“There are so many antioxidants out there that it is nearly impossible to say which one is best,” says Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “Whole systems to rate antioxidants have been developed and argued among dermatologists for years. Whatever the case, antioxidants are beneficial for every skin type, as they help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals that come from the sun and everyday exposure to environmental factors like pollution. However, some antioxidants are better suited for certain skin types and skin concerns than others. And if you have sensitive skin, it’s best to do a patch test on your skin before applying a new product—with or without an antioxidant—or consult with a board-certified dermatologist who can help guide you to the appropriate antioxidant formula.”
These are five antioxidants that stand out in the skin-care space for their potent properties and long list of benefits, and the skin types they suit best, according to dermatologists.
“Vitamin C is one of the most effective and ‘available’ of antioxidants to help neutralize oxidative stress that contributes to uneven skin tone, sun damage, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, dullness and rough texture,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Ascorbic acid is an effective form of vitamin C that combines well with other types of antioxidants for additional benefits. While vitamin C is generally well tolerated in most skin types, it may cause irritation or redness in those with sensitive complexions, so begin with a low concentration. The LovelySkin LUXE line of products are formulated with afaLUXE, which combines amino-based filaggrin antioxidants, ascorbic acid and Dead Sea minerals to deliver the exfoliation benefits with virtually no irritation.”
For those with dry skin who want to use a vitamin C–rich product, Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD likes ISDIN Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican ampoules ($112), which, “along with vitamin C and ultraglycans, contain peptides that help support the skin’s ability to hold moisture, and hyaluronic acid for immediate hydration.”
Resveratrol, which is an antioxidant typically derived from red grapes, is generally tolerated by all skin types, says Dr. Schlessinger, and has been known to be a great antioxidant for anti-aging purposes. “However, studies have also shown resveratrol’s benefits for acne-prone skin, given its antibacterial properties. Interestingly, Cleopatra used wine to improve her complexion, so she knew a thing or two about skin!”
For all skin types, I recommend Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Serum ($79), which combines the brand’s potent antioxidant resveratrol developed with Harvard Medical School with hyaluronic acid in a noncomedogenic, light serum,” says Dr. Waldorf. “For mature skin, Caudalie Premier Cru Anti-Aging Cream Moisturizer ($119) includes the resveratrol with hyaluronic acid to maintain moisture, as well as viniferine, which is an antioxidant that is particularly helpful with dark spots, in an elegant, creamy base.”
“If you are experiencing acne or have sensitive skin, you should look for the antioxidant niacinamide,” says Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. “Niacinamide is a soothing antioxidant that improves skin texture and tone. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits, helps soothe breakouts and fights redness.” The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum uses 10-percent pure niacinamide and 1-percent zinc PCA to unclog pores, reduce excess sebum and keep pimples at bay, making it a great option for oily skin types too.
In 2017, a group of dermatologists took a closer look at 10 studies analyzing the effectiveness of niacinamide in treating acne, and published their findings in Dermatology Therapy. “Six of eight studies using topical nicotinamide led to a significant reduction in acne compared with the patient’s baseline or performed similarly to another standard-of-care acne treatment,” the doctors concluded. “Both studies using an oral supplement containing nicotinamide resulted in a significant reduction in acne compared with baseline. No major adverse side effects were noted.”
If you have dry skin, Dr. Longwill recommends incorporating vitamin E into your skin-care regimen. “Vitamin E provides hydration, moisturization and anti-inflammatory benefits.”
Dr. Schlessinger agrees, saying vitamin E is a great option for dry skin because it helps enhance skin’s moisture. “Vitamin E has been shown to be an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that helps skin recover from UV-induced damage. It is also found in canola oil, almonds and peanuts, but if you can’t get enough this way, consider adding it to your skin-care regimen. The LovelySkin LUXE Vita CE with Ferulic Acid ($85) combines vitamin E with vitamins C and ferulic acid—all three are antioxidants— to not only help neutralize free radicals and prevent damage, but it’s also clinically proven to help reduce the depth of wrinkles by 63 percent in as little as 28 days. Ferulic acid is derived from bran, of all things, and vitamin C is in so many foods we eat as well.”
“The holy grail, retinol, is the best antioxidant for people with normal skin types that want to target fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Longwill. “It is best to incorporate retinol gradually, as it is strong, but it gives skin a smoother, more youthful finish.” If you have dry skin and want to use retinol, you can use “the sandwich technique,” which involves applying moisturizer (or a moisturizing serum), then retinol, and then another layer of moisturizer. Another technique is “buffering,” which involves mixing your retinol with your moisturizer to dilute it and then applying them together as one step.
If you have sensitive skin and want to reap the benefits, too, start with the lowest concentration (0.25 percent) and/or look for encapsulated retinol, which allows the ingredient to penetrate the skin more slowly to minimize the chance for irritation. Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum ($22) uses encapsulated retinol, and is a great option for those with sensitive skin, or those who are new to using retinol.
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