Even after dedicating decades of my life to cosmetic dermatology and finding new ways to help slow the aging process, I still get excited about sharing breakthroughs with my patients and people everywhere who value the appearance and vitality of healthy skin.

One of the remarkable things I’ve learned from years of having a national practice is the powerful and prominent role nature does play in absolutely everyone’s skin health.

For example, in past blogs and my practice I’ve cautioned about the risk of serious skin damage from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the kind that exists naturally in sunlight year-round (simply using a sunscreen with the active ingredients Mexoryl or Helioplex can greatly mitigate this risk, as both block harmful UV rays).

While too much exposure to nature (especially the sun) can prematurely age and harm our skin, we can also fight the process of tissue breakdown by using nature’s own anti-aging tools – and that’s essentially what anti-oxidants are.

Antioxidants combat the effects of oxidative stress, which accelerates the aging process by altering certain molecules within our bodies. These altered molecules, called free radicals, can (if left unchecked) attack healthy cells, greatly speed up aging, and place people at higher risk for chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Oxidative stress is caused by overexposure to UV rays, pollutants, and smoking. The reason oxidative stress is so very bad for our skin’s health and appearance is that it attacks the collagen and elastic fibers in the dermis, resulting in sagging skin, folds, and wrinkles. Common early symptoms of oxidative stress on skin include redness and inflammation, uneven skin, and rough or very dry skin.

Luckily, all my years of clinical research have led me to the conclusion that antioxidants absolutely can stop free radicals and are the body’s best defense against oxidative stress and the many ways – both external and internal – it can harm us.

Antioxidants exist in nature. Among the most common are the vitamins A, C, and E; the co-enzyme Q10, which occurs in many fruits and vegetables; the element selenium, found in nuts and broccoli; and plant-based polyphenols and powerful super-polyphenols, which when applied to the skin can produce amazing results.

Because our skin cannot produce the most powerful antioxidants, such as vitamin C, we rely on ingestion to constantly re-supply ourselves. Diets containing antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, pomegranates, and green tea can help, though some scientists have cautioned that consuming mega-doses of ingestible antioxidants, especially in the form of supplements, may actually be toxic.

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