These exposures, Jamal tells WebMD, increase the rate at which a natural cellular process occurs ― one which releases molecules called “free radicals” into the skin. The link to aging? Free radicals attack and destroy collagen. When left unchecked, Jamal says, free radicals destroy the skin's support structure, and without that support, skin sags. Eventually, wrinkles form.
That is one reason why the up-to-the-minute ingredient generating the loudest anti-aging buzz right now is antioxidants ― nutrients that attack and disable free radicals before they have a chance to destroy our collagen supply. Some may even help increase natural collagen production.
Ken Beer, MD, director of Palm Beach Esthetic Center and author of Palm Beach Perfect Skin, tells WebMD, that if the products are well designed, a level of antioxidants can be achieved that may have wide-ranging effects, including attacking free radicals. Other experts agree and say antioxidants disable free radicals, reducing or even reversing collagen damage. That means younger looking skin.
But is it just wishful thinking ― or a promise we can count on?
Although research on topically applied antioxidant green tea showed it has strong anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer properties, an 8-week medical study conducted at Stanford University was disappointing from a cosmetic perspective. The study failed to demonstrate anti-aging effects.
More promising, however, were studies conducted, by David McDaniel, MD, of the Eastern Virginia College of Medicine on a number of other antioxidants. Specifically, McDaniel looked at the protective capacity of several topically applied antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, kinetin, alpha-lipoic acid, and idebenone. While all showed some benefits to the skin, McDaniel found idebenone to be the clear leader of the pack.
A powerful micronutrient related to CoQ10, (another natural defender against cell damage) idebenone appeared to also provide a strong defense for skin. “Clinical studies thus far have shown that idebenone...quench[es] inflammatory reactions and... is a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals,” McDaniel recently told the Dermatology Times.
According to dermatologist Bruce Katz, MD, however, many women cannot tolerate idebenone products. "It can cause redness and irritation in some women that makes it difficult to use," says Katz, director of Juva Skin and Laser Center in New York City. He advises women with sensitive skin to check with a dermatologist before trying products containing idebenone.
There is still a lack of overwhelming evidence to show that, for humans, topical use of this or any antioxidant can actually halt the aging process of the skin. But McDaniel believes that as manufacturers increasingly apply pharmaceutical standards to testing and developing products, the necessary data may soon become more prominent.