Antioxidants: your skin’s best defense

The best antioxidants for skincare come in both oral and topical form. Here we explain how you can slow, or even prevent, aging skin with a range of antioxidants.

We all remember the resiliency of youth. It seemed like every part of us, from our minds to our muscles to our skin, could bounce back from pretty much anything.

When it comes to the skin, the antioxidants produced by our bodies play an important part in this. Antioxidants are the substances that fight the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are what lead to oxidative damage, and this damage plays a large part in making the skin look older. 

As we age, the antioxidants that naturally present in our bodies slowly but surely peter out. This happens more quickly for cigarette smokers and people who experience a lot of sun exposure. 

One of the most effective steps you can take to fight the signs of aging is to begin taking antioxidant supplements orally. Another is to boost the antioxidants we receive from our diet. 

Best antioxidants for skincare

Several different antioxidants can aid in slowing or even partially reversing the signs of aging, such as compromised skin elasticity and fine lines. Some of the best antioxidants for skincare include:

Vitamin E: Even though the human body doesn’t produce vitamin E, it is critically important to the beauty of the skin. One of the ways that the vitamin is most useful is in its ability to stop free radicals from damaging the lipids in the skin’s cell membranes. 

Good vitamin E food sources include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, soy, nuts, and seeds. 

Vitamin C: Vitamin C (also known as ascorbate) is essential to collagen synthesis. Unfortunately, cigarette smoking and sunlight, for example, quickly and easily deplete vitamin C.

Think about adding more lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits, as well as currants, berries, and green leafy vegetables to your diet. 

Coenzyme Q10: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found within the mitochondria of every cell – the source of energy production. 

A number of specific vitamins help the body produce greater levels of coenzyme Q10: folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin B (especially vitamin B6). Helpful foods include beans, wholegrain products, meat (especially heart, kidney and liver), and fish. 

Additional antioxidants that are effective when taken orally are vitamin A, vitamin B3, polypodium leucotomos fern extract, proanthocyanidins and flavonoids in grape seed extract, Pycnogenol®, alpha-lipoic acid, carotenoids, and soy isoflavones. 

Antioxidants: Topical use

The best antioxidants for skincare that you can use topically, which clinical trials have shown improve the skin’s appearance, include:

CoQ10: CoQ10 is also sometimes referred to as ubiquinone. Coenzyme Q10 is naturally abundant in young skin and helps protect the skin from damaging factors.

Polyphenols: Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant extracted from many different kinds of vegetation and other substances, including grapes and their seeds, chocolate, and olive oil. Polyphenols are usually comprised of a combination of chemicals that create the antioxidant properties. One especially well-known polyphenol is resveratrol.    

Vitamin C: The best form of vitamin C in skincare is L-ascorbic acid, which is effective in supporting and rebuilding the skin’s dermal network. 

Retinol, Retinal, Retinoic acid, and Tretinoin: These substances are all derived from, or components of, vitamin A. Dermatologists frequently prescribe them as topical cosmeceuticals to renew the skin and help combat the signs of aging. All of these antioxidant substances are renowned for their ability to renew the skin.    

Vitamin B3: Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin (and in other forms as nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, and niacinamide). When you apply it topically, vitamin B3 can help unify skin tone, boost collagen production and improve the function of the skin’s moisture barrier. 

Other popular antioxidants in topical products include alpha-lipoic acid, selenium, vitamin E, melatonin, and polypodium leucotomos fern extract (P. leucotomos). 

Choosing topical skincare products

When looking for skincare products with antioxidants, take a careful look at the ingredients list. The best products tend to list their active ingredients (including antioxidants) high up, indicating an effective level of concentration. They should at the very least be in the top two-thirds of the ingredients listed.

You should also try to find evidence that the products you are considering reduce the effects of UV damage. 



Last reviewed 04/Sep/2017

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Ann-Mary Amber

Ann-Mary Amber has twenty years experience in wholistic therapies and specialises in nutritional and environmental medicine. She is an experienced group facilitator and lecturer and an integral part of the ACNEM education team.

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