To understand free-radicals and their (not so friendly) relationship with antioxidants we need to go over a little chemistry – at an atomic level, atoms and molecules in the body contain electrons, and electrons like to exist in pairs; this keeps them feeling stable and safe. During chemical reactions atoms and molecules may lose electrons, making them extremely unstable and highly reactive – these are known as free-radicals. These electron-deprived molecules don’t like being in this state, so to make up for it they travel around the body on the hunt for an electron to steal so they can become stable again, and in doing so set off a chain reaction of damage, like a domino effect, to cells and tissues within the body. As one electron is stolen from one molecule, the once stable molecule becomes unstable and goes on the hunt for another electron, and this chain reaction, called free-radical damage, continues.

Antioxidants are molecules with spare electrons and work by donating their electrons to free-radicals, which quickly pair up with the single electrons on free-radicals and in doing so transform them from unstable reactive atoms/molecules to stable ones. This is ideal as it effectively stops the chain reaction of damage in its tracks, as once their electrons become paired they are happy little molecules once again – pretty neat huh?

Although free-radicals are a natural by-product of life, many modern-day culprits increase free-radical production within our body including pollution, sunlight, stress, high-intensity exercise and exhaust fumes. This is where antioxidants take a starring role, making it crucial for skin health to ensure we’re taking in a good deal of these nutrients both internally and topically on our skin’s surface.

ANTIOXIDANTS Free-radical damage is one of the main culprits responsible for skin aging. It causes
deterioration of our skin’s structural support system, decreasing the suppleness of elastin and collagen tissues – the wonderful network of proteins in our skin that help us avoid resembling a raisin. In other words free-radicals cause these tissues to become dry and shrivelled, leading to wrinkles and premature aging well before our time.
Antioxidants work by slowing down or preventing free radical damage from occurring. They also help protect the skin from sun damage.

Luckily for us, antioxidants are abundant in colourful plant foods and ensuring we take in a good deal with our diet is vital for both good health and good skin. Consuming a variety of types and colours is key, as different plants contain different types of antioxidants, which is why eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies each day is so commonly recommended!

Where to find them: different coloured fruits and veggies.
Blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, red beans, apples, spinach, cherries and black beans contain some of the highest total antioxidant capacity per serving.