Skin Aging and Oxidative Stress

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oxidative stress

Say it with me: Pollution. Free radicals. UV Light.  Environmental and Oxidative stress.

It’s a fact. Urban dwellers, like us, need to give our skin a little extra TLC. When we hit the city streets, our skin is under assault with every step. Here’s how to combat the effects of Oxidative stress and prevent premature aging:

Pollution and Skin Aging: What are the Effects of Pollution on the Skin?

Many of our clients at Smooth Synergy wonder how pollution affects skin. It’s an important question, because, as the largest organ in our body, the skin acts like a barrier — basically, as the first line of defense against environmental stressors, like pollution. One way the skin works to neutralize Environmental or Oxidative stress is by producing antioxidants. While our bodies are adept at balancing the effects of Oxidative stress with antioxidants, this ability lessens as we age. Further, if there is too much free-radical exposure, the body fails to produce enough antioxidants to counteract the harmful effects of free radicals to the skin.

What is Oxidative Stress? How Does the Body Handle Oxidative Stress?

In simple terms, Oxidative stress is best illustrated by cutting an apple into slices. As they are exposed to the air, a process of oxidation occurs (free radicals combining with oxygen). Consequently, the apple slices turn brown and their structure deteriorates. Similarly in the skin, when free radical activity outpaces the body’s ability to process it, the cells become unable to function normally. As a result, the skin responds to this free radical damage by aging prematurely, leading to skin dehydration, loss of volume, as well as a diminished quality to skin’s tone, texture and laxity. Further, the skin tries to compensate for the damage by activating the inflammatory process. As a result of inflammation, collagen and elastin production are inhibited, which further impacts the skin. Most noteworthy, the skin’s natural lipid barrier can become compromised, causing environmentally-induced sensitive skin. Additionally, common skin breakouts due to pollution, include acne, eczema and hives.

What is a Free Radical? How Do Free Radicals Damage the Skin?

Free radicals are molecules that have lost their naturally paired electron, making them highly unstable. As a result, they must seek a stable structure either by a compensating antioxidant activity or by stealing an electron from an otherwise healthy cell. When the missing electron is replaced with one from another cell, the healthy cell is damaged, resulting in negative consequences for the skin.

What are the Types of Skin Pollutants?

We encounter free radicals everyday. They occur naturally, and we are subject to exposure from internal triggers, including:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Emotional stress
  • Poor diet
  • Alcohol consumption

Similarly, the following environmental and external pollutants can create wear and tear on the skin, including:

  • Air pollution, including smog
  • Airborne allergens
  • Mold
  • UV Rays
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Pesticides
  • Radioactivity
  • Water pollution
  • X-Rays
  • Heavy metals

How to Stop Free Radicals? How do Antioxidants Stabilize Free Radicals?

An antioxidant is a substance that protects against Oxidative stress damage by reducing free radicals and inflammation. They achieve this by donating one of their own electrons to the free radical, thus, circumventing any damage to the healthy cell. Interestingly, upon losing the electron, the antioxidant doesn’t become a free radical itself, because it’s stable in either form.

How to Combat Oxidative Stress? Are Antioxidant Super Foods Helpful for the Skin?

Antioxidant compounds are produced by the body, as well as obtained by eating antioxidant rich foods and through topical application. Great antioxidants include: vitamin C, E, A and beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A when eaten. Particularly good foods that fight free radicals include:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Goji berries
  • Grapes
  • Leafy green vegetables, including Spinach and Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark chocolate
  • Red wine
  • Green tea

How to Protect Your Skin from Pollution? Can I Diminish the Effects of Oxidation on the Skin?

Along with including foods high in antioxidants in your diet, pollution protection skincare should include an antioxidant-boosting topical skin product that includes vitamin C, E or A. In addition, once Oxidative stress has happened, it’s possible to soothe, heal and reverse free-radical damage with many skin treatments including:


Our signature facial reveals healthier, radiant skin, while our Oxygen treatment combats free radicals to smooth and soothe the skin. Atomized moisturizers are gentle steamed into the face for a relaxing treatment that instantly hydrates the skin and creates a plumper complexion.


Our estheticians use a microneedling pen to open up thousands of pathways in the skin at controlled depths, spacing and frequency. Vitamins B, C and E are infused deep within the skin to protect the cells from free radicals and environmental, oxidative stress.

Why Choose Smooth Synergy to Combat Premature Aging due to Oxidative Stress?

Smooth Synergy Cosmedical Spa is a New York City Medical Spa that’s been in business for over 16 years. As a result, our experience gives us a distinct advantage in understanding the effects of Oxidative stress on the skin, as well as what treatments can be used to prevent and reverse the damage done by sun exposure, pollution and other free-radical producing agents. Additionally, we offer a comprehensive menu of treatments designed to meet the unique skincare needs of each individual. Call us at 212-397-0111 to speak with an expert in beauty. She will work with you to create a customized treatment plan that’s right for you.

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