Free Radicals and Antioxidants Explained!

Some of you may have heard this terminology, some of you may have not. When I’m in skincare consultations I try to educate my clients as much as possible, I believe that knowledge is power and if my clients understand why I’m recommending a treatment or product they will trust my judgement more than just accepting what I suggest. Free Radicals and Antioxidants can be a bit of a grey area, however. It’s quite difficult to explain without getting too technical and I can sometimes see my clients start to glaze over so I thought I’d write this post to try to explain it without the jargon!
Every day our skin is damaged by environmental and lifestyle factors which create free radicals within the skin, also known as oxidative stress. Try this science experiment at home – bite into an apple and leave it out…does it go brown? Eureka! You have witnessed oxidisation. Here’s one I made earlier…The side of the apple that looks normal has been treated with a few drops of antioxidant, whereas the brown side was not treated. Antioxidants are key to keeping the skin healthy. I would always couple it with a broad-spectrum SPF every single day that covers UVA & UVB rays and is at least an SPF 30…having an SPF in your make up is not enough!!
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Free Radicals:
What are they? – Free radicals are unstable molecules. They try to capture electrons from other molecules to gain stability by attacking the nearest stable molecule to steal its electron. The attacked molecule then becomes a free radical itself starting a chain reaction. Once the process has started it continues until it can kill living cells!
Causes – The most common cause of free radicals is from UV (Ultra Violet) rays from the sun, even in England up to 80% of these damaging rays penetrate through clouds! Other factors include air pollution, smoking, alcohol, sleep deprivation, stress, illness, poor diet, even our phone & laptop screens can cause damage so there is little escape!
Antioxidants:
What are they? – Antioxidants work by donating electrons to the unstable free radical molecules, neutralising them and therefore stopping the chain reaction of destruction. Yay Antioxidants!
Sources – These wonderful little things are derived most commonly from our good friend’s fruit & vegetables, no surprise there! Another reason to be eating your 5-a-day (or 10-a-day)!
So, what are the best antioxidants to be looking out for in your skincare products?
Vitamin E (tocopherol) – One of the most commonly known antioxidants, commonly found in a lot of sunscreens as it’s especially good at preventing free radical damage from UV rays
Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic acid) – A key antioxidant to look out for if you want to slow down ageing, brighten and even out the skin tone. The most common percentages being between 10%-20%
Horse chestnut seed extract – This is not as well-known; however, it is a very potent antioxidant. A 1995 Japanese study included horse chestnut extracts when reviewing the antioxidant ability of numerous plant extracts. When compared with Vitamin C results showed that horse chestnut extract was almost 20 times more effective at stabilising certain free radicals, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties! Link to study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7735233
Vitamin A (retinol) – I talk about retinol a lot, it is the absolute #1 treatment for anti-ageing and to help clients suffering from acne as it accelerates cell turnover
Green tea – Great for sensitive skins, has very good anti-inflammatory properties which will help reduce redness
There are many more, but I’ve found these ones have proven very effective for my clients. A combination of antioxidants is ideal, however the more antioxidants, the higher the cost.
What shall I use?
As always, cosmeceutical grade products will give superior results, especially with antioxidants. If they aren’t encapsulated in the correct way they can oxidise very easily, make sure you do your research! If you are buying cheap products from the high street, even if they claim to have these ingredients in they are not necessarily enough to have an active effect on the skin. There are a vast number of products on the market but here are a few that I would recommend as they have been tried and tested by myself:
  • Obagi Vitamin C serum 10% (does increase to 15% & 20%) 
  • ZENii Antioxidant power serum  – My current Antioxidant and I love it! It’s a very high strength concoction of Vitamin C, Niacinamide, Vitamin E & Ferulic Acid.
  • Perk Antioxidant Power Serum – I may be a little biased about Perk as I work for the company but if the price is an issue then this could be a great option. With Perk the 1stapplication is done for you professionally at MediZen. So you get a mini exfoliating facial with a months’ worth of antioxidant included with ingredients including Vitamin A, Vitamin E & Horse chestnut seed extract.
  • Daily Power Defence by Zein Obagi – I completely adore this product, it has a little bit of everything good from the Zein Obagi range including Vitamin A & Vitamin E. I used to use this every day but in all honesty, the price strain became too much for me as the RRP has now increased to £115. If you have the money to invest in your skincare though I would highly recommend this product as it gives amazing results and it great for any skin concern
Finding what’s right for you
As always if you are confused at what products are right for you, find a local aesthetic clinic to have a consultation at and get some advice! Don’t be tempted to buy these products on the internet either as you don’t know what you’re buying if you’re seeing the products listed above at far lower than the RRP then they are almost definitely not going to be the real deal.
Contact MediZen on 0121 308 4373 or visit www.medizen.co.uk for more information.

Author Bio:
Zoe and Madi Myers are sisters who have a love for sharing our knowledge and expertise to give you the tools and confidence to look good and feel great. Zoe is a highly qualified and experienced aesthetician hoping to give you the confidence to love the skin you’re in. Madi is a registered associate nutritionist who cares deeply about empowering everyone to understand their bodies and know how to eat in a way that’s best for them as well as the planet that is our home.
Their blog covers everything from how to cut through nonsense marketing to get the health products that are actually worth investing in, what to look out for when sifting through all the false information spread by the media and how to take care of your skin health, mental well being and tips to lead a more wholesome, environmentally-friendly and fulfilling life.
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About MediZen

MediZen are one of the "first of its kind" Doctor led, and so-called "medical aesthetic" clinics opened in Birmingham. Over the years we've helped literally thousands of our clients to feel more confident. We're NOT a Beauty Salon and we're NOT a Cosmetic Surgery Clinic. MediZen are one of the few clinics in Birmingham and the UK who specialise in offering carefully researched non-surgical aesthetic treatments backed by medical evidence