The Role Of Antioxidants in Skin Care

No matter where we live and work, our skin is exposed to a variety of environmental irritants that include:

  • Sunlight;
  • Dryness/humidity;
  • Air/water pollution;
  • Airborne dust;
  • Blue light from our electronic devices; and
  • Ozone from machines like indoor air conditioners.

These irritants both directly damage our skin over time and lessen the effectiveness of our skin care products by disrupting various aspects of our internal cell repair and regeneration processes1.

Thankfully, scientific research has given us not just a greater understanding about how these irritants create damaging free radical molecules, they have also identified antioxidant remedies we put in most of our products (see our Science section). 

Damaging Free Radicals

We may have all heard about free radicals by now, but just what are they and from where do they come?

When our skin comes into contact with oxygen, it undergoes a normal and healthy process knows as oxygenation, or the metabolization of oxygen in our cells. Think of it as our cells feeding on oxygen and helping to regenerate its replacements by creating of new molecules called Reaction Oxygen Species or ROS. If a cell is eating its oxygen and either the oxygen or the cell is damaged by an environmental irritant, it increases the odds that ROS molecules called free radicals will be created2.

These free radicals are really just malformed molecules with unpaired electrons, making them inherently unstable and damaging to our skin as they rush around trying to fix their unpaired status. Another way to look at this is imagining these "freak" molecules know they have an odd number of electrons and it's making them crazy. So crazy in fact, they will knock electrons off of otherwise healthy molecules in search of another freak with whom to mate and even everything out. All this knocking around can create a chain reaction that leads to free radical colonies in our skin.

Left untreated and unprotected against these, our skin will produce ever larger free radical colonies which leads directly to skin dullness, wrinkles, lines and premature aging. Thankfully, we have an effective way to combat these mutant molecules.

Antioxidant Heroes

Study after study has emerged over the years demonstrating the effectiveness of various antioxidant families in eliminating free radicals from our skin3. Scientists have established the following facts:

  • Antioxidants derived from vitamins, amino acids, fruits, vegetables, other plants and animals (we do not use animal products in our formulas) are effective in fighting free radicals; and
  • Antioxidants work more effectively together than any single antioxidant4

Not surprisingly, not all antioxidants are created equally nor do they work quite the same way. For example, vitamin A contains two totally separate antioxidant families - carotenoids and retinoids. We do not use most retinoids in our formulas because of emerging research questioning safety when exposed to UV sunlight5. Meanwhile, a carotenoid superstar, astaxanthin, is featured in several of our formulas. 

The VU Perspective

We love antioxidants and we source them from vitamins C,E & A along with amino acids and a wide variety of plants. We liberally pepper thoughtful antioxidant blends throughout our lineup - from cleansers to moisturizers and boosts.

If you are looking for antioxidant superstars, then please consider our serums and treatments:

  •  Free Radical Defense Serum - our antioxidant champ - combines a whopping 18 different antioxidants including some with the highest known antioxidant concentrations according to the ORAC* scale; 
  • Urban Defense Gel contains state-of-the-art antioxidants that target skin damage caused by blue light and other urban environmental irritants; and
  • Ultimate C&E Serum combines stabilized, time-released vitamin C with vitamin E which makes the vitamin E antioxidants 50 times more effective at neutralizing free radicals.

* Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) measures antioxidant strength in foods and supplements. Developed by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Related Products

Article References

1 - Pollution Doubles Skin Damage from Solar Ultraviolet Radiation (2011). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 64, Issue 2, Supplement 1, Page AB23.   

   Ozone-Exposure Depletes Vitamin E and Induces Lipid Peroxidation in Marine Stratum Corneum (1997).The Journal of Investigative Dermatology,  Volume.108. NO.5, Page 753.   

   Airborne Particle Exposure and Skin Aging (2010). Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Volume 130, Page 2719.   


2- Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Functional Foods: Impact on Human Health (2010). Pharmacology Review, Volume 4(8): Page 118.   


3- The Role of Antioxidants in Photoprotection: A Critical Review (2012). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 67, Issue 5, Page 1013.

    Protective Effects of Topical Vitamin C Compound Mixtures Against Ozone-Induced Damage in Human Skin (2017). The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Volume 137, Page 1373.   

   Cutaneous Photodamage, Oxidative Stress, and Topical Antioxidant Protection (2003). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 48, Issue 1, Page 1.   


4- The Use of Endogenous Antioxidants to Improve Photoprotection (1997). Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, Volume 41(1-2):1-10].


5- All-Trans-Retinyl Palmitate (2000). A National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Health study.

   Retinoids in the Treatment of Skin Aging: an Overview of Clinical Efficacy and Safety (2006). Clinical Interventions in Aging, Volume 1(4), Page 327:

Related Articles

Let's Fix Maskne (Mask Acne)!

Alexis's Berry Tart Recipe

Hunkered Down And Committed to Fight Covid-19

The Volto Urbano Regimen Adaptation for Soap

A Skin-care Newbie's Journey Vol.3 - Facial Hair and Skin Care

Soap, Viruses and Skincare

Clean, Natural, Organic, Vegan - Which Skincare is Safest and Best?

A Toner That Fights Pollution & Refreshes On The Go

Skin Dullness Remedy

A Skin-care Newbie's Journey Vol. 2 - Ugh! More Grooming Steps? Really?

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published