The Best Defense

Free radicals from pollution and the sun take a terrible toll on your skin. Go on the offense with topical antioxidants.

The Best Defense

Sunscreen protects skin from the sun's burning, age-accelerating, cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. But it doesn't necessarily shield you from free radicals, those unstable molecules that can damage your complexion, much as oxygen turns a peeled apple brown. Free radicals are a byproduct of exposure to UV light and other environmental factors like pollution; they break down the skin's fibrous support structures—collagen and elastin—which triggers premature aging and even skin cancer.

So sunscreen is vital, but it's not enough.Even when applied properly, sunscreen blocks only half the free radicals in the skin generated from the sun, and it offers little protection against other environmental assailants. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, boosting the body's own defenses. You may already be taking antioxidant supplements to stay healthy; to get the benefits to your skin, use them topically as well. Topical antioxidants, particularly serums, seep into the skin and cant be rubbed off like a sunscreen can, says dermatologist Patricia Farris, M.D., an active member of the teaching faculty at Tulane University in New Orleans, who suggests that you apply antioxidant-rich products to exposed areas of the skin before sunscreen or moisturizer.

Nothing can turn back time, but these antioxidants can help you take control of your skin's future.

Vitamins C and E
The healing powers of vitamin C are actually maximized when its combined with vitamin E.

Coenzyme Q10
Found naturally in every plant and animal cell, coenzyme Q10 is essential to the process of shedding dead cells so newer ones can emerge. As we age, our essential level of coenzyme Q10 diminishes, lowering our ability to fight off free-radical scavengers, says Farris.

A hormone that is found naturally in leafy green plants, kinetin slows the aging process of plant cells. When applied to the skin, kinetin helps repair free-radical damage to the tissues and improves the skins barrier function, which boosts moisture retention.

Green and White Tea
Made from the dried leaves and tips of the Camellia sinensis plant, these teas possess powerful polyphenols that protect cells from external damage and help slow inflammation triggered by sun exposure.