Free Radicals: What Are They and Why Are They Bad for Your Skin?

September 09, 2020
By: | by L'Oréal
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Even though we’re huge makeup lovers here at, we’re also really big skin-care enthusiasts. That’s because we believe that a beautiful makeup look starts with a healthy, radiant, even and smooth-looking complexion. After hearing about free radicals, though, we learned they can wreak serious havoc on your skin. Ahead, Boston-based dermatologist Emmy Graber, M.D., explains what free radicals are and how you can keep them from affecting your complexion.

What Are Free Radicals?

Get ready for a science lesson: Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that can be caused by environmental aggressors such as pollution, cigarette smoke and radiation. Molecules are made of atoms and atoms are made from pairs of electrons. When an atom is missing an electron, that’s when you have a free radical. These unstable molecules look to pair with a missing electron and in doing so, they can latch onto your skin. When your skin gets exposed to an accumulation of free radicals, oxidative stress happens. Oxidative stress can induce damage to your skin cells that can show up on your complexion. 

What Does Free Radical Damage Look Like?

Skin damage done by free radicals may appear in several forms, including changes in skin color, such as in brown spots and broken blood vessels, and loose skin that’s caused by damaged elastic fibers. Free radicals can also break down the skin’s collagen and create fine lines and wrinkles. 

How Can I Stop Free Radicals From Harming My Skin?

The best way to stop free radicals from harming your skin is by incorporating antioxidants into your daily routine. Antioxidants act as compounds that can donate an electron to a free radical so that the free radical doesn’t have to take the electron from the skins’ atoms. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E and can be consumed via food and liquids (such as tomatoes, grapes and green tea) or applied topically. 

There’s a wide variety of creams, serums and lotions on the market containing antioxidants to help you fight skin damage. One of our favorite products is the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, which is a vitamin C face serum that delivers advanced environmental protection, offers a more even skin tone and improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness. 
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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