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Free radicals: The biggest enemy of healthy skin

Oh! My skin is losing its integrity and youthfulness.


Free radicals, you might have heard this term many times. This has now become the center of attraction. Either health-related talk or skincare related, this term is in every discussion. Besides the fact that limited free radicals formation is necessary for being healthy, it is the worst enemy of health.

Talking in the context for skin, it is not at all good in any means. This is the reason dermatologists recommend you to shield your skin with broad-spectrum sunscreen, repair using vitamin C serum, and nurture your body with healthy food choices.

Do you know about these harmful molecules? OR Your mind is swirling with lots of questions regarding this far-famed term? If you don't know and think it is a waste of time to explore it, then you must take a look at the detrimental effects it can lead to!

Free radicals are the unwanted guests in the body, which can adversely impact the kidneys, liver, joints, brain and skin. Free radicals change your healthy skin into dull, fine lines and wrinkles filled skin. You need to revive it. Let's start a journey to know these unwelcome invitee:

What are free radicals?


According to the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, “These are atoms or molecules with one or more unpaired electrons.

Let's understand it in the simplest way: As we know our body is made up of atoms. Atoms contain electrons along with two more particles. Electrons are happy to live in pairs. 

When paired electrons lose their partner, it gives rise to a condition called free radicals. These  radicals search for an electron to become a pair again. This chain goes on and on, which can bring a detrimental change in body.

However, if the body is enriched with adequate levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that aid in neutralizing the free radicals and help to terminate the chain. But, in the situation when the number of free radicals become high and the body has not ample of antioxidants to fight against it, the situations become out of control.

What is oxidative stress?

When overburden of free radicals are unable to neutralize or demolish, their stockpile in the body develops a condition called oxidative stress. Excessive oxidative stress leads to affect the lipids, proteins and nucleic acids normal structure and function. This further can lead to many health problems.


In skin, the free radical damage resulting from sun can damage the DNA, collagen and lead to premature skin aging and hyperpigmentation. Let's explore more how are free radicals formed:

What causes free radicals?


These unstable molecules in the skin are the outcome of various processes. Some of the most common one are internal metabolism, harmful sun rays, pollution, smoking, ionizing radiations, alcohol intake, wrong eating habits, intense psychological and physical stress. Some of the reasons might be pretty obvious, but may create a doubt in your mind.

Let's explore about these causes of free radicals in little deep:

  • Sun

Sun is the biggest source of heat and vitamin D. However, this is also known for another major reason and that is harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays are the major cause behind this. In moderation, these rays don't lead to any detrimental consequence.


However, a constant contact with intense sun rays can cause a deep long lasting negative impact on your skin. If you roam frequently and for long hours under the sun, without using any protection then the UVA and UVB rays can penetrate through your skin.

These rays turn a healthy skin into photo-aged (photoaging) and dull skin by destructing the skin collagen, affecting DNA configuration, weakening skin elasticity and enhancing transepidermal water loss. You can read here more about how sun affects the skin.

Various gases, industrial/household chemicals and metal ions in the air by stealing electrons from your body and skin forms these molecules. These free radicals lead to cellular damage and increase the aging process.

These air pollutants lead to skin aging and make skin dull, wrinkled and arid. Your skin left lifeless. Therefore, air pollution and skin holds a significant negative relationship.

  • Ionizing Radiations 

Ionizing radiations from medical, man-made sources, space exploration and environment have a great impact upon human skin and overall health.

Radiation directly damages the skin and other cells via ionizing DNA and creating other cellular damage. Intense exposure to these radiations leads to oxygen-derived unstable molecules. This also causes great damage to the body.

  • Diet 

    Fast food, refined and processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, frozen foods and sugary sweets, these all foods are high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat and some of high-sodium foods. Such foods are known as highly processed energy dense and palatable foods. These foods require high energy to metabolize. Due to high intake of such foods, your body starts making the unstable molecules in excess.

