Why Your Skin Needs Antioxidants

In recent years, the term antioxidants has become a ubiquitous beauty buzzword — but do you know exactly what these superheroes do for your skin?

In a nutshell, these reactive molecules neutralize the DNA-damaging free radicals that are constantly threatening your healthy complexion. Here’s a rundown of the antioxidant roster — and how to get more of these powerful allies onto your skincare squad.

Antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, sources of vitamins C and A found in SLMD Skincare Retinol Serum

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances that guard against oxidative stress. If you’ve ever cut open an apple and watched it turn brown, that’s oxidation. What’s happening on a micro level is that your skin cells are being damaged by free radicals — unstable molecules found in your body and the environment that set off hazardous chain reactions.

On a macro level, this manifests as lackluster skin that’s prone to premature aging, and even skin cancer.

Enter antioxidants: molecules that neutralize free radicals before they can do their oxidative damage.

What do antioxidants do for skin?

Gobbling up free radicals is great — but what exactly does that mean for your complexion? Here’s the highlight reel of antioxidant skin benefits:

  • Prevent and treat hyperpigmentation: antioxidants protect against free radicals and UV exposure that triggers melanin production
  • Slow down skin aging: antioxidants prevent the oxidative stress that slows down collagen production
  • Protect against sun damage: antioxidants block free radicals from the sun and soothe inflammation from UV exposure
  • Strengthen skin’s barrier function: antioxidants prevent skin cell damage, improving the integrity of its structure

What are the best antioxidants?

Vitamin C

On the label: L-ascorbic acid, ethyl ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl (THD) ascorbate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate
Found in: citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi, kale
Concerns: hyperpigmentation, dullness, fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage
Skin type: oily, combination, normal, acne prone, aging; more reactive forms may irritate dry or sensitive skin
Usage: morning and/or evening
Regimen: combines well with vitamin E, ferulic acid, niacinamide; perform a patch test when combining with vitamin A (retinoids)
Oranges containing antioxidants found in Bright Future Vitamin C Serum by SLMD Skincare


On the label: vitamin B3, niacin, nicotinic acid
Found in: poultry, tuna, salmon, peanuts, avocado, brown rice, whole wheat
Concerns: hyperpigmentation, excess oil, dullness, damaged skin barrier
Skin type: dry, oily, combination, normal, acne prone, aging
Usage: morning and/or evening
Regimen: combines well with other active ingredients, including antioxidants and acne fighters

Vitamin E

On the labeltocopherol, tocopheryl acetate, vitamin E acetate
Found inplant-based oils, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin, asparagus, avocado
Concernshyperpigmentation, sun damage, dryness
Skin typedry, normal, sensitive, aging; avoid if oily or acne prone
Usagemorning and/or evening
Regimen: combines well with other antioxidants, especially vitamin C

Vitamin A

On the labelretinoid, retinol, retinoic acid, tretinoin
Found inliver, salmon, cheese, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach
Concernsacne, fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dullness
Skin typenormal, oily, combination, acne prone, aging; may irritate dry or sensitive skin
Usageevening only; do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding
Regimen: use sunscreen during the day, perform a patch test if combining with vitamin C


On the labelresveratrol
Found inred wine, red grape skins, berry skins, dark chocolate, peanuts
Concernsredness and inflammation, sun damage, uneven skin tone, damaged skin barrier
Skin typenormal, oily, combination, acne prone, aging; may irritate dry or sensitive skin
Usagemorning or evening
Regimen: combines well with other antioxidants, especially ferulic acid
Daily Bright Radiance Cleanser, All Bright Niacinamide Brightening Toner, Bright Future Vitamin C Serum by SLMD Skincare

What skincare products contain antioxidants?

These days, it’s easy to find antioxidants in everything from serums to sunscreen — but not all products are equally potent. In order to work, these free radical fighters must be absorbed into the skin; how well this happens depends on the formulation.

Complicating matters is the fact that antioxidants, by their very nature, are fairly fragile. They’re reactive and relatively easily degraded by light, changes in temperature, and exposure to air — another reason formulations (as well as proper packaging) are key.

Dr. Sandra Lee has formulated several of her SLMD Skincare products with stable, effective combinations of potent antioxidants:

  • SLMD Skincare Retinol Serum features a time-release duo of vitamins A and C to simultaneously speed cell turnover and brighten skin while you sleep.
  • SLMD Skincare Daily Bright is a cleanser packed with brightening enzymes and powerful antioxidants that leaves skin looking healthier and feeling smoother.
  • SLMD Skincare All Bright Toner combines clinically proven antioxidants like niacinamide, vitamin C, and resveratrol, to visibly brighten and tighten, exfoliate, and smooth.
  • SLMD Skincare Bright Future is a potent serum formulated with gold standard antioxidants ascorbic acid, niacinamide, ferulic acid, and hyaluronic acid, to visibly plump and firm while minimizing the appearance of pores, wrinkles, and dark spots.

Dr. Lee’s last word

Antioxidants are essential for preventing the damaging chain reactions that happen when skin is attacked by free radicals. I recommend that patients incorporate antioxidants into their diet, with fresh fruits and veggies, and into their skincare routine — with potent ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol, and ferulic acid.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


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