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Are Antioxidants Worth the Hype?

By: Ahmed Abdullah, MD
Posted: October 27, 2010, from the November 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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How then, given all the research—some of which is preliminary—should antioxidants be utilized by clients to optimize the body’s ability to fight disease, and the skin’s ability to combat the signs of aging and environmental influences? The following recommendations work together to safely optimize antioxidant levels.

Consume a healthy diet. Consider that the very best, undisputed method for obtaining antioxidants is by eating a diet rich in whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. According to biochemist Barry Halliwell, PhD, of the National University of Singapore, a leading antioxidant researcher, “Because polyphenols, carotenoids and vitamins in fruits and vegetables are bound into tough, fibrous material, they hang around in the stomach and colon, where they can neutralize free radicals.”12 He adds, “Supplements may not replicate this effect because they are digested too quickly.”

This is certainly a point that spa chefs should keep in mind when developing their menus. And by counseling clients to look for brightly colored berries, fruits and vegetables, they’re increasing their antioxidant levels, which is better not only for their health, but for their appearance, as well.

Limit exposure to oxidative stressors. Environmental toxins, such as pollution and cigarette smoke—both firsthand and secondhand—are huge contributors to oxidative stress. Therefore, their presence must be limited as much as possible. Most importantly, clients must be continuously counseled to avoid excessive sun exposure and to protect their skin when outdoors through the daily use of sunscreen and protective clothing, because UV exposure is one of the main producers of free radicals.

Supplement wisely. Research has shown that people who take a combination of antioxidants in supplement form and at a low dosage were able to successfully reduce oxidation in their bodies without the risk of considerable pro-oxidant production.13 Additionally, the combination of multiple antioxidants has a synergistic effect and helps ensure that skin is better protected.14, 15 Given these findings, the use of a daily multivitamin that includes multiple antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, as well as selenium, is recommended.