You hear a lot about the wonders of antioxidants in skincare. Still, not all antioxidants work the same way: “In general, all antioxidants do have the same mechanism of action. They donate an electron to an unstable molecule, thereby neutralizing it and preventing it from causing damage. Antioxidants can do this while maintaining their stability. However, there are many antioxidants, and they all have different potencies. In addition, some have their own unique, additional functions,” says Dr. Rebecca Marcus, a board-certified dermatologist. For example, some antioxidants are better at creating a glow; others are experts at renewing and repairing your skin. Below are some of the most popular ones you’ll find in your beauty products and what makes them unique.
If vitamin C were to earn a high school superlative, it would be Most Likely to Succeed. Also known as ascorbic acid, this antioxidant is best known for brightening any skin type. “It interferes with melanin production in skin cells after UV radiation,” says Marcus. It also defends your skin against free radicals and reduces damage caused by environmental aggressors (like UVB rays responsible for causing sunburn). There are many different forms of vitamin C, “and the different forms have different abilities to be utilized by the skin with varying stabilities. L-ascorbic acid, 3-0 ethyl ascorbate, and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate are some of the popular forms,” says Marcus.
Here at Sunday Riley HQ, we’re partial to tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate — otherwise known as THD ascorbate. It’s the star ingredient in the new C.E.O. Afterglow Brightening Vitamin C Cream. In comparison to L-ascorbic acid, THD is lipid-soluble (which means it’s even more powerful at sinking into your skin), less irritating, and has a more stable shelf life so you can enjoy the benefits of your product longer. In addition, vitamin C plays well with other ingredients, and anyone who’s looking for glowier, even-toned skin should use this powerful antioxidant.
Fun fact: Humans don’t naturally produce vitamin C on their own, so it’s important to get it from the food you eat and the products you put on your skin so you can fuel your skin from the inside out.
Find out more about incorporating vitamin C into your routine:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Vitamin C
- Common Myths About Vitamin C
- 5 Skincare Combos That Boost the Powers of Your Vitamin C
Niacinamide (a.k.a. nicotinamide) is a vitamin B3 derivative, and it’s most loved for its ability to brighten the look of discolorations (like those pesky dark undereye circles) and blurs the look of fine lines. “Because of its inflammatory properties and the way it is sebum regulating,” it can be a great addition to your acne-fighting regimen, says Marcus. This antioxidant is also used to treat skin conditions like eczema and rosacea, so if you’re someone with very sensitive skin, you’re in good hands with niacinamide.
If you’re ready to introduce some good-for-you niacinamide into your routine, 5 Stars Retinoid + Niacinamide Eye Serum is a great place to start by refreshing and nurturing the entire eye area while you sleep. The Saturn Sulfur Spot Treatment Mask also contains four percent niacinamide to promote clearer-looking skin and boost your overall radiance.
Fun fact: Niacinamide’s antioxidant benefits don’t stop at the skin on your face. Niacinamide is a powerful way to restore the skin on your scalp to help maintain healthy hair growth and reduce irritation. We’ve included it in our Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum — a rinse-off treatment that purifies your scalp and hair of product buildup, dead skin, and pollution.
Find out more about incorporating niacinamide into your routine:
Vitamin E is most famous for its skin-healing and protective powers. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin with incredible moisturizing abilities, so you’ll often find it in your creams, serums, and lotions formulated to replenish dry skin. The antioxidant is known as the “wound healer” because it helps strengthen and hydrate your skin barrier by working as both a humectant and an emollient — a benefit that not many other antioxidants can offer. Though more research needs to be done, studies also suggest vitamin E helps reduce sun damage by absorbing some of the UVB light (it’s not a replacement for sunscreen, however!).
Though there are several different forms of vitamin E, you will most commonly find vitamin E listed as tocopherol on your ingredient labels (just check out the C.E.O. Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream).
Fun fact: Vitamin E has a smart way of making other antioxidants even more stable, so you’ll frequently see it paired with ingredients like vitamin C when it comes to your skincare products.
Find out more about incorporating vitamin E into your routine:
Since retinol is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A, it falls under the antioxidant category. “Vitamin A comes in many forms in skincare: retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinoic acid, and hydroxypinacolone retinoate,” says Marcus. It’s a beloved ingredient in the dermatologist and beauty editor worlds for making skin look like you’ve turned back time. It improves texture, increases elasticity, and minimizes the appearance of fine lines and pores. “Vitamin A also stimulates collagen production and inhibits its degradation,” says Marcus. Because of its small molecule size, it’s very effective at penetrating all the layers of your skin so that you reveal your healthiest skin. Though it’s generally well tolerated by all skin types, experts recommend that women avoid using retinol during pregnancy. Always chat with your dermatologist about any new ingredient you’re planning on introducing to your routine.
If you’re completely new to retinol, it’s best to ease into it. Our A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum can be used two days on and two days off when you’re first using it. Then, if your skin is tolerating it well, you can work your way up to every other day and then daily in the evening.
Fun fact: It’s often recommended to use retinol as part of your evening routine since the sun can deactivate its benefits.
Find out more about incorporating retinol/vitamin A in your routine:
- The Cardinal Rules of Using Retinol
- Retinol Rewind: What Type of Retinol is Best For Your Skin
- Retinol 101: An Ingredient Guide
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