin E levels, as well as working synergistically with Vitamin E and other ingredients such as ferulic acid, and of course, antioxidants have been shown to reduce pigmentary changes in the skin.
Key antioxidants favoured in skincare:
L-Ascorbic Acid – water soluble, known to increase collagen synthesis; but is challenging due to the ease with which it oxidises leading to commercial issues with shelf life and stability.
THD (tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) is a precursor to L-Ascorbic Acid, ie it converts in the skin to L-Ascorbic Acid. THD is both lipohillic and hydrophilic, does not oxidise itself and is pH neutral, it inhibits tyrosinase, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and P53 Gene making it an ideal form of Vitamin C; but as with most excellent ingredients, it comes with manufacturing challenges including price hence the low % used by almost all professional skincare manufacturers.
Grapeseed Extract, an antioxidant whose demonstrated main mode of action is prevention of environmental damage.
Green Tea is an antioxidant known to protect against UV-induced skin changes and have anti inflammatory properties.
PHAs – glucoloactone, lactiobionic acid and maltobionic acid, all originally developed by the team at NeoStrata Company, have been shown to be powerful antioxidants, both alone and in combination with Vitamin C, Green Tea and other antioxidants. They are all potent metal chelating agents with direct free radical scavenging effects. Lactobionic acid has been used for decades as a component of organ-preserving solutions limiting reperfusion injury in isolated ischaemic organs.
Co-Enzyme Q-10 – one of a small selection of effective lipid-soluble antioxidants.
In looking for the best antioxidants, look for stable, highly active ingredients; and look for products that contain multiple antioxidant ingredients so the many oxidation pathways are all addressed for long term skin fitness and the glow of youth.