The Role of Antioxidants in Photoprotection: A Critical Review

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A 2102 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (vol 67, no 5, p.1013) review of antioxidants in protecting skin from sunlight damage. Because the body’s natural antioxidant defense system can be quickly overrun by sunlight, Reactive Oxygen Species (“ROS”) stimulate damage to the skin’s structural integrity. To fight back, the authors examine a variety of topical antioxidants and the effectiveness.

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Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (UVR) from the sun plays an important role in the development of skin cancers and skin aging

Although the body has an innate antioxidant (AOx) defense system to neutralize these radicals generated from both the exogenous and endogenous sources, this AOx reservoir can be quickly depleted. Hence, topical supplementation of AOxs, at least in theory, holds the promise of providing extra benefit to the skin, especially under oxidative stress from excessive amount of UVA exposure.

Hence, ROS degrade the structural integrity of skin by way of altering the collagen and elastin components of the extracellular matrix.

ROS from endogenous and exogenous sources, such as UVR and pollution, can damage the DNA, lipid membrane, and protein structures, and also play a role in the acceleration of photoaging and the development of skin cancer. Although the body’s innate AOx defense can neutralize ROS, these protective agents may be overwhelmed and depleted when faced with an excessive amount of oxidative stress. Delivery of topical AOxs has the potential to provide additional benefits, but there remain many challenges in effectively incorporating AOxs in skin care and sunscreen formulations.


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