Two underlying process make us age more rapidly than we need to and are linked to most of today`s illnesses. They are inflammation and oxidation.
Inflammation is nothing more than your immune system`s reaction to your ingestion of a poison. When your immune system perceives a threatening substance in your diet, or in the air you breathe, or in the water your drink, it mounts a powerful attack on the invader. Part of that response is to create inflammation, which we recognize as heat, swelling, and redness. This occurs wherever the immune system is engaged in a battle – in the tissues of your face, in your arteries, and in your vital organs.
Oxidative stress is defined by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, free radicals being in excess. Oxidative stress is deleterious to both cells and extracellular matrix, to nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, to membrane lipids, and to proteins. DNA damage forms the basis of UV-induced skin carcinogenesis. Protein alterations, whether direct or activated by proteases, are reflected in the skin by reduction in collagen and elastin production.
Fortunately, living tissues have a control mechanism to keep free radicals in balance. Antioxidant importance depends upon which free radicals are generated, how and where they are generated, and which target of damage is considered. Our body defends itself from these phenomena via endogenous (internal) antioxidants. However, when endogenous antioxidants become insufficient exogenous (external) antioxidants may help restore the balance.
Antioxidants inhibit the production of free radicals by direct scavenging, decrease the amount of oxidants in and around our cells, prevent free radicals from reaching their biological targets, limit the propagation of oxidants thereby preventing the aging phenomenon, protecting and boosting skin`s defense systems.
Exogenous antioxidants include antioxidants that cannot be synthesized by our body such as vitamins, trace elements, and phytoantioxidants (antioxidants found naturally in plants). Vitamin E (tocopherol) is the most powerful liposoluble antioxidant. It reacts with free radicals to form the radical tocopheryl, a stable substance that stops the chain reaction of the membrane lipids. The chain reaction is propagation of free radicals. Tocopheryl works in conjunction with other antioxidants such as vitamin C and selenium to regenerate and restore vitamin E. Trace elements such as selenium are important cofactors of the activity of antioxidant enzymes.
Plants suffer from oxidative stress induced by UV radiation as much as animals and humans do, but cannot protect themselves as humans do by exogenous means and have therefore developed multiple strategies and highly effective molecules to defend themselves against environmental stress. For example, edelweiss or lichens contain natural substances that absorb UVB and act as a “screen”. Plants contain multiple antioxidants effective in ideal combinations, the so-called phytoantioxidants, capable of both protecting their own cells and extracellular matrix against oxidative stress induced by UV radiation and of providing protection to other organisms upon ingestion or topical application.
Most phytoantioxidants belong either to polyphenols or terpenes and form a family of multiple factors from multiple plants. Polyphenols are synthesized by plants, participate in their metabolism, and contribute to their defense against environmental stresses. Polyphenols are found in roots, stems, flowers, and leaves of all plants. The large family of polyphenols and terpenes includes flavonoids (catechins, querceting), stilbens (resveratrol), cartoenoids (lycopene), essential oils (carnosol, carnosic acid) and others.
The stratum corneum (the outer part of the epidermis) requires antioxidants to protect itself from the environment. In addition to nutritional supplements, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, topical application of different phytoantioxidants is the best defense strategy against free radicals. Phytoantioxidants neutralize UV-induced oxidation of the stratum corneum, provide protection from the environment, and in cosmetic products may stimulate the stratum corneum to regenerate. The use of phytoantioxidants in skin care enables one to nourish the skin and replenish it in antioxidants in the same way as we nourish our body by eating fruits and vegetables.