You may be asking what are free radicals, and why do people insist on paying attention to them? How do they affect my body and my skin? Are they really as damaging as everyone claims? Below, 111SKIN summarise the need-to-know information, so that you can become informed on the importance of antioxidants, and how you can fight free radicals.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals can be introduced to the body in a number of ways:

Intrinsically- through lifestyle and consumption e.g. smoking, food-pesticides, chemicals, metals, digestion of fat. Unfortunately, even the act of breathing creates energy resulting in the formation of free radicals.

Externally- stress, sun, pollution.

Free radicals are nearly impossible to avoid, and that’s why it’s ever more important to try and fight them through the consumption of antioxidants. Free radicals are important to the body because they help to repair injury and work with your immune system to kill bacteria. However, a balance of free radicals and antioxidants is necessary, as too much exposure to free radicals can have detrimental effects to the body.

Why are free radicals bad?

The aim is to stop free radicals before they cause damage. Scientist Bruce Ames, estimates that just one cell in the human body is hit about 10,000 times a day by free radicals. Within our bodies we have trillions of cells, so you can imagine the potential for damage. Exposure to free radicals causes a process of oxidation (oxidative stress).

There are two main ways that free radicals effect the body…


Free radicals can cause a path of mass destruction to your cells. On occasions, a free radical can cause the cell to die, and when this happens, a mutation of the cells can occur which can lead to a number of diseases, and has been intrinsically linked with cancer (e.g. smoking linked with cancer).


Scientific studies dating back to the 50’s have proven that free radicals go hand in hand with ageing and the associated diseases with ageing such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes to name a few. Over 80 degenerative diseases have been linked to oxidative stress. As the skin is the bodies biggest organ, there is a great amount of oxidative stress on the skin characterised by wrinkles, dark circles under eyes, loss of volume, pigmentation, sagging etc.

How can antioxidants protect me from free radicals?

In order to neutralise free radicals, antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) must be consumed. You may argue that you eat plenty of fruit and veg which are full of antioxidants, but only 20% of antioxidants consumed orally will make it to your skin. Therefore, a topical agent is essential if you want to see the benefits in the skin.

The vitamins that benefit the skin the most are vitamins C and E. They are thought to be the vitamins that protect your body from free radicals and have great benefits.

Vit E- This vitamin is the most efficient at defending the body against the process of oxidation. Long term use also provides protective effects against sunburn and encourages tissue repair. As a topical agent, Vitamin E is also said to possess excellent moisturising properties and helps to prevent water loss.

Vit C- This vitamin is particularly good at combating free radical formation caused by pollution. It has tremendous benefits for the skin including: reducing brown spots and pigmentation, boosting collagen, reducing inflammation, encouraging healing, and increasing the effectiveness of sun protection.