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Free Radicals vs. Antioxidants: an Epic Battle Waged Within Your Skin

The evidence has existed for some time now, yet few people are aware of just how damaging free radicals can be to the human body.

sunburn free radicalsThere is an epic battle being waged within the deep layers of your skin, one with the potential to affect your appearance and health for the rest of your life. Yet so many people remain blissfully unaware of the havoc being wreaked inside their bodies, blind to the buildup of enemy troops as they slowly but surely advance and inflict destruction on their cells, and deaf to the sounds of their bodies’ desperate attempts to repel the invaders before it’s too late.

These “invaders” aren’t some sort of new bacterial or viral disease; they’re much smaller and far more insidious. They’re called free radicals, and their continued buildup within the tissues of your body has been linked to premature aging, cancer and a host of other maladies in numerous scientific studies.

Many have now heard the warnings about using tanning beds and the sunscreen industry is booming, yet how many people actually understand the chemical reactions that occur inside the body when someone tans or burns. Probably not many outside of the dermatologist’s office. But it really isn’t that difficult a concept to grasp and can easily be explained in layman’s terms.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are chemically charged oxygen molecules. When free radicals enter your body, they bond molecularly with the proteins the proteins in cells, destroying the proteins in the process and causing chemical burns to the affected cells. Simply put, free radicals burn your cells. When you get sunburned at the beach, your cells are burning too. When you get a tan, your cells still burn. When you smoke, your cells burn. When you breathe in polluted air, your cells burn.

The chemical reaction caused by free radicals that destroys your body’s cells is the same reaction that occurs when iron rusts or when fruits decay when left outdoors. This reaction is called oxidation. When cells become oxidized, their DNA becomes damaged, which can lead to conditions such as skin cancer in cases where the damage is extreme, lifelong, and left untreated.

Free radicals’ link to premature aging comes from the oxidation of your body’s collagen. Collagen is the connective tissue responsible for keeping a person’s skin firm, plumped, and youthful. When free radicals destroy collagen and inhibit your body’s ability to synthesize new collagen, the result is skin that sags and wrinkles.

What are antioxidants?

As the term might imply, antioxidants are substances that counteract the oxidation process, such as citrus fruits, which contain high concentrations of the antioxidant Vitamin C.

Antioxidant vitamins for skin care

Have you ever tried preserving sliced fruits by soaking them in lemon juice? If you have, then you know that the lemon juice helps the fruit slices remain fresh longer than they would naturally. This is because the antioxidant properties of the lemon juice delay the oxidation process.

The same thing happens when you use ingredients rich in Vitamin C for skin care purposes. Vitamin C is a key component of the body’s natural ability to synthesize new collagen, and also protects existing collagen.

Vitamin E is also highly antioxidant and has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be particularly effective at reducing and in some cases even reversing the inflammation caused by free radicals as a result of sunlight overexposure. Vitamin E also has the ability to intensify the effectiveness of vitamin C when the two are combined, and the reverse is also true.

Consuming foods rich in vitamins C and E, as well as other sources of antioxidants is certainly warranted. You may wish to try organic green tea, as it delivers more antioxidants than most other types of tea, is naturally decaffeinated, and is zero calories, so you can drink it all day without keeping yourself awake all night. But absorbing antioxidant vitamins into your skin topically will be even more beneficial, since that’s where your body’s free radical accumulation is doing the most damage.

herbal bath tea - jubileeHow to infuse your skin with antioxidants

While no one is suggesting you bathe in lemon juice, you may want to try natural spa products made with the extracts of organic citrus fruits and/or list vitamins C or E as main ingredients. The following spa products may be of particular interest to you:

Herbal Bath Tea – Castle Baths’ herbal bath teas are made with organic green tea leaves and scented in your choice of seven proprietary aromatherapy essential oil blends. Try Jubilee Bath Tea for an energizing blend of pink grapefruit and bergamot – naturally rich in vitamin C.

avocado face creamAvocado Face Cream – Castle Baths’ Avocado Face Cream combines avocado oil with green tea extract, cucumber extract, and unrefined shea butter, all of which are naturally rich in antioxidants and vitamins. It was initially formulated for people who had undergone cosmetic surgery and were looking for a face cream safe to use on their healing skin, so it’s designed to be extra gentle on sensitive skin – great for if you have sunburned or sun-damaged skin!

Body Butter – Castle Baths’ body butters are extra-rich and deliver all-day moisture, plus a generous quantity of antioxidants and vitamins. Try Citrus C Body Butter or Green Tea Body Butter if you’re looking for something to help with free radicals.

dead sea mud maskDead Sea Products – Dead Sea Bath Salts and Dead Sea Mud are both excellent at detoxifying your skin’s pores (through which many sources of free radicals enter your body.) Be sure to treat your skin to regular detox sessions so you can clear out all the pollutants and toxins your skin draws in before they have a chance to oxidize and start damaging your cells.

Some final thoughts on free radicals

It is important to remember that free radicals don’t just come from outside sources. Your body produces its own free radicals as part of its natural metabolic processes. Physical exercise, while good for maintaining muscle strength and overall fitness, increases your body’s metabolism, and thus, its free radical content as well. So even if you’re super careful about sunlight exposure, you eat healthy, and you exercise regularly (which you should,) free radicals will still exist within the tissues of your body.

This is not to dishearten you from trying to eliminate them, but to remind you that regular efforts on your part to protect, rejuvenate, and detoxify your skin are necessary if you want to win not only the battle against free radical damage, but also the war.

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