Find the best antioxidant serums and skin care products for your skin type. This blog compares different types of antioxidants and helps you find the best for your skin concerns. There is a list of antioxidant ingredients for skin found in skincare products. How do these antioxidants work and what are the skin benefits? How do you choose which ingredients and products to buy?
I will discuss the best antioxidant ingredients in skincare to treat acne, rosacea, melasma and skin aging in addition to what antioxidants do, how they work, and their skin benefits.
I will help you shop for the best antioxidant products for your skin type.
Best Antioxidant Skin Care Products
Keep reading to learn which type of antioxidants are best for you. In this section I will list dermatologist recommended serums, crams and sunscreens that have antioxidants. But there are so many choices so read this entire blog or take the quiz and I will help you shop by your Baumann Skin Type.
Use these antioxidant serums in step 3 or your morning or evening regimen.
Use these lotions and creams in step 4 of your routine or after any toners or serums in your skin care routine.
Creamy and luxurious antioxidant moisturizers for dry skin:
Oily skin types need a light noncomedogenic antioxidant cream, light serum, or lotion.
Sunscreens with Antioxidants
If you get a lot of sun exposure consider using Heliocare capsules with polypodium leucotomas to help protects your skin and a sunscreen that has SPF and antioxidants.
What Antioxidants Do
Antioxidants protect against the ravages of free radicals by reducing and neutralizing them. Free radicals are also called reactive oxygen species (ROS).
The skin has natural antioxidants to protect itself, but they are not enough to protect skin from excess sun and pollution.
Oral supplements, beverages, foods, vitamins, and topical antioxidant serums and creams can be used to help the skin protect itself from free radicals.
How They Work
Antioxidants work by donating an electron to free radicals which calms them down and prevents them from stealing electrons from vital cell components like cell membranes.
Once they donate an electron to a free radical, they have no more electrons and cannot help anymore. This is why you need so many antioxidants! They get used up really fast, especially when many free radicals (also called reactive oxygen species) are being generated.
Antioxidants benefit skin by blocking free radicals. This helps prevent:
But some “bonus antioxidants” have additional characteristics that can help your skin. These vary depending on the antioxidant ingredient
Here are some examples of the most interesting bonus antioxidants in skin care products:
Natural Antioxidants In Skin
Sebum (oil) produced by the sebaceous glands on the face has many antioxidants such as Vitamin E in it that can help protect your skin.
The lips do not have sebaceous glands and therefore have less antioxidant protection than the rest of the face. This is one reason that skin cancer is more common on the lips.
The body’s natural antioxidants are used up very quickly by exposure to UV light, visible light, pollution, toxins, and normal metabolism.
As we age, we produce fewer natural antioxidants and we need to get extra in our diet and topical skin care products.
You need as many different forms of antioxidants as possible because one type of antioxidant is not enough. For example, you need both fat and water soluble antioxidants.
For this reason, you should get as many antioxidants in foods, supplements, beverages, and topical cosmeceutical skincare products as possible. More is better!
Antioxidants to Prevent Aging
Antioxidants may help prevent skin aging by protecting skin from the damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants may prevent wrinkles, but antioxidants do not erase wrinkles that are already present.
One exception to this is Vitamin C which in addition to being an antioxidant, also helps increase collagen production. So Vitamin C is one antioxidant that can improve skin texture and wrinkles.
Antioxidants for Acne
Acne is characterized by inflammation in the hair follicle that leads to clogged pores, pimples, and cysts. (12-14) This inflammation causes free radicals.
The bacteria that causes acne known as Cutibacterium acnes has porphyrins in it which can also cause free radicals.
When porphyrins are exposed to specific wavelengths of light, they transition from a ground state to an excited state. This excited state is short-lived and energetically unstable. The excited porphyrin can become a photosensitizer and cause free radicals (ROS).These ROS lead to even more skin redness and inflammation. Using an antioxidant serum in a noncomedogenic moisturizer can help treat acne.
Antioxidants for Rosacea
Antioxidants may help alleviate the symptoms of rosacea. In fact, some of the benefit of the prescription rosacea medication Metronidazole may be due to its antioxidant capabilities.
