Radical thinking
Date: 18 july 2018

Ever wondered what a free radical was and what you should do with them? Antioxidants have the answer to that and many of your other beauty problems - By Parizaad Khan Sethi

If you’ve ever tried to buy a product or read a beauty article, you’ve definitely come across some commonly used terms that had you channelling the thinking emoji. Does lymphatic drainage have anything to do with plumbing? Is a moisture barrier stopping hydration from reaching your skin? (That’s a no to both of those, by the way.)

The one that trips people up the most, however, is free radicals. What, exactly, are these entities? Revolutionaries who have escaped the prison system? In a simpler time, sure, that might have been the correct usage for the term, but in beauty-speak it means something else. Brace yourself for a biochemistry lecture.

Free radicals are unstable compounds that are generated by the body when oxidation, a natural bodily function, occurs. Environmental and internal factors such as sun exposure, pollution, smoking and bad eating habits cause much more oxidation than our bodies can handle, resulting in an overwhelming number of free radicals. These bounce around in our bodies, contributing to major illnesses in the long-term like cancers and heart disease, while also affecting the skin, causing pigmentation, acne and a breakdown of collagen which leads to sagging and wrinkles.

That’s where antioxidants come in. They’re the heroes that nullify the free radicals, making them unable to cause further damage. Antioxidants are found in foods like berries, nuts, fruits, beans and vegetables and should be a vital part of a healthy diet.

In skincare too, antioxidants play an important part in deactivating free radicals when they are formulated in topical skincare products. As it is with diet, a cocktail of antioxidants works better than just one.

There are antioxidants like idebenone and thiotaine in Elizabeth Arden Prevage Anti-Aging + Intensive Repair Daily Serum, while Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Serum is rich in the antioxidant Vitamins A, C and E.

Pairing antioxidants with sunscreen helps boost the protection your skin receives. Wear a lightweight Vitamin C serum like Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution or Clinique Fresh Pressed 7-Day System With Pure Vitamin C under your sunscreen, or try an antioxidant-enriched sun protectant like Elizabeth Arden Prevage Day Ultra Protection Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30.

At night, antioxidants like those in Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II will undo some of the damaged caused by sun exposure and pollution.

Scan the ingredients lists in products to see if they contain these powerful antioxidants:

- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Vitamin E (tocopherol)
- Resveratrol
- Green tea
- Ferulic acid
- Phloretin
- Grapeseed extract
- Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone)
- Idebenone

Radical thinking
Parizaad Khan Sethi

is a beauty and wellness editor based in New York. She was the former beauty editor at Vogue India and now serves as a contributing editor for the magazine. At age 5, Parizaad fell in love with an old cream blush she found in the back of her mother’s drawer, and has been in awe of the transformative power of beauty ever since. When she’s not writing about beauty, she researches advances in skincare as a hobby, and is constantly guinea-pigging herself in the name of beauty.