What are free radicals actually?
Free radicals are molecular fragments and rather choleric contemporaries. They carry a single, unpaired electron - from their point of view, an untenable condition. In their search for a new bonding partner, the chemically extremely reactive radicals literally go berserk: When they encounter an atom, they immediately snatch an electron from it and thus set off a chain reaction: their collision with the atom turns it into a free radical itself.
To make matters worse, they cause further damage in the process. They shoot holes in the cell membrane, change the genetic material, disrupt metabolic processes, destroy proteins and much more. All in all, this rampage is called oxidative stress. And it is precisely this stress that is the problem: inflammations, diseases, mutations - they all start with an excess of stressed or damaged cells.
The quantity makes the stress: sources of free radicals
Free radicals are part of our cellular metabolism at all times - they belong to us, even if they are actually just trouble. Our body copes well with these home-made cellular troublemakers. It becomes problematic when they get out of hand. Because in addition to the body's own free radicals, these also arise in large numbers through harmful environmental influences such as environmental toxins, cigarette smoke or UV radiation.
A smoker inhales around 100 trillion free radicals with every puff of the cigarette. That many grains of rice would easily be enough to cover the entire Federal Republic of Germany!
The sun also favors the above mentioned chain reaction as it generates oxidative stress in the cell. UV-A radiation is primarily responsible for the visible premature aging of the skin as about half of it penetrates deep into the dermis. UVB radiation does not reach as deep but is more insidious as it damages the cell DNA which favors the development of skin cancer.
These skin damages are promoted by free radicals
With the free radicals, oxidative stress enters the cell. Basically, this favors all aging processes:
- Due to the fact that the chain reaction of the free radicals snatches electrons from the cell membrane of the skin cell, its metabolism is disturbed. this can accelerate cell death.
- On their raid, the free radicals unfortunately are not choosy. They not only attack viruses or bacteria but also the lipids of the skin's protective barrier. If the skin barrier fails to close the holes in the lipid film, it becomes brittle and can no longer perform its protective function adequately.
- Other building blocks that are important for the skin also fall victim to free radicals: keratin, elastin and collagen are broken down more quickly and cause the volume and elasticity of the skin to shrink.
- Damage caused outside the skin cells also has a negative effect on the skin: skin diseases are triggered or promoted.
To summarize: Oxidative stress triggered by free radicals is the skin cell's greatest enemy. It hinders their regeneration, promotes destructive processes and also causes damage outside the skin, which impairs skin health.
Antioxidants - generous superheroes
No villain without a superhero fighting for good! Fortunately, this is not only true for Hollywood, but also for our skin. Said superheroes in this case are called antioxidants. Because they help the body to maintain its chemical balance.
Antioxidants are, for example, certain vitamins and trace elements that act as the body's own interceptors and have an excess of electrons. They can donate a free electron to the free radicals without taking damage themselves. Thus, antioxidants are able to take the force out of free radicals and transform them into stable and harmless compounds so that they can be metabolized normally. Antioxidants also play a role in skin care - for example, it makes perfect sense to use a sunscreen with antioxidant ingredients. This makes it a little harder for the free radicals produced by UV radiation to cause damage through the protective layer of antioxidants.
Since antioxidants are present in our body, they are naturally present in the skin and fight free radicals. Nevertheless, you can support antioxidants. In relation to the skin, products with the highest possible dosage of antioxidants make sense - preferably when different antioxidants are combined. Products containing antioxidants should preferably not come into contact with light and oxygen as they react rather sensitively and lose their effectiveness.
The vitamins A, B, C, E and H are not only beneficial in nutrition but also in skin care: Supplied from the outside, they have an antioxidant effect against free radicals. In addition, there are many other active ingredients like Q10 or magnolia extract which neutralize the unloved free radicals.
Good to know: All HighDroxy products contain antioxidants - they are simply part of the balanced formulation of a care product.
Image source: shutterstock.com / SciePro