- Advertisement information: this post discusses items gifted to me with no obligation to share them (marked *). In addition I have / have had a brand relationship with Deciem / the Ordinary, Feel Unique and QVC (gifting) and Space NK and the Inkey List (paid advertorial content). My blog has Skimlinks and RewardStyle installed to automatically monetise purchases of products I link on my blog, therefore this post may contain affiliate links. All opinions remain my own and please refer to my Disclosure Page for further detail -
Ok, so everyone knows about Vitamin C and Vitamin A (AKA retinoids), but what about other powerful antioxidants? And - to pedal back a little - what even is an antioxidant and why should you be using this type of ingredient in your routine? Keep reading to find out...
Put simply, there's a concept that a major contributor towards skin ageing is free radical damage from your environment (though the body does generate its own free radicals too). What is a free radical? It's an unstable molecule that's missing an electron so tries to steal one from stable molecules to make its own pair. This oxidative stress can cause damage to your skin cells. Antioxidants can neutralise free radicals because they're stable enough to sacrifice some of their own electrons. I'm sure you know that fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants for your body when eaten, and plant-based ingredients can offer that effect when applied topically. However, cosmetic science has really refined antioxidants to be as effective as possible.
If you're like me and you live in the city, you're probably exposing your skin to a lot of free radical damage through pollution, so antioxidants are crucial in the fight against premature ageing. Additionally, studies show that antioxidants work synergistically with your sunscreen to boost the efficacy of both and give you maximised well-ageing benefits. For this reason, amongst others, it's a good idea to put antioxidants in your AM routine.
Not really! The only thing I'd note is that they shouldn't be used in the same skincare routine as leave-on benzoyl peroxide (a common anti-acne ingredients), because that ingredient carries more oxygen into the skin cells, so combining them can compromise the efficacy of both. You could potentially use your benzoyl peroxide in a face wash, just make sure you leave it for a bit to work and then apply your antioxidant later.
Let's dive into some ingredients and products. The first antioxidant I want to shout out is pycnogenol, which I don't think gets the hype it deserves. It's derived from a specific pine bark and there hasn't been a ton of research on it yet, but a good idea to try it out with minimal risk is to pick up something like the Ordinary's Pycnogenol 5% | £8.60 | full review. This suspends the ingredient in propanediol for a powerful hit of the ingredient that makes my skin look healthy and radiant. Another option is to find a product that combines it with other promising antioxidants. For that, Niod's Survival 0 | £22 | fits the bill perfectly. Alongside pycnogenol it features superoxide dismutase and some of the extracts I've mentioned that are rich in antioxidants, like algae.
Another very effective antioxidant is resveratrol, derived from grape skins. If you have a dry skin type, I recommend checking out the Korres Santorini Grape Velvet Skin Drink* | £30. This pairs resveratrol alongside grape extract and oil, but this is a very lightweight oil; I can personally wear it during the daytime under moisturiser. It's really gentle and moisturising for a glow boost and to get those antioxidants. You can also use some antioxidants overnight, as they can remain active hours and hours later. If you're not fond of the idea of an oil, try Caudalie's Resveratrol Lift Firming Cream Night* | £44. For me personally, this wasn't quite rich enough as a night cream during winter, but if you're not as dry as me: give it a go. Or the Ordinary's Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%* | £7.70 | full review | is another option (though, again, it's more of an oil), which stabilises and boosts the ingredient with another antioxidant: ferulic acid. This ingredient isn't often seen on its own, but it's regularly used to support the work of other antioxidants.
Next, I want to talk about coQ10, which my first exposure to was honestly via corny L'Oreal adverts claiming it's the secret to anti-ageing. It occurs naturally in the body and in many of the foods we eat and it's a powerful antioxidant. Your product should have a yellowish tone to it if it's formulated with Q10. It gives my skin such a healthy, radiant look; kind of like I'm cheating a good skin day! I first discovered it through the Inkey List's Q10 Serum | £4.99 | full review | which is really affordable, plus well-rounded with other hydrating and skin-conditioning ingredients. If you're a facial oil person (like me!) then check out the Face Gym Coach Lifting Q10 + Mastic Tree Enzymatically-Activated Face Oil* | £50 | full review. Again, this is more something I reach for overnight but you can still reap the benefits the following morning, and realistically my AM skincare routine will also contain antioxidants, so it's really just beefing up their role in my routine.
Often in a supporting role (it helps stabilise Vitamin C), but also a star on its own, we have Vitamin E. Ideally, you want tocopherol (not a derivative like acetate). This is a fatty antioxidant so can be soothing and nourishing for the skin, particularly when combined with other replenishing ingredients. A product I've been using for years is the Alpha-H Vitamin E Serum* | £44 (for full size) | though it's been through a few iterations in that time. It's like instant strengthening calm for my skin! As I mentioned, Vitamin E is oil-based so it's not uncommon for it to come in oil form. The SVR Ampoule Protect Vitamin E Shield SPF 30* | £35 | combines the antioxidant with sunscreen in a moisturising base. This is such a great everyday sunscreen during the winter months when your skin is in need of the extra nourishment.
Lastly, I wanted to shout out B Vitamins. Probably the most famous is niacinamide (which I've covered in depth here) and it has a bunch of skin benefits, but one of them is that it's an antioxidant. Another B vitamin is panthenol, which is amazing for soothing and hydrating the skin, alongside being an antioxidant. My preference is to go for blends of B vitamins that combine all of their benefits in a formula that's friendly to my skin barrier and really ensures I get maximum antioxidant benefits. I really loved both the Venn B Activated All-in-One Concentrate* | £155 | and the Zelens Power B* | £85 | and reviews of both lines are in the works...
Do you use antioxidants in your skincare routine?