Despite the fact ageing is very much a part of life, it is still, without a doubt, one of the most widespread concerns when it comes to our beauty needs. It seems like every new beauty launch has some sort of mind-boggling anti-ageing ingredient complex. But the sad truth is hardly any of these products actually live up to their age-delaying claims. One term that you definitely should be on the lookout for when shopping for anti-ageing products, however, is "antioxidant."
Chances are you will have heard about antioxidants before. Skin experts and beauty editors wax lyrical about them, but does anyone actually know what they do? Celebrity facialist and skincare expert Debbie Thomas explains, “Free radicals are toxic compounds that can damage healthy cells and weaken them. The main causes of free radical production within the skin are UV rays, pollution, smoking, diet, and stress. With enough free radical damage, the skin becomes more likely to age prematurely.” The role of antioxidants in skincare is to fight those free radicals, and as far as experts are concerned, they are pretty much the only anti-ageing ingredients worth knowing about.
So what exactly should you be looking out for? Keep scrolling to discover the five antioxidants experts highly recommend.
1. Vitamin C
When it comes to antioxidants, vitamin C leads the way. “Vitamin C is a favourite amongst dermatologists and skin experts because it is one of the most well-studied and proven antioxidants on the market,” says Thomas. Widely available in skincare, vitamin C not only boasts anti-ageing properties (thanks to its antioxidant powers), but it is also thought to help brighten the skin and even out skin tone.
“Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the few skincare ingredients that has been repeatedly proven to help in the battle against skin ageing,” explains Thomas. But are there any drawbacks? “Ascorbic acid breaks down very easily with regular exposure to air and light. To get the best effects, you need to use a formula where the ascorbic acid has been stabilised,” she adds. Because of this, many budget formulas are unreliable. When it comes to vitamin C, invest in well-formulated, potent products.
Resveratrol might not be a particularly well-known ingredient, but its profile is definitely on the rise. Clinical aesthetician and co-founder of Mortar and Milk Pamela Marshall explains, “Resveratrol is a polyphenol which can be found in the skin of grapes, peanuts, and some berries. Used as a topical ingredient, it can help prevent free radical damage from environmental aggressors.”
Gradually working its way into more and more formulas, resveratrol has other benefits that many ingredients with antioxidant properties lack. “If it’s at the right pH and has a protective delivery system, resveratrol can effectively penetrate the skin, giving better efficacy. Superficially, it helps protect the barrier function, reducing inflammation, sun damage, and premature ageing,” says Marshall.
Didn’t know that retinol is considered an antioxidant? You’re not alone. Well known for its ability to boost skin cell turnover, retinol also has antioxidant abilities. “Retinol is a type of retinoid derived from vitamin A. It increases cellular renewal within the skin, stimulates collagen production, balances oil production, and fights free radicals. It helps to prevent collagen breaking down and thickens the deeper layer of skin to help prevent wrinkles,” explains Thomas.
The downside? It’s not for everyone. If it’s not used properly, it can cause dryness, irritation, sensitivity, and peeling. Carefully follow the directions on the pack and always apply SPF in the morning.
Used commonly in hydrating skincare products, niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that helps to maintain barrier function. Marshall explains, “By helping to maintain our barrier function, it works to reduce transepidermal water loss and aids in protein and ceramide synthesis.” The downside? When used in abundance, it can potentially cause flushing in sensitised skin. “The rule of thumb is that if you’re flushing or itching, discontinue use for a while,” she adds.
5. Vitamin E
Known for its super-hydrating properties, vitamin E is also heralded for its antioxidant characteristics. “It is a fat-soluble antioxidant that scavenges those free radicals we get from chronic UV exposure. It can also help reduce inflammation and swelling,” says Marshall. The wonderful thing about vitamin E is that most skin types find it tolerable. However, it’s important to limit expectations. “Like all ingredients, its efficacy is based on its formulation. With a high molecular weight, it’s better to look at it as an antioxidant that deals only with the skin’s outermost layer, the stratum corneum,” adds Marshall.