Antioxidants: Then and Now

Antioxidants, the natural protectors against againg, have played a major role in the beauty arena since they burst into the scene a little more than 100 years ago. We have seen many "it" antioxidants come and go, everything from berries and algae to different varieties of tea and lab-derived ingredients, depending on what's most effective at the moment. Fast-foward to today, where the many ways antioxidants are used in the beauty world have changed, and so have the major players and the next generation of must-have antioxidants. 

When antioxidants were first becoming big in beauty, they were either used on the skin or worked into the diet. Initially, beauty products contained just one or two antioxidants per product and were not formulated with other supercharged anti-aging ingredients as they are today. According to Meriden, CT, dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, MD, vitamin C products were based on ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that is unstable and doesn’t penetrate skin as well. 

In order to reap the ultimate benefits from antioxidants, they should be used both topically and internally. “Throughout the years, some data has shown that certain antioxidants work great when ingested, as well as applied to skin,” say New York dermatologist Elizabeth K. Hale, MD. Many products contain an assembly of antioxidants to fight free radicals that cause skin aging. “We’re seeing them in more elegant formulations alongside peptides and stem cells.” Antioxidants are also often added to sunscreen to enhance the level of protection. “The combination of the two creates a cyclical process where they boost the benefits of each other,” says Charlotte, NC, dermatologist Gilly Munavalli, MD. “The sunscreen prevents any damage, and the antioxidant repairs some of the milder signs of aging.”