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Cambridge Medical
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202025 Aug

Understanding Oxidative stress and Anti-oxidants

Oxidative stress on the skin is the result of free radicals. Tiny molecules generated through a myriad of processes such as the breakdown of molecules by UV rays, particles in cigarette smoke and absorption of pesticides into the skin. The reason why these molecules are so harmful is due to how unstable they are due to an unpaired electron. To simplify it, think of these molecules as something that is actively looking for a missing piece. And they find it in your skin cells. This is where the belief that going out in the sun will damage your skin. UV rays from the sun generate these radicals which in turn damage your skin cells to ‘complete’ themselves. Here’s the kicker… when the radical takes an electron from a particle in your skin cells, it leaves that particle with a missing piece in the form of an unpaired electron and it in turn foes on to further the damage by taking from another particle. This becomes a vicious cycle that leads to the accelerated ageing of the skin as the appearance of dark spots and wrinkles would begin to appear. 

However, this does not mean to stay home and shelter yourself from the elements outside. A small number of free radicals are good for you. In fact, the white blood cells that work to defend you from invading pathogens contain small amounts of free radicals which it uses to defend against these unwanted guest. It id free radicals in large quantities that pose a concern as the damage it does can be so extensive that it reaches your DNA and at they point puts you at risk of developing skin cancer. 

Naturally, the next thing on your mind would be how would you combat oxidative stress. Among the variety of methods, one stands out, and that is the use of antioxidants. Antioxidants are essentially the molecules that will help to eliminate these free radicals by stabilising them and thus staving off skin ageing. It helps to protect both the inner and outer skin against skin damage.

Astaxanthin is the pigment that gives shrimp, salmon and some algae its pink colouration. It has also been increasingly touted as the superior antioxidant as it not only combats free radicals but promotes the production of new skin cells, elastin and collagen which helps sun-aged skin to restore its youthful appearance. 

Another powerful antioxidant is the well known Vitamin C. It is found in skin cells and is the first defence against free radicals that makes its way into the bloodstream. Curiously, humans do not produce Vitamin C by ourselves but instead get it through our diet. Vitamin C is also a necessary component in the body’s production of collagen which helps to bring back skin elasticity and get rid of fine wrinkles.

Food items such as spinach and nuts contain high amounts of Vitamin E. It is responsible for managing the damage on enzymes in the skin cells. It also contributes to defending these enzymes from damage by free radicals. These vitamins can both be ingested and applied topically to the skin to help fight off damage from free radicals.

Other things can be done to prevent photoaging. Cultivating the habit of wearing sunscreen. The main source of free radical damage is from UV rays from the sun. Hence it would make perfect sense to protect your skin against is by wearing sunscreen whenever you go out. If you’re looking for professional help to treat sunspots and pigmentation – you may consider the Pico450 Laser treatment.

Lifestyle changes are also in order in both the stress management and sleep department. Psychological stress has been shown to promote oxidative stress in the body. This is because when your body is in a constant state of stress, it is constantly in a flight or fight mode. Evolutionarily, this means that your vital organs are given more attention leaving your skin, not as well taken care of. Insufficient amounts of sleep will also cause oxidative stress among other issues such as increased pigmentation and changes in the pH levels of the skin causing irritation. Melatonin, aka the sleep hormone, is also an antioxidant. Hence, reduced amounts of rest from sleep would result in the decreased production of melatonin and thus reduced efficiency of antioxidant response to free radicals. 

 


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