Anti-Oxidants And Sun Damaged Skin: How effective are they?
Antioxidants are a term that has become popular in the skincare industry, and are often used in anti-aging creams, moisturizers, and in sunscreens, as well as other cosmetic products. What exactly are they, and what do they do?
Oxidation is a natural process that occurs when reactive oxygen molecules are active. Electrons in the molecules when energized can cause damage to the DNA, and have a detrimental effect over time. The scope of this damage is still up for debate, but some consider this effect to be a part of what causes aging effects. Sun exposure is thought to be one of the most common sources of oxidation. UVB causes oxidation damage as well as UVA. Since UVA penetrates deeper into the skin, it is thought to cause more serious cancer causing effects on the skin due to oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are substances that can protect against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Some examples are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta-carotene, and are found in a variety of foods. They are thought to be able to neutralize some of the damaging effects of oxidation that occur naturally, and as a result of sun exposure. They can also be applied topically, with creams, and many skincare products contain some of these ingredients to benefit the skin.
When applied topically, one of the issues is adequate penetration. The main difficulty with topically applied creams and gels is that it only reaches the very top layer of the skin called the epidermis. As most of the molecular activity involving free radicals occur deeper in the skin at the dermis. The other issue is the amount of antioxidants that are in skincare products may not be enough to have an adequate effect.
Are anti-oxidants effective? There are a lot of complicated biological processes at work, and not all the factors are known. At present state, evidence is still very speculative as far as how effective it is as an anti-aging ingredient, or as protection from sun damage. It is, however, a very interesting area of research, and has a lot of potential in the future.
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