Underlying inflammation and oxidative stress play role in rosacea. By reducing oxidative stress, antioxidants can reduce the inflammation and redness associated with rosacea, providing a soothing effect on the skin. Look for antioxidants that also have anti-inflammatory abilities such as:
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
- Green tea extract (contains epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG)
- Resveratrol (found in grapes and wine)
- Quercetin (found in apples and onions)
- Silymarin (from milk thistle)
- Licorice extract (contains glabridin)
- Curcumin (from turmeric)
Including these antioxidants in your skin care routine or diet may provide relief from rosacea's inflammatory symptoms,
Antioxidants for skin lightening
Vitamin C is the best antioxidant ingredient to use to treat dark spots on the skin.
Types of Antioxidants
There are many types of antioxidants. Some are fat soluble while others are water soluble. Some are anti-inflammatory, while a few lighten skin. Some help prevent skin cancer. Some are strong and others are weak.
Some have special abilities:
- Vitamin C increases collagen
- Resveratrol decreases cellular senescence
- Coenzyme Q 10 and niacinamide increase cellular energy
Its best to combine many different types in your skin care routine.
Why we need many different types of antioxidants
After an antioxidant “disarms” a free radical by giving it an electron, the antioxidant no longer has an electron to give. It needs to be given more electrons or “recycled”.
When antioxidants donate an electron, they themselves can become unstable and potentially act as weak free radicals. This is where the concept of "network antioxidants" comes into play. In the body, there exists a network of antioxidants that can regenerate or recycle one another back into their active form after they've been used up. This interplay is crucial for ensuring sustained protection against oxidative stress. For instance, vitamin C can help regenerate vitamin E after it's been oxidized. Some antioxidants, like glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid, and polyphenols, are known for having multiple electrons to donate, making them particularly effective in neutralizing free radicals.
Antioxidants work synergistically to enhance the power of each other which is why you need several types of antioxidants in your skin care routine.
Fat Soluble vs Water Soluble
There are 2 main types of antioxidants:
- Fat soluble
- Water soluble.
The fat-soluble antioxidants are usually found in creams and oils. They protect the lipid-filled cell membranes. Fat soluble antioxidants include include Vitamin E (tocopherol), Carotenoids, Coenzyme Q10, idebenone, and lycopene.
Water soluble antioxidants are usually formulated in toners or serums. They protect the hydrophilic section inside the skin cells. Water soluble antioxidants found in cosmeceuticals include ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), Green tea, silymarin and glutathione.
Alpha lipoic acid is unusual in that it is both fat soluble and water soluble.
The Most Powerful Antioxidants for Skin
There is not one best antioxidant for the skin, but green tea, resveratrol, and Vitamin C have the most evidence-based research to support their use. It is best to have a combination of different types of antioxidants, both fat and water soluble.
There are several important factors to consider when looking for the best antioxidants for skin:
- Oral antioxidants (food, drink, or supplements) must be absorbed in the stomach, move to the blood stream and make it to the skin. Most do not.
- Topical antioxidants must be absorbed into the deep layers of skin and remain there long enough to target free radicals
- Many antioxidants are very unstable and become oxidized and inactive before reaching the target. Heat, light, air and other skincare ingredients can make antioxidants ineffective.
- Skincare products with antioxidants must be formulated, manufactured, and packaged to minimize air and light exposure- this is challenging and expensive.
List of Antioxidant Ingredients in Skin Care Products
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid
- Artemisia capillaris
- Camellia Japonica seed oil
- Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone)
- Coffea Arabica
- Coffeeberry Extract
- Crepidiastrum Denticulatum Extract-
- Grape Seed Extract
- Green Tea
- Polypodium Leucotomos
- Saururus chinensis also called Asian Lizard's Tail Plant or Chinese Lizard's Tail
- Ulmus Davidiana
- Vaccinium myrtillus (also called wild bilberry)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Kojic acid
Polyphenols and Flavinoids
Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and plants. Flavinoids are a type of polyphenol. Polyphenols have a strong antioxidant capacity. All polyphenols are antioxidants but not all antioxidants are polyphenols.
