Free radicals are unstable organic molecules that perform some truly positive functions, including fighting off infection and interacting with enzyme function, but they also play a negative role in the aging process - one that contributes to the hallmark of premature aging, tissue damage and disease.
How does this happen, and what can you do to minimize it? Oxidation is the natural by-product of breathing, a system that creates energy in the human body and keeps us alive. It also produces free radicals, molecules that start out fairly disciplined and well-defined, but tend to go rogue as we get older. They are created by a variety of factors including environmental pollution, excessive alcohol consumption, toxic cleaning products, and cigarette smoke. They are always looking for an extra electron they can steal away from another more stable molecule, and tack on to their own structure. The result of this behavior is like a pileup of bumper cars at an amusement park. Imagine the chain reaction set off when one of these molecules manages to pry an electron away from a healthy skin cell. The free radical not only leaves behind a damaged skin cell which is now missing an electron, but turns it into another vampire-like free radical, now on the prowl for its own stabilization. When this scenario is played out over and over again it creates a snowball effect that weakens healthy skin and subjects it to oxidative stress that can be seen and measured in terms of sagging skin and deteriorating health.
Antioxidants, molecules found in many vibrant, colorful foods, are natural substances created by oxidation that help prevent free radicals from destroying healthy tissue. It accomplishes this by neutralizing the free radical and interrupting the chain reaction. Your body’s ability to produce antioxidants is partially dictated by heredity, but significantly affected by your exposure to oxidative stress. Supplementation in the form of vitamins can be helpful, but you must be careful because mega-doses could be harmful or even toxic to the body. The safest and most comprehensive way to cover your bases is to eat a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables every day. It is the synergy of the components in these naturally occurring foods that delivers the most bang for your buck. Using natural, organic and preservative free skincare products that contain these anti-oxidants can also be extremely helpful by reducing your body’s exposure to toxins and helping minimize the free-radical damage. This in turn will help stave off the aging process and allow you to look younger longer.