Free radicals impact on skin: translating the chemistry

Seemingly harmless daily tasks, like taking a walk or checking an email, can wreak serious havoc on our skin. Free radicals are everywhere and can cause cell damage. What are they exactly and how do they affect our skin? Learn more in this educational article including a 1-minute-video, where we dive into the chemistry to understand the topic better. We also explore how antioxidants can protect your skin to maintain a healthy skin.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are unstable molecules with unpaired electrons that can damage cells and contribute to aging and various diseases. We are exposed to them through:

  • Environmental pollution
  • Bacteria
  • Sunlight
  • HEV light from our phones and computer screens
  • Internal stress
  • Unhealthy lifestyle

Free radicals are also referred to as everyday aggressors. For instance, according to the World Health Organization, 9 out of 10 people are exposed to air containing dangerous levels of pollutants, defined as physical, chemical, or biological matter found both inside and outdoors.

Serious cell damage

These fine particulate substances can cause serious cellular damage. They contribute to:

  • Premature aging of skin including fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin
  • Changes in the skin’s natural melanin production, triggering dark spots
  • Inflammation which could mediate skin diseases
  • Sensitivity

Diving into chemistry

Now, let’s dive into chemistry and learn how they affect our skin cells. Watch this 1-minute video, where we have simplified the complex science, to understand what happens, or read below what goes on step by step.

  1. Free radicals are everywhere.
  1. We are exposed to free radicals through: environmental pollution, sunlight, HEV light from our phones and computer screens, and also through internal stress and an unhealthy lifestyle.
  1. Free radicals are oxygen-containing unstable molecules, missing electrons from their outer shell. This makes them reactive and search for other atoms or molecules to become stable.
  1. Antioxidants in our body can give up an electron without becoming unstable.This stabilizes the free radicals and make them stop the search, helping to maintain a healthy balance of free radicals.
  1. However, excessive free radical exposure leads to an imbalance, which, in turn, causes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress cause cell damage.
  1. Cell damage contributes to premature aging of skin including fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin as well as changes in the skin’s natural melanin production, triggering dark spots.

  2. Continued oxidative stress can also lead to inflammation, which could mediate skin diseases.

  3. Antioxidants are free radical scavengers. Antioxidants works by neutralizing the free radicals. In this way, antioxidants act as a protective antioxidant shield and first line of cellular defense to protect the skin from cell damage.

  4. It also enhances the protective effect of your sunscreen as a second line of defense.

  5. All of which makes antioxidants great to protect your skin from free radicals for a rejuvenated, even and healthy skin.

Protect your skincare against free radicals

We've learned that oxidative stress come from both exogenous and endogenous sources. Although assault from these stressors is inevitable, there are several ways you can protect your skin from the detrimental effects of these everyday aggressors.

Antioxidant-rich skincare

Incorporating skincare products with antioxidants, such as day and night creams and serums, can help neutralize free radicals, safeguarding your skin and maintaining its health. When purchasing these products, be sure to look for formulations that include powerful antioxidants for enhanced protection.


A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF is essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, a significant source of free radicals that accounts for about 80% of facial aging.

Healthy diet

Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other foods with antioxidant properties to promote skin resilience from within.


Adequate hydration helps flush out toxins and supports overall skin health.

Avoid environmental aggressors

Minimize exposure to pollution, smoke, and other environmental stressors that contribute to the generation of free radicals.

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