You’ve likely seen the term ‘free radicals’ splashed across skincare products, and spruiked in beauty articles. If you’re a skin science nerd (like us), the way they work is pretty interesting.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that can cause damage to your cells. What makes them unstable is that they’re missing electrons from their outer shell, which causes them to go hunting for other atoms or molecules that have these electrons, in order for them to feel whole again and become stable.
But don’t go feeling sorry for them just yet! Due to their reactive nature, free radicals can wreak havoc on your cells in their quest to find their missing parts. The official term for this havoc is “oxidation”.
Now, having some free radicals in your body is normal. In fact, you actually need them to stimulate some important processes in your body, like helping your immune system function.
However you can run into issues if there are too many free radicals roaming around your body and they create an imbalance referred to as “oxidative stress”. The harm caused by oxidative stress is usually less noticeable at first, but the damage that it can cause to your skin – and your health – can become a pretty big deal over time.
When it comes to your skin, you can think of free radical damage as the pesky source of signs of accelerated ageing in the shape of wrinkles, unwanted pigmentation, uneven skin tone, and loss of skin elasticity. More severe oxidative stress is linked to other degenerative health issues, but we’ll have to save that topic for another day.
It’s hard to escape free radicals completely because free radicals are all over the place. Not only are they produced naturally in your body as a bi-product of living your life, they can also be found in UV rays, toxins and environmental pollutants.
So, what to do?
The big ticket items for slowing down the production of free radicals include not smoking, moderating alcohol, eating well, and reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals and pollutants.
Once you’ve ticked those off your list, it's time to explore how antioxidants might be able to help slow down oxidative stress.
Research suggests that antioxidants will be your skin’s best mate when it comes to safeguarding against free radical damage. These naturally occurring substances boast wondrous abilities to protect against oxidative stress, neutralising free radicals and cleverly shielding your skin from any potential damage from those mean guys.
The power of antioxidants’ effectiveness stems from their willingness to give up their own electrons without becoming unstable, thereby stopping free radical damage.
Right – where can I get antioxidants?
The good news is that antioxidants are easy to get and without reaslising you probably already have some in your skincare arsenal. Our favourite antioxidants for topical application are Vitamin B3, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Curcumin (from turmeric). You’ll find oodles of these in our Happy Skincare products.
Remember you can also dose up on antioxidants from the inside out by eating them – plant foods (especially fruit and veg) are generally the richest sources of edible antioxidants, but you’ll also find them in some nuts, grains, meats, poultry and fish.
Some of our favourite antioxidant-rich skincare potions
These magical formulas are brimming with potent antioxidants to send free radicals packing, and keep your skin happy, healthy and protected today (and in 20 years time).
Vitamin B3 is the star ingredient of our best-selling 'Over the Moon' Rich Repair Cream. The Vitamin B3 works to firm and smooth your skin while improving skin tone and preventing pigmentation, and is backed up by Vitamin E to repair and recharge normal to dry skin types.
The 'Sunrise Over C' Mattifying Facial Oil is a glorious facial oil that features our favourite skin brightener and corrector, Vitamin C,and harnesses the anti-inflammatory powers of the ayurvedic superhero Turmeric aka "liquid gold". It helps reduce the appearance of redness and imperfections for oily and combination skin.
Our 'Perfectly Happy' Light Antioxidant Cream is another formula that makes the most of Vitamin C, and blends it with a host of native Australian antioxidant sources like Kakadu Plum, Quandong and Emu Apple. This cream is a favourite for oily and combination skin.
The glorious ‘Sweet Dreams’ Ultra-Rich Beauty Cream features a very special ingredient calledVigna Aconitifolia Seed Extract (a.k.a. moth bean!). Moth Bean provides the antioxidant powers of Vitamin A, but without the sensitising or sun sensitivity side effects. Yay!
We had to stop this list at 4, but we could’ve gone on and on! The entire Happy Skincare range is filled with anti-oxidant goodness, so as long as you’re getting some Happy on your skin you’ll be heading in the right direction when it comes to fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress.