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Are Antioxidants Worth the Hype?

Ahmed Abdullah, MD November 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
hands full of strawberries

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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.

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Retail Tips: Are Antioxidants Worth the Hype?

The most important step in encouraging the use of antioxidant products at home is to promote the science that demonstrates their benefits. Provide clients with a fact sheet that outlines the basic information about what antioxidants do and why they’re important, while quoting studies and highlighting their findings. This sheet should also offer recommendations for how to increase antioxidant levels, including the consumption of antioxidant-rich foods and using skin care products that feature added antioxidants, preferably those that you retail in your spa.

Clients are going to be more likely to utilize these products at home if they experience them within your spa services. It helps clients to become familiar with them while offering an endorsement of their safety and efficacy. That’s why it’s important to include antioxidant products in facials and pre- and post-procedure care routines for treatments such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, dermabrading, lasers and even waxing.

Antioxidant-rich Foods

A healthy diet is vital to ensuring the body is armed with damage-fighting antioxidants. Foods rich in antioxidants include:

  • Berries (various antioxidants)
  • Broccoli (vitamin A)
  • Carrots (vitamin A)
  • Citrus fruit (vitamin C)
  • Fish and shellfish (selenium)
  • Green peppers (vitamin C)
  • Leafy Greens (lutein)
  • Nuts and seeds (vitamin E)
  • Red wine (polyphenol)
  • Tomatoes (lycopene)
  • Watermelon (lycopene)
  • Whole grains (lignan)

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