All about free radicals
There are two things you've doubtless read a lot about when it comes to beauty: free radicals and antioxidants. It's likely you know that the first is bad and the second good, but do you really understand why? Here we're going to breakdown exactly what free radicals are and why they are such a beauty buzzword at the moment.
Free radicals are atoms or molecules which have an unpaired electron. Sounds sciencey, but actually all it means is that they are buzzing around your body, looking for something to suction on to. If that happens to be one of your cells, they stop it working properly and may even damage it through oxidisation. If you want a visual to help you imagine this process, think about how an iron gate rusts in the air if it's not properly cared for. Or even starker, what happens to an avocado or potato if you leave it out unprotected after peeling it. Both of those go brown and shrivelled - this is oxidisation.
When it comes to skin, this process can mean things like sun damage or premature ageing and wrinkles.
So how are you exposed to these oxygen free radicals? Well, it turns out in lots of different ways. Sometimes everyday things which the body does, like turning sugar into energy, can create them, as can the way medicines affect the body.
But when it comes to beauty, companies are usually talking about the free radicals you're exposed to from external sources. These are things like air pollution if you live in a busy city, or cigarette and cigar smoke.
If all this has you spooked about stepping outside your front door, don't worry, because help is at hand. That comes in the shape of antioxidants, and we'll be explaining all about them in part two.
One other thing to note: you might have read that strenuous exercise causes you to produce more free radicals. That is the case, but it also causes an increase in antioxidants so sorry, it's not the excuse you've been looking for to dip out of that gym trip.