Free Radicals and Acne: A Study Shows Antioxidants May Help Breakouts

September 27, 2016
By: Jackie Burns Brisman | by L'Oréal
Free Radicals and Acne: A Study Shows Antioxidants May Help Breakouts

What Are Free Radicals?

Okay, before we can explain if there is a connection between free radicals and acne, let’s get into what free radicals are in the first place. Free oxygen radicals are produced by both air pollution and UV rays—yes, yet another skin care side effect to blame on the sun. These environmental factors cause oxygen in the atmosphere to separate, creating free oxygen radicals. As our consulting dermatologist Dr. Lisa Ginn explains, oxygen is a determined romantic, always looking to be paired. When the molecule can’t find its long-lost other half, it attaches to your skin instead, breaking down the necessary fibers that give skin its firmness and bounce.

Antioxidants and Acne

According to the study published in JAMA, it’s possible that free radicals also may have a connection with acne. The open-label study set out to research the effects of free radical oxidation and utilized a topically-applied antioxidant—in this case vitamin E—on subjects with acne. Seventeen dermatology patients with mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris—this is your typical acne that can appear on the face, back, and chest—were evaluated over an eight-week period in two private dermatology practices. Their baseline skin care routine was the same—they had been using salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide—but the study supplemented that regimen with topically-applied antioxidant vitamin E in sunflower seed oil. According to the study conclusion, all patients demonstrated clinical improvement, as indicated by a reduction in the number of lesions and global mean difference.

The Importance of Antioxidants In Skin Care

While a direct link between free radicals and acne remains to be seen, the study shows the need for further discussion and exploration. Fact is, acne is considered to be one of the most common skin conditions in the United States, so learning all we can about it is of paramount importance in the skin care industry.  However, what is clear is that free radicals can have a negative effect on our skin and taking steps to shield our complexions against them—by layering antioxidants under broad-spectrum SPF each day—is a key part in a modern-day skin care routine.

Remember how we said that free radicals like to attach to the skin? Well Dr. Ginn explains that antioxidants provide a substitution mate. There are lots of formulas available with antioxidants like vitamin E—as used in the study—vitamin C, and ferulic acid, among others. Looking for a great antioxidant formulated skin care product to add to your routine? Here are some of our favorites:

  • La Roche-Posay Active C10 – An anti-wrinkle concentrate intensive formulated with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and La Roche-Posay’s Thermal Water which is rich in Vitamin E.
  • SkinCeuticals’ CE Ferulic – A serum with a cult-following in the beauty industry—editors and experts alike swear by it! Formulated with an antioxidant combination of pure vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid to help strengthen skin’s natural barrier function and protect it from free radicals.
  • Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate – This anti-wrinkle concentrate is formulated with vitamin C to help improve skin’s texture, tone, and radiance.

Are free radicals connected to acne? We’re sure we’ll find out more soon. Are we going to layer on the antioxidants and the SPF in the meantime? Absolutely. 

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