    These further disturbs your stomach and digestive system, which indirectly impact your skin. Your skin becomes more prone to breakout, excessive oil production and unevenness. This is the reason, it is always advised to avoid such food in daily life.

    • Alcohol

    Alcohol is also found to be bad for your overall health and skin. The reason behind this is also the free radicals. Ethanol present in the alcohol is associated with generation of oxidative stress in the body. Free radical mechanism in this context is the ethanol metabolism. 

    This leads to both reactive nitrogen species (RNS) and reactive oxygen species (ROS).

    • Smoking

      Tobacco smoking is one of the harmful events. This is extensively associated with free radicals formation. This contains two different populations of unstable molecules: One in gas form and other in tar form. The toxins, toxic fumes and mutagenic chemicals, all together make cigarette smoking a dangerous act for healthy body and skin.

      • Physical/Psychological Stress

      Psychological stress involves the stress created from emotional pressure and strain. On the other hand, physical stress involves the stress originated from exercise, health problems like upset stomach, nausea, pain or aches. These both forms of stress also have a significant impact upon health. These stresses are also known to generate short-term free radicals.

      • Metabolism

      Free radicals are produced on a regular basis in the cells. One of the major reasons is the metabolism of nutrients. These are generated as by-products of metabolism. The reactants that form free radicals are oxygen and its radical derivatives (hydroxyl and superoxide), transition metals and hydrogen peroxide.

      These are the major reasons which lead to free radicals in the skin and body. In order to protect yourself from the free radicals, you need to consider these causes. As these are day to day routines or habits we follow. 

      Our one mistake can fill our body with free radicals. So, let's explore how it impacts our body, skin, hair and we can protect ourselves from these. But, before knowing these, let's take a look, what different types of free radicals your body meets on a daily basis.

      Types of free radicals

      There are many forms of free radicals that can be produced in the body. The major type is oxygen-derived free radicals. These are also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). Other than this, free radicals of other atoms can also be formed, such as, carbon free radicals, nitrogen free radicals, and sulfur free radicals.

      Positive effects of free radicals in the body

      ROS and RNS at low concentrations are found to be important for cellular structure (cell membranes) functioning and robust host defense (immune) systems. The phagocytes (cells that ingest foreign particles) release free radicals to demolish the pathogens and prevent the body from the infections.

      Other than these, these free radicals also involve certain physiological roles. For instance, nitric oxide is necessary for neural activity, thrombosis and normal blood flow. However, their number in the body more than it requires is always harmful.

      Deleterious effects of free radicals in the skin

      Free radicals lead to various degenerative changes in the skin, which leads to cutaneous aging.

      The major reasons that lead to free radicals generation in the skin are overheating, UV rays , pollutants, internal metabolism, ionizing radiation or poor nutrition. The UV rays contribute maximum (80%) in this context. This is the reason, it is advice to protect your skin from sun rays.


      • The skin loaded with free radicals tends to be more thinner, elastic, dull, filled with age spots, black spots, blemishes and unevenness.
      • Your skin feels dehydrated, luminosity and firmness reduced, enlarged open pores, wrinkles and fine lines tend to appear.
      • Overall, your skin lost its energy, robustness and liveliness.

      Deleterious effects of free radicals in the body

      Free radicals not only affect the skin, but also the overall body. Free radicals seriously impact the structure of cells and tissues. Oxidative stress tends to affect various body organs and become a major reason behind chronic diseases.


      • Cardiovascular Health

      Oxidative stress is associated with cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, cardiomyopathy, atherosclerosis, ischemia and cardiac hypertrophy.

      • Joints

      RNS and ROS free radicals significantly lead to inflammation, increased synovial fluid and other components which can become the reason for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

      • Eye Health

      Oxidative stress can also affect the health of eyes. It is significantly associated with age-related macular degeneration. Also, free radicals cause cross-link and aggregate the crystalline proteins present in the retina. This problem can cause cataracts.