Retinol and Retinoids
Retinol is not an antioxidant. It is a retinoid. Retinoids are in the Vitamin A family. Retinoids are great for skin but retinoids like retinol are not antioxidants.
Best Antioxidant Skin Care Routine
You should choose products based on your Baumann Skin Type. Take the quiz and we will give you a skin care routine and a list of products that are right for you.
Best References and Scientific Publications on Antioxidants in Skin:
- Shindo Y, Witt E, Han D et al: Enzymic and non-enzymic antioxidants in epidermis and dermis of human skin. J Invest Dermatol. 102:122, 1994.
- Baumann L. Ch. 39 Antioxidants in Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology (McGraw Hill 2022).
- Baumann L. Chapters 46-54 in Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (McGraw Hill, 2015)
- Thiele JJ, Schroeter C, Hsieh SN, Podda M, Packer L. The antioxidant network of the stratum corneum. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2001;29:26-42.
- Blatt T, Mundt C, Mummert C, Maksiuk T, Wolber R, Keyhani R, Schreiner V, Hoppe U, Schachtschabel DO, Stäb F. Modulation of oxidative stresses in human aging skin. Z Gerontol Geriatr. 1999 Apr;32(2):83-8.
- Herranz-López, M., & Barrajón-Catalán, E. (2020). Antioxidants and Skin Protection. Antioxidants, 9(8), 704.
- Oresajo, C., Pillai, S., Manco, M., Yatskayer, M., & McDaniel, D. (2012). Antioxidants and the skin: understanding formulation and efficacy. Dermatologic therapy, 25(3), 252-259.
- Masaki, H. (2010). Role of antioxidants in the skin: anti-aging effects. Journal of dermatological science, 58(2), 85-90.
- Gianeti MD, Mercurio DG, Campos PM. The use of green tea extract in cosmetic formulations: not only an antioxidant active ingredient. Dermatol Ther. 2013 May-Jun;26(3):267-71.
- Baxter, R. A. (2008). Anti‐aging properties of resveratrol: review and report of a potent new antioxidant skin care formulation. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 7(1), 2-7.
- Ozaydin, D., Bektasoglu, P. K., Koyuncuoglu, T., Ozkaya, S. C., Koroglu, A. K., Akakin, D., ... & Gurer, B. (2023). Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant and Neuroprotective Effects of Niacin on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Rats. Turkish Neurosurgery.
- Bowe, W. P., Patel, N., & Logan, A. C. (2012). Acne vulgaris: the role of oxidative stress and the potential therapeutic value of local and systemic antioxidants. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: JDD, 11(6), 742-746.
- Kucharska, A., Szmurło, A., & Sińska, B. (2016). Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postępy Dermatologii i Alergologii, 33(2), 81-86.
- Popa, G. L., Mitran, C. I., Mitran, M. I., Tampa, M., Matei, C., Popa, M. I., & Georgescu, S. R. (2023). Markers of Oxidative Stress in Patients with Acne: A Literature Review. Life, 13(7), 1433.
- Dréno, B.; Dagnelie, M.A.; Khammari, A.; Corvec, S. The Skin Microbiome: A New Actor in Inflammatory Acne. Am. J. Clin. Dermatol. 2020, 21 (Suppl. S1), 18–24.
- Öztas, M. O., Balk, M., Ögüs, E., Bozkurt, M., Ögüs, I. H., & Özer, N. (2003). The role of free oxygen radicals in the aetiopathogenesis of rosacea. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 28(2), 188-192.
- Miyachi, Y. (2001). Potential antioxidant mechanism of action for metronidazole: implications for rosacea management. Advances in therapy, 18, 237-243.
- Baz, K., Cimen, M. B., Kokturk, A., Aslan, G., Ikizoglu, G., Demirseren, D. D., ... & Atik, U. (2004). Plasma reactive oxygen species activity and antioxidant potential levels in rosacea patients: correlation with seropositivity to Helicobacter pylori. International journal of dermatology, 43(7), 494-497.
- Poljšak, B., & Dahmane, R. (2012). Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging. Dermatology research and practice, 2012.
- Emerit, I. (1992). Free radicals and aging of the skin. Free radicals and aging, 328-341.