In the never-ending quest for the fountain of youth, antioxidants are the “it” ingredient of the decade. A nutrient that is manufactured by the human body, naturally found within many beans, grains, fruits and vegetables, and even produced synthetically, antioxidants are now added to everything from soft drinks to, of course, skin care products. And sales of antioxidant products are on the rise. In fact, according to Nutrition Business Journal, in 2008, antioxidant supplement sales totaled $4.6 billion, a strong increase of 6% from just two years earlier.
When it comes to skin care, the presence of antioxidants is nearly expected. Those who work in the esthetic industry recommend antioxidant-rich products to clients daily, citing the science that proves their ability to protect skin health and its appearance. But let’s take a step back for a moment. When all known factors are considered, are antioxidants worth it?
The science of antioxidants
First, a bit about the scenario that necessitates antioxidants. Although oxygen is essential to the human body because it enables cells to harness energy from food, it also has the potential to cause harm. When molecules within cells encounter oxygen, a reaction occurs and a free radical is produced. This process is called oxidation, and it can stem from endogenous factors, that is, factors within the body, such as breathing and metabolism, as well as exogenous factors outside the body, most notably excessive sun exposure, pollution, cigarette smoke and more. Another mechanism for forming free radicals is the natural aging process.