Antioxidants Are Everywhere in Skincare, But What Do They Actually Do?

Antioxidants are one of those terms we hear over and over again and assume is good for us (it sure sounds impressive) without really knowing why. It’s true: Antioxidants are extremely beneficial and are found in most skincare for good reason. And it’s always helpful to understand exactly what these common terms actually mean (and the scientific evidence behind why they work) so you can reap the benefits for your own specific skin concerns. Read on for an easy-to-understand guide on antioxidants and the best ones to incorporate into your routine. 

What Are Antioxidants and How Do They Neutralize Free Radicals?

First, let’s break the term “antioxidant” down. It’s—quite literally—a substance that prevents oxidation. Without getting too science-y on you, oxidation occurs when a compound loses electrons and creates a chemical reaction—and we don’t want that (more on why below). Antioxidants can be found in nature—and probably your very own kitchen—as they’re stored in things like dark chocolate, green tea, nuts, avocados, salmon, and red wine. You’ll find loads of antioxidants in berries as well, which is why we included berry leaf extract in our Microcrystal Exfoliator. 

Antioxidants are especially helpful because of their ability to neutralize free radicals, which are unstable molecules produced by the body in response to environmental triggers such as sunlight, cigarette smoke, and pollution. Free radicals have unpaired electrons (meaning they’re missing one), which makes them chemically reactive. Antioxidants “donate” electrons to free radicals, neutralizing them and preventing a chemical reaction from occurring (more on what that means for your skin next).  

The Benefits of Antioxidants in Skincare

Remember: Free radicals are missing an electron. In their mission to complete a pair, they latch onto our cells and steal electrons (that’s the oxidation we were referring to earlier). Similarly to how apples turn brown when left out on the counter, which is an example of oxidative stress, this process creates lasting damage to our entire body’s DNA, proteins, and cells.

When it comes to skin health, free radicals are particularly damaging because they break down collagen (which is one of the essential building blocks of healthy, youthful skin). This, in turn, can cause premature aging (like wrinkles and sagging skin), inflammation (which leads to breakouts and other flare ups), uneven tone, and a rough texture.

By incorporating antioxidants into your skincare routine, you can help prevent and repair this damage. Back to that apple: Have you ever tried squeezing lemon juice to prevent it from turning brown? That’s an example of antioxidants (which are found in citrus fruits—vitamin C, anyone?) at work. This is also a major reason why SPF and antioxidants work so well as a pair; when formulated together, this duo’s ability to protect the skin is amplified. Our Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen is loaded with antioxidants to not only protect the skin from UV damage, but also fight off environmental and electronic pollution (like blue light damage from screen time). 

What Antioxidants Should I Use?

While all antioxidants combat free radicals, each specific one comes with its own particular perks. Here are some of the most beneficial antioxidants to look out for when shopping skincare:

Vitamin C
Known as a skin-brightening all star, this antioxidant not only brightens dark spots and evens out skin tone, but it also encourages collagen synthesis—keeping skin’s barrier strong, firm, and plump. Much of our lineup includes vitamin C, but Found the Light is a great pick that allows you to add a dose of this antioxidant to any of your other creams, gels, and serums.

Sea Buckthorn Extract 
The combo of antioxidants found in this plant extract, including vitamin A and E, makes this ingredient (also referred to as seaberry) a triple threat for brightening, restoring, and protecting the skin’s barrier. Find it as a hero in the oil-phase of our Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum.

This calming antioxidant does it all, from minimizing the appearance of pores to soothing inflammation, making it especially beneficial for those with acne-prone skin. Reap its benefits by adding a few drops of our Clarifying Serum to your regimen.

Vitamin A
AKA, retinol, which we all know is a hero ingredient when it comes to slowing down signs of aging. It promotes growth and repairs tissues, while also boosting collagen and skin cell turnover to create a smooth, clear, youthful complexion. Microencapsulated retinol and natural retinol alternatives are what makes Press Restart a preventative and a reparative choice when it comes to aging, uneven texture, and acne—all without irritating the skin.

Moringa Seed Extract
The moringa plant is filled with antioxidants that fight off free radicals; it’s ability to prevent pollution particles from adhering to skin makes it especially beneficial when it comes to protection from the elements. Moringa seed extract is what gives our Daily Mineral Sunscreen its 360 protection—including against environmental damage. 

Vitamin E
Vitamin E protects the skin from damage while also conditioning skin’s texture. That’s one of the reasons it’s included in many serums, moisturizers, and creams, like Skin Soak, which has its own set of fringe benefits for aging skin. Marula oil, found in our 
Gentle Cycle Milky Cleanser, is a lightweight oil packed with vitamin E (plus fatty and amino acids). 


Shop some of our favorite antioxidant-filled products below.