06 July 2012

Science Friday: Antioxidants

For the record, when you see beakers with colorful liquid it's just food dye and water.  Womp. Womp.
Welcome to a new segment that is going to be interchangeable with Faves & Fails Friday Edition.  Sometimes I have a harder time coming up with content for the FFFE, and what I produce is very lackluster when I truly have nothing to say.  In light of this, I am going to start writing/blogging/exploring/ learning about chemicals that are important in the production and manufacture of cosmetics.  I'm very excited about this, because science is something that is very near and dear to my heart, and trust me - there is a LOT of science in makeup.  Today's Science Friday is brought to you by the letter A!  A is for Antioxidant!


Antioxidants are fun chemical compounds that fight against free radicals.  We are exposed to free radicals from pollution and they are produced within our bodies as by products of cellular oxidative processes.  These processes power the cell at it's most basic level and are performed all day, every day for all of our lives.  I learned about radicals, again, in Organic Chemistry class, and essentially they are compounds that have a free electron as a result of chemical reactions.  Free electrons aren't scary on paper, but in practice, they promote aging and cellular degradation because that free electron on our little radical will bind to ANYTHING.  Which can break all sorts of things down in the cell, and when a lot of little cells have lots of little break downs, it leads to one big problem that the beauty industry spends millions of dollars telling us is evil - and that, my friends, is pre-mature aging.  Enter... ANTIOXIDANTS!

Lets examine the word shall we?  Anti.  Oxidants.  Anti meaning the opposite of.  Oxidants meaning something that oxidizes.  So, antioxidants are the opposite of something that oxidizes.  Since free radicals are truly by products of oxidative processes within cells, they are, in turn, oxidants themselves.  Antioxidants are chemicals that prevent the action of free radicals and stop the oxidation that leads to aging.  In short, antioxidants are there to provide a chemical that the free radical can oxidize that aren't important bits of the cell.


Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Co-enzyme Q 10, Phenols

Vitamin A - More commonly referred to as Retinol, is essential for vision.  Retinoic Acid, which is a derived from Retinol, is important for skin health and is necessary for your epithelial (skin) cells to work correctly and helps them to produce the protein keratin.  Commonly, retinols are used to treat acne by shrinking the sebaceous glands and reducing the risk of infection leading to pimples.

AKA: Retinol, Retinoic Acid, Carotene
Found in: Carrots, Sweet Potato, Butter, Kale

Vitamin C - In addition to keeping you from experiencing collagen breakdown a.k.a. scurvy, Vita C is an enzymatic co-factor. Co-factors are chemicals that need to present in order for certain enzymes to function correctly.  Vitamin C is an essential co-factor for the production of several types of collagen, and collagen is one of the main structural proteins used in the body.  The formation of wrinkles are generally attributed to collagen breakdown in the body which can be exacerbated by prolonged and continuous exposure to free radicals.

AKA: Ascorbic Acid
Found in: Citrus Fruits

Vitamin E -  Out of all of the compounds discussed, Vita E, specifically acts in the manner described in the Antioxidant subheading.  When you burn fat, Vitamin E prevents the free radicals produced from this process from oxidizing important cellular features by directly binding the more reactive free radicals and becoming a free radical that is more easily oxidized to a neutral state, sometimes by Vita C.  Vitamin E is found in the cellular membrane to protect from excessive oxidative stress.

AKA: a-Tocopherol, Tocopherol
Foods: Wheat Germ Oil, Almonds, Avocados

Coenzyme Q 10 - Directly involved in cellular respiration, and is found in many cellular subunit membranes.  CEQ10 is unique in that it both likes and can easily give up those free electrons I blathered about.  So, if needed to this guy can stop a free radical from recklessly using its rogue electron from damaging your precious cell(s).  Also, this guy helps form Vita E in the body. 

AKA: Ubiquinone, Coenzyme Q
Found in: Chicken, Beef, Olive Oil, Peanuts

 Phenols - Quite simply, are classes of compounds that really, really, really don't mind if free electrons bind to them.  So, if there is a bunch of them around, chances are free radicals are going to be attracted to them and not to other things in the body.  Somewhat not so awesome for women, certain specific types of phenols are also biologically similar to Estrogen, and all that interruption of function can entail.

AKA: Phenol, Bisphenol A, Capsaicin, Polyphenol (antioxidant happy), Raspberry Ketone
Found in: Pomegranates, Acai, Goji Berries, Wine


Resveratrol - Discovered in 1939, this compound is currently the subject of major scientific inquiry, because of its implications regarding aging, but just how big this implication is, is still being teased out.  It's currently used in Bite Beauty's lip products, and is found in high concentrations in grape-skin.


Look at your ingredient list the next time your in the beauty aisle and yet another product is touting it's anti-oxidant superhero status.  If it really is as awesome as it says, then it should have decent concentrations of these chemicals listed in the ingredients section.  For the ingredients to truly be effective, the product should be packaged in a protective opaque box/ plastic to prevent the degradation of these chemicals by light.

Also, you could try the inside out method, by taking supplements or increasing your consumption of foods high in these antioxidants.

That's it guys! Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. It is really a good habit to have antioxidant intake everyday. This is one of the best health benefits we can have. The power of antioxidant targets not only internal health but also our skin to make it look young and healthy. I always make it a habit to take astaxanthin everyday