Monthly Article: Hot Topics in Skin Rejuvenation - What exactly are anti-oxidants?

April 15, 2006

You have undoubtedly noticed that 40, 50 and even 60 year old women with brown skin often look much younger than women of European descent.  Although this is a wonderful benefit of having brown skin, it can lull us into the false belief that women of color do not age.  Much to the contrary, our skin is also susceptible to the damaging effects of time and the environment and we must be proactive in keeping our skin in optimal health.

One of the best weapons women of color have in the fight to keep our skin rejuvenated is antioxidants. These friendly combatants are intimately involved in the prevention of cellular damage, which is the common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases including pigmentation problems.

What are antioxidants?
They are vitamins, minerals, plant derived substances and enzymes that protect the cells in our bodies from damage caused by internal and external stresses. These stressors--which may include the digestion of food, exercise, air pollution, smoking, and even sunlight--can cause our cells to release free radicals.  Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons, which try to stabilize themselves by binding to the nearest normal cell. This creates a domino effect because once the free radical attaches to a healthy cell, that cell becomes a free radical. Free radicals damage our body’s cells by reacting with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell’s membrane.

How do antioxidants protect the skin?
In the skin, free radicals specifically break down collagen and elastin tissues. This causes our skin to age prematurely and wrinkles to develop. To neutralize free radicals, the body uses antioxidants that come primarily from the food you eat. These antioxidants safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction or domino effect before vital molecules are damaged.

In our bodies, the principal antioxidants are vitamin E and vitamin C. Other antioxidants found in the body include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Beta-carotene
  • Folic acid
  • Glutathione
  • Selenium
  • Ubiquinone
  • Zinc

How does the body get antioxidants?
Our bodies cannot manufacture antioxidants. As with most nutrients, the best way to provide your body with antioxidants is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables or take vitamin supplements.  However, thanks to medical breakthroughs, these skin rejuvenators are also available in topical creams applied to the skin.  

What is the antioxidant called idebenone all about?
The antioxidant idebenone 1% is a synthetic version of ubiquinone. Ubiquinone is an antioxidant, like vitamins C and E, which helps to protect skin cells from environmental damage and the generation of free radicals. Idebenone is used to trap free radicals, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, smooth skin roughness, reduce dryness and protect skin cells from deterioration.

Idebenone 1% cream is applied twice daily to the skin. A pea-size amount is typically massaged into the face and neck, after washing and drying. You should begin to notice improvements in your skin 4-6 weeks after starting treatment. Idebenone can usually be used with other topical agents, but you should discuss this with your doctor.

Although Idebenone and other skin rejuvenating creams are generally well suited for brown skin, it is important to discuss their use with your dermatologist before you begin. Do not use a friend or family member’s cream. These medications should only be used under the supervision of a licensed professional and as part of a more holistic skin care program--which should always include an avoidance of sunlight, a balanced diet, and an ongoing routine of proper cleansing and moisturizing.

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