Demystifying Antioxidants and Free Radicals

If you're visiting this site, chances are you've probably heard of antioxidants. And you probably understand that they are a good thing, and protect you from these other things, free radicals, which are a bad thing. But, if you're anything like the rest of our team, before they started working at Alder New York, you're a little unclear on the nuts-and-bolts of those two terms. It turns out, they're a super important component to effective skin and haircare products. Read on to find out exactly why they're so integral, in layman's terms- I promise.

Photo courtesy Youth to the People

Photo courtesy Youth to the People

Nasty Litte Radicals

In order to understand antioxidants, we need to understand their (and also our) enemy: free radicals. Free radicals are produced when our skin is exposed to smoke, sun, UV rays, pollution, and a host of other things that come with living on planet earth, and they wreak havoc on our bodies.

Our world is made up of molecules- electrically neutral groups of two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds. But free radials are molecules with an unpaired electron, which makes them unstable. So, they are constantly searching for another electron, in order to balance themselves. To do this, they seek out the closest healthy cell they can find to steal an electron from. But guess what happens to the healthy cell whose electron was just stolen? Now it needs to steal an electron from another healthy cell. And so the cycle continues, damaging cell after cell. 

The Hands of Time

When we’re younger, free radicals are less of a concern, because our body has a natural defense system called the superoxide dismutase (SOD) that keeps them under control. But as we age, the SOD becomes less effective, which means the free radicals can do their dirty work. Basically, our skin (and hair, and DNA) is in a constant battle with the free radicals that cause visible damage and aging.

This is where antioxidants come in. These are stable cells with the ability to donate an electron, while still staying balanced themselves. They're basically little miracle cells, that can slow down free radical damage before it escalates out of control.



Get Thee some Antioxidants! 

So, where to get these miracle guys? Antioxidants are found heavily in all those branded "super" fruits and vegetables like blueberries, spinach, kale, and pineapple. They're also found in certain vitamins, like C and E. While scientists have not been able to find definitive evidence that extracted antioxidants by themselves can stop cell damage, they have found huge amounts of evidence to support that eating whole foods that contain them do.

So what does this mean for us on the skin and haircare end of things? Since fruits, veggies, and vitamins rich in antioxidants help to protect against cell damage, keep your eye out for products that use them. We're huge fans of Youth to the People's Face Cream and Cleanser, both of which use Kale and Spinach (high in the antioxidant beta-carotene) to their best advantage. I also like to slather my face in Alder New York's Matcha & Honey Face Mask every week for the same anti-oxidant benefits. While science hasn't figured out a way to keep us wrinkle free forever (yet), it never hurts to give nature a little boost in extending the hands of time.

 

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