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How do free radicals damage my skin?

Free radicals are basically unstable molecules produced by complex chemical processes in your body. Think of them as Skin Enemy No. 1. Left to their own devices, they go on to damage otherwise healthy cells in a process called oxidation. This is the same process that turns an apple brown or changes a copper roof from reddish gold to blue-green, so you can just imagine the way it can affect your skin. Sun, smoking, air pollution and poor diet all speed production of these free radicals.
Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine
By simply breathing in oxygen, we create unstable molecules called free radicals, which are responsible for the visible and invisible signs of aging. Environmental factors that stimulate free-radical production include UV rays, radiation, cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust, and pesticides. We also cause free-radical damage by not getting enough rest or sleep, not properly managing our stress responses, and not eating healthfully. Free radicals can damage the very DNA of your skin cells (and every other cell in your body) and destroy the collagen and elastin that provide tautness and elasticity to skin. From wrinkles, dryness, and sensitivity, to vibrant and glowing, your skin broadcasts your inner state of health to all the world.
Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatology
Free radical damage is one of the main culprits involved in the rapid aging of the skin. Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that can damage all living cells. The most common way that free radicals are created is as by-products of the normal burning of fuel that occurs in every cell of the body every day. Your skin is also especially vulnerable to free radical damage from external sources such as ultraviolet light from sunlight and pollutants that are all around you every day, especially if you live or work in a big city.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.