      • Brain Health

      Oxidative stress also tends to be associated with problems like Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative problems.

      Therefore, always keep a check on your body. Avoid the causes which can fill your body with excess of free radicals. Let's explore these ways in detail:

      How to reduce free radicals in the body?

      • Free radicals and antioxidants: The basic science is to enrich the body with antioxidants against oxidative stress in the body. For this, you must need to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

      A healthy lifestyle include:

      • Exercise everyday:

      Daily exercise helps to remove all the toxins and harmful chemicals from the body in the form of sweating. It prevents the body from forming free radicals.

      • Avoid bad eating habits

      Avoid consuming fast food, junk food or oily,sugary food on a daily basis. It prevents your body from producing oxidative stress in excessive quantities.


        One of the best methods to enrich the body with antioxidants is to eat antioxidant fruits and vegetables. Foods high in antioxidants provide you the adequate amount of antioxidant for the long term your body requires. Also, consume foods that help to raise your immunity (beta-carotene, spinach, ginger and yogurt). Therefore, must eat such foods on a daily basis as it will give you the backup to fight against free radicals.

        How to protect skin from free radicals?

        Skin is the most beautiful and essential part of the body. It is affected both by external and internal free radicals bombarding. There is no doubt that you need to take antioxidant foods and should do regular exercise. This will definitely exert a positive impact on your skin as well.

        But, what about the external causes which produce oxidative stress? To protect skin from the harmful enemies like pollutants and UV rays, you must need good and suitable skin care products. Let's explore what skin care essential you need to protect your skin from the free radicals:

        • Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen

          Sunscreen is the best product required by your skin. It shields your skin from the harmful UV, IR rays and blue light. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will provide you the overall protection from the sun and oxidative stress. It is necessary to include a sunscreen into your skincare routine.

          Is your sunscreen an antioxidant sunscreen? If it only gives you SPF protection, then you need to think again on your sunscreen. Think and wisely choose your sun protection.


            Vitamin C serum is the next skin care essential that is needed by your skin. It will help to repair your skin from the damage done by oxidative stress. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. 

            It significantly acts upon free radicals, reduced collagen and hyperpigmentation. Along with consuming vitamin C rich foods, also apply vitamin C serum on a daily basis.


            Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is also a potent antioxidant that hinders the production of free radicals when fat goes through oxidation. 

            This significantly helps to inhibit lipid peroxidation and lowers the risk of associated diseases. Also, include vitamin E in your skin routine. Use vitamin E embedded skin creams and home remedies.

            • Antioxidant Supplementation

            Along with antioxidant food we eat, you can also include antioxidant supplements in your daily routine. This will not only enrich your body with required antioxidants and prevent infections, but also improves your overall skin complexion.


            L-Glutathione & Vitamin C effervescent tablets are the best antioxidant supplements (dietary supplements) that provide your body relief from unstable molecules. Along with providing antioxidants, this glutathione and vitamin C combination also helps in improving your skin evenness, reducing hyperpigmentation, age spots and enhances skin elasticity.

            • Collagen Rich Foods

              Collagen is an essential component of the skin. Oxidative stress significantly affects your skin collagen structure and function. Consumption of collagen rich food can help you to retain your collagen levels. This will further help to bring back your skin liveliness and youthfulness.

              Make these changes into your skin care routine and lifestyle and fights of body and skin biggest enemy, free radicals. Free radicals are harmful, but with the help of antioxidants you can beat them. Work upon your shortcomings and give your skin and body a beautiful health. 


              What are free radicals in the body?

              These are unstable molecules, majorly oxygen, nitrogen or carbon-derived, which in excess levels can cause harmful effects in the body and skin.

              What destroys free radicals in the body?

              Antioxidants are the solution for free radicals. These molecules donate an electron to unstable molecules and neutralize them.  

              What foods are high in free radicals?

              Red meat, alcohol, processed foods, refined sugar and carbohydrates and high fatty cooking oils.

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