Our skin often serves as a reflection of our personal health. But so few of us understand why.

One of the biggest factors that can cause our skin to change and become damaged are free radicals. You may have heard of them before, but what are they exactly and how do they damage skin?

In this article, we’ll explore what free radicals are and 4 ways they cause damage to the skin.


What Are Free Radicals?

To figure out how to get rid of free radicals, it’s important to understand what they are. So, let’s begin with a little chemistry lesson.

Our bodies, like everything else in this world, contain molecules. Atoms, as you may already know, make up molecules. In fact, millions and millions of them are constantly floating around in our bodies.

As molecules move and support our organs and cells, they come into contact with other atoms. Molecules, especially their electrons, are always working to pair with other atoms. This is how they function and thrive.

Oxygen is one of the elements our bodies come into constant contact with. During chemical processes, like metabolism, our molecules bind with oxygen atoms. This causes them to lose an electron with nowhere to go – unless they can find another molecule to bind with.

These incomplete and unstable electrons are otherwise known as free radicals. As they hunt for atoms to pair with, they cause damage to the body.


The Dangers of Free Radicals

Free radicals are the byproducts of several chemical processes essential to our survival. So, it’s only natural that our bodies contain them.

But things like smoking, poor diet, the sun, and even pollution can produce free radicals. The problem is when there are too many of them circulating throughout our bodies.

Dangerous levels of free radicals can cause our bodies to go into overdrive. They inflict cellular damage that our bodies can’t keep up with. The body’s inflammatory responses go haywire as a result.

This can all lead to the development of several diseases, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s
  • Arthritis
  • Lupus

It can take years of constant oxidative stress for these diseases to develop. But so often the initial damage reflects on our skin.


How Do Free Radicals Damage Skin?

Free radicals are always looking to pair with other atoms, so they’ll often resort to our skin cells first. As they do this, they essentially nick and chip away at the cell membrane.

When the cell barrier doesn’t function well, molecules aren’t able to flow in and out of the cells properly. Skin cells don’t receive adequate oxygen and nutrients. They aren’t able to retain enough water and the fibers that make up the cell break down.

All these factors damage skin by causing skin cells to die. When there are too many free radicals and damaged skin cells, the body is often not able to repair them fast enough. The damage reflects in the following 4 ways:


1. Skin Color Changes

As skin cell membranes deteriorate, this causes them to lose their natural pigmentation. The skin will appear more uneven in tone. Malnourished, dehydrated skin cells will also cause the skin to appear dull.

In areas with excessive skin cell damage, pigmented spots will often appear. This damage can even lead to broken blood vessels that appear on the skin, as well.


2. Saggy Skin

Skin cells are naturally made up of collagen fibers. Collagen is what gives our skin a full, smooth, and firmer appearance. But when free radicals chip away at skin cells, they break down these collagen fibers.

The skin begins to sag and loses its elasticity when its collagen makeup breaks down. Often these cells aren’t able to receive enough water to repair their collagen fibers. This leads to further sagging, and even cellulite and skin dimpling.


3. Aging & Wrinkles

As free radicals destroy collagen fibers in our skin, the signs of aging begin to show. Wrinkles and creases start to form. The skin can even change in texture, appearing rougher and drier.

The correlation between free radical damage and skin aging is strong. There’s even something known as the free radical theory of aging. We’ll break it down for you.

When free radicals attempt to bind with skin cells, they damage our DNA in the process. As this damage adds up, our DNA alters and causes us to age faster.


4. Blemishes

Not only do free radicals damage skin by causing it to age faster. When there’s an excessive amount of dead skin cells, they can clog up our pores, causing blemishes as a result.

Our bodies can also produce blemishes because of inflammation. The more stress our bodies are under, the more blemishes it may produce in response.

Our natural hormonal processes may even go off kilter as the result of inflammation. This can lead to oilier skin, which can cause more blemishes, too.


How to Reduce Free Radicals in the Body

If you’re worried about how to get rid of free radicals, you’re in luck!

There are lots of ways you can combat free radical damage and make your skin healthier and glowing again.


Your Skincare Regimen

Your skin cells need plenty of water and nourishment to thrive against free radicals. Start with a good moisturizer. Look for one that contains vitamins A, E, and C.

Avoid skincare products (and even hair products) with parabens and other harmful chemicals. The fewer toxins, the better.

To help fight against wrinkles and skin cancer, wear sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15. Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun.


Your Lifestyle

What you eat and how you live will affect how many free radicals there are in your body. Eating foods rich in antioxidants can reduce the number of free radicals in your body. Blueberries, cherries, and beets are some examples of foods that contain antioxidants.

Make sure to include other healthy super foods that are rich in protein and other nutrients. The more protein your skin cells receive, the stronger their membranes will be.

If you’re a smoker, the state of your skin is all the more reason to quit. It’s no secret that smoking leads to wrinkles and duller-looking skin.

Last but not least, it’s important to get plenty of exercise. Exercising not only reduces stress. It can help you improve your skin’s elasticity and the appearance of cellulite, as well.


The Path to Healthier & Younger Skin

We may not always think about the molecules and skin cells that make up our bodies. But by understanding how free radicals damage skin, we can keep our youth and radiant glow.

Fighting free radical damage all begins with your lifestyle. For more inspiration, check out our health blog today!

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