Recent studies have shown that adding antioxidants to sunscreen significantly helps to protect against UV damage. UV exposure can damage skin cells and cause the formation of free radicals, molecules missing an electron, that will then rob other molecules to replace the missing electron. This process, called oxidation, doesn't kill cells, but can mutate their DNA. When these mutated cells divide, their daughter cells will contain copies of the altered DNA. With repeated free radical attacks, the body's natural antioxidant defense is overwhelmed and the cumulative damage can cause a host of chronic diseases, such as cancer, and lead to photo aging by attacking collagen and elastin fibers in the skin. Oxidation happens even if you're wearing sunscreen, so by adding antioxidants, either orally or topically, you fill the "oxidation hole" left by your sunblock.
Neutrogena Pure & Free™ Liquid Daily Sunblock SPF 50 $12.49; Naturopathica Ultra-Lite Vitamin C Complex (also available here) $28-$58
Personally, I prefer an antioxidant based serum (vitamins C, E, and A) worn under an SPF 50 sunscreen. These vitamins stop the oxidation chain reaction by supplying free radicals with the missing electron they need. They also neutralize enzymes that attack collagen and elastin fibers. Since it takes four hours for antioxidants to be absorbed topically in the skin its best to apply your serum both morning and night.
My favorite serum at the moment is the Naturopathica Ultra-lite Vitamin C Revitalizing Complex. Since I have dry skin I apply one pump of the serum and then moisturizer and sunscreen over the top. Normal to oily skin types can use the serum as a moisturizer as it has a light gel to cream texture with a very clean finish.
This simple addition to your routine can be your best defense against photo aging and keep your skin looking healthy and young.
Layne is a licensed esthetician and makeup artist working at Urban Sanctuary in Athens, GA. She writes the bi-weekly column, Down and Out Beauty.