Examine the skin on the inside of your upper arm; then look at your face. Which skin is firmer, clearer, softer, and younger-looking? Most likely, the skin on the inner portion of your upper arm. Why? Because it has been better protected against sunlight and environmental pollutants which cause skin to lose its youthful qualities after years and years of exposure. Beyond environmental factors, normal body functions, like metabolism and breathing, and especially increased oxidation during exercise lead to the development of excess levels of renegade free radicals that form on the skin and attack healthy cells, leading to premature aging.

Free radicals break down collagen, the “glue” that holds skin together, makes it firm, and preserves its wrinkle-free quality for as long as possible. Collagen also gives the skin resilience, lessening the likelihood of wrinkles.

In the worst cases, free radicals can run amuck and permanently damage skin cells, causing blotches, or even skin cancer.

Antioxidants combat aging by undermining free radicals

To combat the damage inflicted by these powerful attacks, your body produces antioxidants to absorb or transfer the energy from free radicals to neutralize or counteract aging factors. As an added protection from the environmental attacks of free radicals, your skin produces more antioxidants on the surface of your body than on lower skin layers. In other words, your body tries to produce a natural barricade against this continual attack.

Your skin also tries to protect itself by thickening the epidermal, or surface, layers. This barrier soon appears as scaly blotches or darkly-pigmented “age” spots. As skin thickens, it also looks coarse and loses its luminescence, creating an overall drab and lifeless appearance.

In response to the increase in environmental pollution and the thinning of the earth’s protective ozone layer, your skin’s defensive abilities can get overburdened. Your body may not be able to manufacture sufficient quantities of antioxidants to protect your skin from the increasing environmental onslaught.

Consuming antioxidant-rich foods (i.e., oranges, apricots, broccoli, carrots, cantaloupe, garlic) can help protect your “life-supporting” organs, including the skin (our largest organ), against cancer-causing environmental hazards. In addition, antioxidant supplements and the new antioxidant serums and creams, some with vitamin C, applied directly to your skin, can help prevent sun damage, reverse the effects of free radicals, and, for some, even repair skin.

Vitamin C – the skin defender

Until recently, researchers could not find a way for vitamin C to penetrate the skin. Now, however, new, concentrated, topically-applied vitamin C creams have been shown to reach through to the dermal mantle where the fusion of collagen takes place. Working at the cellular level, vitamin C helps rebuild the skin fibers and restore weakened collagen. As cells bind together, your skin looks plump and smooth.

Vitamin C topical creams keep the rays at bay

As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C also appears to prevent sun damage, even after sun exposure. Because vitamin C helps break the chain of destruction caused by the sun-induced free radicals, this vitamin helps to halt, or slow, skin damage. In addition, because vitamin C is absorbed into your skin, neither water activities nor perspiration can wash it off.

A variety of vitamin C serums or creams can act as a weak sunscreen helper, although not strong enough by themselves to protect fully against UVA or UVB rays. The vitamin also chemically reacts to ultraviolet light, creating an anti-inflammatory interaction, helping reduce one of the worst effects of the sun – sunburn.

Although some scientists dispute the value of vitamin C in skin creams, other researchers claim that low concentrations can protect skin, reduce photoaging (“age spots” caused by the sun), and help to reverse wrinkling. Many others agree that this antioxidant vitamin can help protect the skin long enough to give it a chance to heal and repair itself.

Highly-concentrated vitamin C can irritate the skin. Never use your own concoctions. Use high-quality, natural, non-irritating, hypoallergenic products. When possible, sample the product right in the store, on a small area on your hand or arm, before you buy.