Antioxidants in skin care: Uses & Benefits

Antioxidants in skin care: Uses & Benefits

Did you know that formulas can degrade just as much from oxidation as from micro-organism nasties? And that this same free radical activity over time can also have a negative effect on your own body, both internally and externally? Food for thought, right? Today I want to talk to you about the use of antioxidants in skin care – Powerhouse ingredients capable of not only stabilising formulations but of protecting your skin from oxidation too.


Antioxidants in skin care are all the rage these days and understandable so, as it was discovered that they have a dual function. On the one hand they can stop the deterioration of organic ingredients (such as fragrances, proteins, lipids), and on the other they can help protect living skin cells from being damaged (read, they slow down the ageing process!).

Oxidation in either formulas or our own bodies is caused by environmental factors or other stressors. The list of these factors is somewhat infinity, but the most likely oxidants to be encountered by a skin care product is oxygen from the air or light (namely sunlight), whereas for our skin it could be anything from smoke, UVA/UVB, pollution to chemicals. Antioxidants in skin care are known to help neutralise all of the afore mentioned.


This important class of ingredients function by slowing or preventing the oxidation of molecules by one of two ways.

  1. Free Radical Chain Process: When a free radical steals an electron, a second radical is formed, producing another molecule that steals another electron and so the process continues. This sequence of reactions is halted when the free radical is stabilised by a chain-breaking antioxidant (such as Ascorbic acid).
  2. Prevention: Antioxidants can also prevent oxidation by ‘donating’ a hydrogen atom, forming an antioxidant-free radical complex that is stable enough to stop any further chain reaction.

Whilst antioxidants can either be natural or synthetic, the majority of them used in skin or hair care formulas tend to be of natural origin and obtained from roots, seeds, fruits etc. From here they fall into two categories, ‘true antioxidants’ and ‘synergists’ or chelating agents which enhance the action of the true antioxidants. They can then be classified further still by those that are the most effective at protecting oil-based materials (such as Tocopherol) and those that are water-soluble antioxidants like Glutathione (naturally occurring in plants, animals and fungi).

Some of the more widely used antioxidants in the green beauty industry are: Tocopherols, Lecithin, Ascorbic acid. The most common synthetic ones (and therefore not permitted in organic products) are: Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Across the entire Twelve Beauty collection I have chosen to only use skin-safe natural antioxidants to enhance product shelf-life and protect the formulas. You will spot them on the label listed as Tocopherol, and it comes from organic corn oil, blended with a bit of organic sunflower oil.


Acting a powerful skin-defenders, certain antioxidants can also play an important role in protecting our skin from cellular damage generated by free radicals (double bubble!). Numerous studies show that by simply incorporating antioxidants in our beauty routine on a regular basis can boost the skin’s radiance, improve texture, minimise age spots, sun spots and fine lines. What’s more, some are even known to strengthen the function of our skin barrier, reducing trans epidermal water loss and, therefore, upping skin hydration levels.

Where the Twelve Beauty range is concerned, after years of extensive research and exhaustive testing, I cherry-picked my favourite antioxidants from the botanical world. All of the formulas contain powerful free-radical fighting ingredients such as White Genepi, Butterfly Bush Leaf, Imperatoria Leaf, Tocopherol and Mallow. In fact, the three products from the collection that house the most antioxidants are Ideal Brightening Corrective Serum, Rapid Eye Treatment and Ideal Moisture Level Serum.


Although there are way too many antioxidants to mention, each with a myriad of different properties (for example, there are more than 4,000 known flavonoids, and that’s just one class of antioxidant!), from a green cosmetologist’s point of view, I always like to stress the importance of using traditional, well-studied, highly bio-compatible antioxidants from sustainable sources. After all, natural product formulation is a science, not an experiment.

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