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A Short Guide to Antioxidants

Antioxidants have been a buzzy topic in skincare for several years now, and it's likely you've heard them mentioned in relation to free radicals, oxidation and ageing.

Still, you might be wondering what exactly are antioxidants and what do they do in skincare?

Our skin is a living organ, the biggest of the body, and hosts a whole range of complex processes including cellular respiration and thermoregulation. Some of the natural processes in the skin generate "free radicals". Free radicals are molecules or atoms that have an unpaired electron. This sounds very much like A Level chemistry, but essentially what this means is that anything that has a single electron is unstable and reactive, they seek out other electrons to pair with and by doing so cause cell damage and disrupt the processes of healthy cells by stealing electrons.

Translating this into what this actually means for your health, the presence of free radials does three things:

  • increases the rate of ageing

  • reduces efficacy of natural skin functions

  • can be a partial cause of autoimmune and nervous system diseases

Specifically when it comes to the skin, as well as increasing the rate of skin ageing, it also affects skin elasticity, dryness, skin tone and hyperpigmentation.

Antioxidants are chemicals that lessen or prevent the effects of free radicals.

They give away an electron to neutralise free radicals, but what's special about them is that their loss of an electron doesn't make them a free radical. No single antioxidant can battle all the effects of free radicals, each antioxidant acts on different free radicals deepening on their chemical properties. There are many, many chemicals that can act as antioxidants, with Vitamins C and E being very common. The use of antioxidants in skincare formulations actually serve two purposes: protecting the skin and protecting formulations from the effects of oxidative damage, preventing them from turning rancid as quickly.

Natural skincare is a great source of antioxidant-rich ingredients as plants naturally produce antioxidant compounds to protect themselves from the sun and chemical degradation processes. These natural plant antioxidants will typically be compounds called carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols, and terpenes. Some of our favourite antioxidant ingredients at Scintilla are:


Jojoba contains natural forms of Vitamin E which is the most important fat soluble antioxidant. Jojoba oil is also full of natural fatty acids that soothe and moisturize your skin in partnership with its anti-oxidising activity.

Found in: Quotidie Daily Face Cream

Pomegranate The fruit and rind of Punica granatum are rich in an ingredient called ellagic acid, this is a polyphenol which improves the activity of antioxidant enzymes that are already present in the skin. Pomegranate extract also helps reduce hyperpigmentation and protects the skin against UV damage.

Found in: Quotidie Daily Face Cream & Marilla Body Oil

Rosemary The deliciously scented leaves of the Rosemary plant contain various antioxidant substances, including two key chemicals: carnosol and carnosic acid. They also contain ursolic, rosmarinic, and caffeic acids too which work as free radical scavengers, reducing the number of free radicals in the skin; and the essential oil also has two terpenes - 1,8-cineol and alpha-pinene - that both act as antioxidants too.

Found in: Rosemary & Cedar Bar Soap

Sea Buckthorn

Sea Buckthorn oil contains powerful phytochemicals and carotenoids that

As well as it's strong antioxidative properties, Sea Buckthorn also has some fantastic unsaturated fatty acids, such as palmitoleic acid (omega-7) and gamma-linolenic acid (omega-6), give sea-buckthorn oil skin regeneration and repair properties.

Found in: Fresh-Faced Cleansing Milk

Tea The extract obtained from tea leaves, (INCI: Camellia sinensis) contains catechins, which are a type of polyphenol that have one of the most potent antioxidant properties. Studies on particularly green tea extracts have shown that the polyphenols in it reduce the amount of free radicals in the skin, reducingthe impact of photoageing and UV damage. Besides that, the topical use of products containing tea extracts can reduce the production of collagen-degrading enzymes in the skin.

Found in: new serum coming soon!

Whilst topical use of skincare products with antioxidant properties helps us to battle free radical behaviour and effects, but it's important to note that diet plays a huge role in skin health and so keeping a good dose of antioxidant rich foods in your meals will help to protect the skin from the inside out too. Simple, healthy, antioxidant-rich foods include berries, kale, pecans, beetroot, spinach and dark chocolate!

So to summarise, antioxidants are a very powerful tool for maintaining skin health, as well as preventing the more aesthetic parts of skincare. They can be found most potently, and richly in natural skincare products, and your safest bet is to look for products that contain vitamins c and e as they're the most commonly used.

If you have any questions at all about any of the information in this article, please do reach out to us, we'd love to chat more!


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