Living in the city may have its perks, but it also comes with a price. A price that not only your wallet has to pay, but also your skin. The high levels of pollution can be harmful for your body and skin. While it may feel like you are washing off all the pollutants off your skin at the end of the day with your favourite face wash, what you may not realise is that these pollutants cause an increase in free radicals on your skin that can be quite harmful. While the effects may not be immediate, your skin may develop dark spots, age prematurely and lose its glow over time.

Does that mean you need to pack your bags and leave the city? Not really. What you need is to know what free radicals are, how they affect your skin and what you can do to reduce their effect on your skin. For this, we got in touch with skin expert Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi to understand the effects of free radicals on your skin and get a few tips on how to prevent them from damaging your skin. Scroll down to save your skin before it's too late.

 

What are free radicals?

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are atoms that contain unpaired electrons, due to this, there is a lack of stable number of electrons. They are in constant search to bind with an electron because they are unpaired, and to stabilise themselves. This causes damage to the DNA and other parts of the human cell. This damage plays a role in accelerating the ageing process. Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable molecules. They are produced by the body naturally as a byproduct of oxidation or metabolism when exposed to toxins in the environment, UV rays or tobacco smoking. Free radicals only have a lifetime of a fraction of a second but during this time they can cause damage to the DNA which sometimes results in mutations and because of this mutation people sometimes even get cancer.

 

How are free radicals harmful to the body?

How are free radicals harmful to the body?

These free radicals cause a lot of oxidative stress in the body, they can cause health problems like affecting our central nervous system, Alzheimer's disease, memory loss, dementia, sometimes it can clog the arteries and affect the cardiovascular system too. They can also cause cancers, autoimmune inflammatory disease, arthritis, age-related vision decline or cataracts. Diabetes is also a very common cause of free radicals. The effects of free radicals on the skin include early ageing, wrinkles, loss of elasticity and glow. It can affect your hair too, by causing hair loss, changes in hair texture, premature greying and frizzy hair.

 

Causes of free radical damage

Causes of free radical damage

Free radicals can be produced naturally in the body through the substances in the food we eat, the medicines we take, the air we breathe and the water we drink. But external sources are also responsible for it, like pollution. In fact, pollution is one of the biggest causes of free radicals on your skin. The amount of pollution your skin is exposed to on a daily basis determines its overall health. They damage your skin’s lipids, proteins and collagen, causing it to lose its glow and elasticity and make wrinkles, dark spots and fine lines appear more prominent. Some common environmental pollutants that cause free radicals on your skin include:

  • Dust Smog
  • UV rays
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Pesticides
 

How to reduce the effects of free radical on your skin

How to reduce the effects of free radical on your skin

The answer to combating free radicals is antioxidants! They are compounds that interact and neutralise the free radicals which are roaming around in the body and prevent them from causing damage. By donating an extra electron to the free radical atoms, antioxidants can accelerate healthy cell formation and prevent damage. It can be obtained through food, try to include vitamins A, E and C in your diet as they are rich in antioxidants and can reduce the effects of free radicals on your skin.

 

Food rich in antioxidants

Food rich in antioxidants

One of the easiest ways to add antioxidants in your body to fight the above-mentioned skin and health problems is by eating foods rich in antioxidants. Here are five foods you should start eating today to combat the effects of free radicals on your skin.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes

The antioxidant called lycopene is found in abundance in tomatoes. It also contains vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. It fights free radical damage and protects it from various diseases including cancer and cardiovascular problems. Adding tomatoes to your diet is super simple, you can eat raw tomatoes in salads or cook them lightly to keep its antioxidant properties intact.

2. Spinach

Spinach

Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients, it contains several vitamins, iron, antioxidants and is super low in calories. It can fight free radicals and keep several problems associated with the eye at bay. Avoid overcooking spinach and think of creative ways to add this leafy vegetable to your diet for its antioxidant properties.

3. Blueberries

Blueberries

All types of berries are a rich source of antioxidants but blueberry tops the list. Several types of research have proved that blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants in all fruits and vegetables. Did you know 100 grams of blueberries contain as much as 9.2 mmol of antioxidants? Try and get fresh blueberries instead of frozen, this will ensure you get maximum benefits.

4. Beetroot

Beetroot

Another antioxidant and nutrient-rich food that can fight the effects of free radicals on your skin and body is beetroot. The antioxidant betalains are found abundantly in beetroot, this can clear your colon and digestive tract as well as reduce the risk of cancer. Add beetroot to your salad or start your day with a glass of beetroot, carrot and amla juice to supply your body with enough antioxidants.

5. Beans

Beans

Beans are extremely rich in fiber, but did you know they are also a good source of antioxidants? Some beans contain a special type of antioxidant called kaempferol which is beneficial for maintaining overall health. We don’t need to tell you how to add beans to your diet, there are so many options you can try!

 

How to use antioxidants in your skincare routine?

How to use antioxidants in your skincare routine?

Apart from consuming antioxidant-rich food, you can also add antioxidant-rich skincare ingredients into your routine to fight free radicals on your skin. These are common ingredients found in most serums and night creams, here’s a list below.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a skincare ingredient that is used to address a number of skin concerns. Right from dull skin and uneven skin tone to dark spots and premature ageing, everything can be corrected with the help of just this one ingredient because it is rich in antioxidants. You can look for a vitamin C serum to protect the skin against oxidative stress.

2. Niacinamide

A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is a common ingredient found in several skincare products. The topical application of niacinamide is known to be quite beneficial for the skin. It may not be an antioxidant, but its application increases the regeneration capacity of the skin. It helps minimise signs of ageing, dark spots, hyperpigmentation and redness.

3. Vitamin E

Another common antioxidant that is known to do wonders for the skin is vitamin E. Using products rich in vitamin E can strengthen the protective barrier of your skin and prevent UVA and UVB damage. It also fights the effects of free radicals on your skin and reduces skin problems like acne, age spots and other signs of ageing.

4. Green tea

Drinking green tea and applying green tea-infused products topically can help your skin and body fight free radicals. A wonderful source of antioxidants, green tea has made its way into the beauty industry as it reduces UV damage and also fights oxidative stress. Consume at least two cups of green tea a day to get oxidants in your body.