The Effects of Free Radicals on Your Skin
What Are Free Radicals?
A free radical is defined as an atom, or group of atoms, that contains an unpaired electron in an atomic orbital. This leaves free radicals to be unstable and reactive. Their molecular properties allow them to donate or accept electrons from other molecules which lets them behave as oxidants. Free radicals usually attack important macromolecules that lead to cell damage and disruption. Their major targets are usually lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins.
Where are Free Radicals Formed and Found?
Air pollution is a breeding ground for free radicals. Air pollution such as smog, cigarette smoke, and radiation generate free radicals that essentially exist alongside the polluted airways. Free radicals that live in these types of polluted atmospheres look for other electrons to become more stable. This means that they latch on to any atom they find, like human cells. As you walk through polluted airways you are increasing your chances of free radicals damaging your healthy skin cells.
Exercising is great for your mind and body, but too much of it can actually be harmful to your skin. Too much exercise can lead to an increase aerobic metabolism which can amplify the rate that free radicals are produced. When free radical production exceeds your body's natural capability to produce antioxidants, problems can occur. When you have an intense workout, you can drain up to 20 times the amount of oxygen. This oxygen is typically converted into water with the help of hydrogen, but the small remaining percentage can form free radicals that harm your skin.
UV RaysThe sun emits extremely powerful and harmful rays known as UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are commonly associated with sunburn and inflammation, whereas UVA rays contain properties more closely related to driving oxidative free radicals to damage your DNA.
How Do Free Radicals Harm Your Skin?
Free radicals chip away at your cell walls and at your DNA. As they continue to harm your cells, they eventually cause its death. This process occurs throughout your body and in every organ. It is a natural and normal process, however, if it is not tamed and controlled then the aging process and other side effects can occur more rapidly.
Aging and Acne
The Free Radical Theory of Aging has long been under discussion as to whether or not the oxidative damage that free radicals deliver to healthy cells and tissues relates to skin aging. The degeneration of proteins, collagen fibers, and cells have been linked to premature aging, pigmentation, and other conditions. Though not entirely conclusive, there is still evidence remaining around this. If not directly attributed to aging, other complimentary scenarios that produce free radicals also cause signs of aging such as UV ray damage and air pollution.
Other studies have also linked free radicals to causing acne vulgaris, the most common form of acne. Oxidative stress components like reactive oxygen species (ROS) and lipid peroxide (LPO) are to blame for their involvement in the pathogenesis and progression of acne.
Free radicals are pretty harmful, unstable and reactive, and can affect your body in many ways. Since they damage major components of your cells, such as proteins, DNA, and membranes, this poses a very serious threat to your body. Due to the reactive state of free radicals and the damage they cause to your cells, free radicals can play a major role in the development of cancer. Taking action towards extra protection against free radicals can be a life saver.
How You Can Protect Your Skin from Free Radicals
Free radicals are constantly working to complete themselves. They need other atoms in order to do so, and as they continue the process of donating and accepting atoms from your cells over time it can cause increased inflammation, making it more difficult to heal your skin. Avoiding free radicals entirely is impossible. However, your body does a good job under normal conditions of defending against free radicals by producing antioxidants.
In order to protect your skin from free radicals, you must eliminate or reduce the source of its activity. You can protect your skin from free radicals in a handful of different ways. Some are simple lifestyle choices, while others include carrying out a daily skin care regimen. Applying a generous amount of sunscreen and keeping your arms, neck, shoulders, and face covered during prolonged exposure to the sun can significantly reduce the chances of free radicals forming due to UV radiation. This can also prevent early signs of aging from both the free radicals and from the sun's harmful rays. Covering up can also protect you from air pollutants that may have free radicals latched to them. Most importantly, take care of your skin and body. Eat a clean diet and take antioxidant supplements if your meals fall short of them. Antioxidants are known as the "free radical scavenger." Antioxidants can easily neutralize free radicals, preventing them from damaging your skin cells. You should also try to have a consistent skin care regimen. A good regimen would include at minimum, a night time cleansing routine that ensures removal of all the potential free radicals, air pollutants, dead skin cells, and dirt from the day.