We hear about free radicals in media, with a vague understanding that free radicals are not good, unhealthy. But what is a free radical, really?
A free radical is an unstable molecule, missing an electron.
This deficiency gives the unstable molecule a negative charge, because molecules are balanced when they possess two electrons.
The most common forms of free radicals we interact with daily are caused by:
- UV rays (sun exposure)
- cigarette smoke
When a molecule loses an electron and becomes negatively charged, the now free radical molecule must balance itself out, and steals an electron from your healthy skin cells- creating a new free radical molecule in the process, causing a domino effect. Yikes.
We call this OXIDATION. Oxidation is that actual negative side effect of free radicals.
Oxidation breaks down skins collagen, causing sagging, wrinkling, and sun spots.
While free radicals can never be completely avoided (hello, sunshine), it can be managed. The best solution to oxidation and free radical damage is simply to use antioxidants in your skincare routine!
Antioxidants are vitamins and fats with THREE electrons- including one extra, making them positively charged. Phew!
When an antioxidant (positive charge) interacts with a free radical molecule (negative charge), they immediately bind together like magnets, neutralizing the free radical molecule before it can damage your skin.
Vitamins A, C, and E are some of the most well-known antioxidants.