What Are Free Radicals & How Do They Affect Our Skin?

a guide to facials

If there’s one alarming phrase in skincare, it’s ‘free radicals’. And not just because it sounds like an ‘80s rock tribute act. Free radicals are everywhere, but the harm they do isn’t obvious – at least at first! That being said, any damage to your health and skin is bad, so we’ve put together this guide showing you how best to minimise it.

We break down what ‘free radicals’ really are, how they work, and – most importantly – how you can beat them. Remember to get a free consultation with Rush before booking an appointment if you’ve got any reservations about how free radicals are affecting your skin.

First Things First: What Are Free Radicals, Anyway?

Known to damage healthy cells in the body, free radicals are unstable molecules that leave you vulnerable to all sorts of nasties. Because they are missing an electron, free radicals seek to steal from stable molecules in order to right themselves. Unfortunately, this means that the molecules robbed of an electron then become unstable! Such a chain reaction – called a ‘free radical cascade’ – produces more of them in our bodies (something we could all do without).

Where Do Free Radicals Come From?

Sometimes referred to as ‘relative oxygen species’ (ROS), free radicals are a natural by-product of cellular metabolism; just another part of human biology!

As well as being produced in the body, free radicals can also be found pretty much everywhere around us; the sun’s UV rays, environmental aggressors, pollution, cigarette smoke, and toxins are all triggers.

Many experts argue that the ageing process is down to free radicals damaging our DNA. Various studies and theories have connected free radicals to everything from wrinkles to decreased organ function. And that’s certainly troubling.

How Do Free Radicals Damage the Body and Skin?

In their quest to find an electron and feel whole again, free radicals can wreak havoc on your skin and other cells. This frequently leads to serious long-term health consequences.

‘When you leave an apple or avocado out on the counter, and it turns brown, that is an example of…deterioration caused by free radicals,’ says Suzanne LeRoux, green beauty expert and founder of One Love Organics. ‘Free radicals have been implicated in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.’

Faced with such risks, it’s time we looked into removing free radicals from our lives.

How Do You Get Rid of Free Radicals?

Avoiding total exposure to free radicals is virtually impossible, but there are precautions you can take to keep your skin (and the rest of your body) healthy. It’s all about steering clear of those triggers we mentioned earlier – pollution, cigarettes, etc. Loading up on antioxidants helps, too, as they donate an electron to free radicals, thereby reducing their reactivity. Antioxidants are unique in that they can donate an electron without becoming reactive free radicals themselves.

Antioxidants to Use in Your Daily Skincare Routine

So, what ingredients should you keep an eye out for in an antioxidant skin care product? Here’s the lowdown:

  • Vitamin C: One of the most important nutrients to give your skin the nourishment it needs, vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) contains potent antioxidant activity that’s clinically proven to aid in the struggle against free radicals. It also helps your skin stay hydrated – and healthy-looking – for longer.
  • Vitamin E: Ideal for soothing the skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines, the importance of incorporating vitamin E into your skincare routine cannot be overstated. In addition to warding off wrinkles and age spots, regular use of products rich in vitamin E has other benefits as well, including protection against UV-induced sun damage and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Green Tea: Thanks to its super-antioxidant power, the use of green tea in skin care products is on the rise around the world. Bursting with goodness, green tea minimises signs of ageing, reduces oiliness, and controls the appearance of breakouts and dark circles. Pretty darn impressive, we think you’ll agree!

Fighting free radicals is easy once you know how. All it takes is a few simple adjustments to your environment and daily skincare routine (as well as a little extra preparation) to get things back on track. Find your nearest Rush salon and put to bed any worries you may have about free radicals with our long-lasting selection of beauty services.