Free radicals are unstable molecules characterized by the presence of an unpaired electron. They are naturally produced by the body during normal chemical reactions, but can also be generated by environmental factors. These molecules cause significant damage to the body's cells, including those of the skin. Indeed, they are responsible for certain harmful effects such as inflammation, premature aging, wrinkles and fine lines, loss of elasticity, uneven pigmentation, and other aesthetic issues. Discover everything you need to know about free radicals and how to take care of your skin to limit their impact.
Free Radicals: Understanding Their Effects on the Skin
Free Radicals: Definition
Free radicals are unstable molecules that carry a positive or negative electrical charge in their outer orbital. They seek to stabilize themselves by stealing an electron from another molecule. Highly reactive, they can interact with proteins, lipids, and DNA, causing cellular damage and physiological disruptions.
Furthermore, the factors that influence the formation of these molecules are numerous and complex. Beyond genetic predisposition, environmental factors such as pollution, UV rays, cigarette smoke, and alcohol also have a significant impact. They can lead to an excessive production of free radicals, surpassing the body's antioxidant defense systems' ability to neutralize them.
Why are free radicals harmful?
These reactive molecules are harmful beyond a certain threshold. They can cause irreversible damage to the body's cells and tissues. Inflammation is one of the first consequences of free radicals on the skin. It can lead to redness, irritation, itching, and burns.
Chronic inflammation can also lead to long-term health damage. It is often associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune diseases, and certain types of cancer.
Another role of free radicals is their ability to oxidize lipids, proteins, and DNA within cells. This leads to genetic mutations and diseases such as cancer. Oxidized lipids disrupt the normal functioning of cell membranes. Furthermore, free radicals also disrupt the function of mitochondria, which are responsible for energy production in cells.
By reacting with cellular membranes, proteins, and DNA, free radicals cause oxidative damage. This promotes the onset of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and the premature aging of the skin.
How to limit the impacts of free radicals?
In response to the harmful effects of free radicals, the human body produces antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, also help to prevent damage caused by these molecules. Furthermore, scientific research has highlighted the effectiveness of dietary supplements on free radicals. Those based on vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc are thus useful for strengthening the body's antioxidant protection.
It is also important to limit exposure to UV radiation in order to preserve skin health. Indeed, UV rays cause damage to skin cells, leading to the production of free radicals. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid prolonged sun exposure, especially during the hottest hours of the day.