Antioxidants have been cropping up in skincare products – and with good reason: Not only do these compounds brighten skin and combat wrinkles but they also provide damage control to stressed-out skin. “Antioxidants are thought to mop up free radicals in the skin,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist in Toronto. “Free radicals cause DNA damage to elastin and collagen – the surrounding structures in the skin – and they start to fall apart.” Since free radicals are caused by a number of environmental stressors, such as sunburn, pollution and stress, protecting your skin from these factors is key. But the message remains: “antioxidants are great, but the primary thing to do is protect your skin from the sun with SPF year-round,” advise Kellett.
Although the science to back up the efficacy of antioxidants is limited, it does exist. “Vitamin C is the gold standard because most of the studies have been done on it,” says Kellett. Other widely recognized antioxidants are vitamins A (also known as retinol) and E. But since not all of these skin savers are measured equally among products, be sure to read the label. “If you’re seeking a product that contains antioxidants, look at the order in which they’re listed,” advises Kellett. “If a label lists vitamin C as the 20th ingredient, then you know it doesn’t contain a lot.”
The reason that lower levels of antioxidants are common in drugstore products is because of the high cost and labour involved in making highly concentrated solutions. For instance, while industry-standard products usually contain about 0.25 percent retinol (vitamin A), Kellett’s own pharmaceutical-grade product contains one percent. To get your antioxidant fix, simply choose a product based its top ingredients to ensure the best bang for your buck.