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Can Antioxidants Make you Look Younger?

Products with
antioxidant labels are now the trend. The more popular antioxidants are
extracts of green tea, grapes, and mangosteen. Best-sellers include glutathione,
vitamins C & E, a-lipoic acid, and CoQ10. Cosmetic companies advertise antioxidant
products that claim to reduce or even eliminate the signs of skin aging. The
marketing hype is repeated over and over that it now appears to be the gospel
truth. But what really is the truth about antioxidants?

Aging is a
complex natural process. It involves genetic, hormonal and environmental
mechanisms. Free radicals play a central role in aging.
They are highly
reactive oxygen molecules that can damage various cellular structures in our
are produced naturally through normal human metabolism. They are also formed by
environmental factors such as UV exposure, cigarette smoking, and alcohol

The body possesses natural
defense mechanisms. It produces antioxidants,
substances that provide protection against free radicals.
As we
age, our natural defense mechanisms decreases, while the production of reactive
free radicals increases. This imbalance results in accelerated aging. 

Topical application of
antioxidants helps neutralize free radicals, and consequently lessen or prevent
signs of skin aging. Beyond prevention, many topical antioxidants are also
marketed to eliminate wrinkles. However, among antioxidants, only vitamin C can
actually treat wrinkles by boosting collagen production through a mechanism
other than antioxidation. For other products, their ability to improve wrinkles
is either due to swelling or hydrating effects, or to other ingredients, such
as the exfoliating retinol, AHA and BHA, and collagen boosters like hyaluronic
acid and amino peptides. 

Current research
suggests that antioxidants can have synergistic effects and, thus, better
efficacy when combined. Examples are Vitamin C and glutathione, and vitamin C
and E. Also, an additive benefit may be derived from using a
combination of oral and topical antioxidant products. For topically administered
antioxidants to be effective, there are two important concerns that are now
addressed by advanced nano-encapsulation technology:

1) Product stabilization. Antioxidants are very unstable; they may      become oxidized and inactive before
reaching the target. Encapsulation provides a protective layer that can keep
the antioxidant as active as when it was blended during production.

Skin absorption.
Antioxidants must be small enough to be absorbed
into the skin, reach their target tissue in the active form, and remain there
long enough to exert the desired effects. Nanotechnology converts antioxidants
to nano-sized particles to enhance skin penetration.

Bottomline. Antioxidants play a key role in prevention of premature skin aging.
However, they cannot undo the damage done by free radicals at the cellular
level. Topical and oral antioxidants cannot erase wrinkles and crows feet. They
cannot firm up sagging skin. An antioxidant product that claims to make you
look younger is either over promising, or has other ingredients that can
exfoliate, plump, and hydrate skin. Always look at the ingredients list.
____________________________________________________________________________This was published in the May 22, 2012 issue of Manila Bulletin, Lifestyle Section.The author is the CEO of SkinStation. He received the 2011 Outstanding Chemist
Award from Professional Regulations Commission for his achievements in the
field of cosmetic chemistry. He can be reached at

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