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Does Antioxidants Clean Your Skin: Things You Need to Know in 2024

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Antioxidants have become a popular buzzword in the skincare industry, often touted for their potential to improve skin health and appearance. 

But do they clean your skin? Understanding the role of antioxidants in skincare involves getting into their effects on the skin’s biology, their presence in various skincare products, and the myths versus realities of their benefits. 

Understanding antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, leading to chain reactions that may damage cells. 

In skincare, antioxidants are believed to neutralise these free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress and preventing cellular damage.

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Types of antioxidants to get clear skin

  1. Vitamins. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A (retinoids) are well-known antioxidants that are frequently included in skincare products.
  2. Polyphenols. These include flavonoids, tannins, and catechins found in green tea, grapes, and other plant-based foods.
  3. Enzymatic antioxidants. Enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase naturally occur in the body and protect cells from oxidative damage.

The role of antioxidants in skin health

Antioxidants play a crucial role in maintaining the skin’s health and integrity. They help to:

  • Reduce inflammation. Antioxidants can mitigate inflammatory responses, which can help reduce redness and irritation in the skin.
  • Protect against UV damage. By neutralising free radicals generated by UV exposure, antioxidants can help prevent sun damage.
  • Improve skin repair. They support the skin’s natural repair processes, aiding in the healing of scars and other skin injuries.
  • Prevent premature ageing. Antioxidants can help reduce signs of ageing, such as wrinkles and fine lines, by protecting the skin from oxidative stress.

Do antioxidants clean the skin?

While antioxidant supplements offer numerous benefits for skin health, it’s important to clarify that they do not “clean” the skin in the traditional sense. Cleaning the skin involves removing dirt, oil, and impurities from the skin’s surface. This process is typically achieved through cleansers, which may contain surfactants, exfoliants, and other ingredients designed to cleanse.

Significant difference between antioxidants and cleansers

  • Cleansers. It is formulated to remove dirt, oil, makeup, and other impurities from the skin’s surface.
  • Antioxidants. Primarily aimed at protecting the skin from oxidative damage, reducing inflammation, and promoting skin repair.

In some skincare products, antioxidants may be included in cleansers to provide additional benefits, but their primary function remains to protect and repair rather than to cleanse.

Incorporating antioxidants into your skincare routine

To maximise the benefits of antioxidants or liver cleanse supplements, it’s essential to incorporate them correctly into your skincare routine. Here are some tips on how to do so effectively:

  • Use antioxidant-rich serums and creams. These products are designed to deliver high concentrations of antioxidants to the skin directly. Apply them after cleansing and before moisturising.
  • Choose antioxidant-infused cleansers. While not primarily for cleaning, these can provide a protective antioxidant boost while you cleanse.
  • Include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and other antioxidant-rich foods can support overall skin health.

Common antioxidants in skincare and their benefits

Here are some common antioxidants in skincare and their benefits: 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant known for brightening the skin and reducing the appearance of dark spots. It also boosts collagen production, helping to improve skin firmness and elasticity.

  • Benefits: It brightens skin, reduces hyperpigmentation, and boosts collagen production.
  • Application: Best used in serums and moisturisers in the morning to protect against daily oxidative stress.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect the skin from UV damage and supports skin repair. It also has moisturising properties, making it beneficial for dry and sensitive skin types.

  • Benefits: It protects against UV damage, supports skin repair, and moisturises.
  • Application: Often found in creams and serums, it can be used both morning and night.

Vitamin A (Retinoids)

Retinoids are a class of compounds derived from Vitamin A. They are well-known for their anti-aging benefits, including reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improving skin texture, and treating acne.

  • Benefits: It reduces wrinkles, improves skin texture, and treats acne.
  • Application: They are typically used in creams or serums, and they are applied at night as they can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight.

Green tea extract

Green tea extract is rich in polyphenols, particularly catechins, which have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It effectively reduces redness and irritation and protects the skin from environmental stressors.

  • Benefits: Reduces inflammation, protects against environmental damage, and soothes the skin.
  • Application: Found in various skincare products, including cleansers, toners, and moisturisers.


Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant in grapes, red wine, and certain berries. It offers anti-aging benefits, protects against UV damage, and helps to calm inflammation.

  • Benefits: Anti-aging, protects against UV damage, reduces inflammation.
  • Application: Commonly included in serums and creams, suitable for use in the morning or evening.

How to choose the right antioxidant products?

Given the myriad options available, selecting the right antioxidant products can be overwhelming. Here are some key considerations to help you make the best choice:

  • Skin type. Different antioxidants suit different skin types. For example, Vitamin C is great for brightening but may be too harsh for sensitive skin, while Vitamin E is more suitable for dry and sensitive skin.
  • Product formulation. Look for products with stable formulations to ensure the antioxidants remain effective. For instance, vitamin C is notoriously unstable, so formulations with stabilised vitamin C derivatives (like sodium ascorbyl phosphate) may be more effective.
  • Concentration. Higher concentrations of antioxidants can offer more significant benefits but may also increase the risk of irritation. Start with lower concentrations and gradually increase as your skin builds tolerance.
  • Combination with other ingredients. Some antioxidants work better with other ingredients. For example, Vitamin C and Vitamin E can enhance each other’s efficacy when used together.

Potential side effects of antioxidants

While antioxidants are generally safe for most skin types, they can cause side effects, especially if misused. Some potential side effects include:

  • Irritation and redness. High concentrations of certain antioxidants, like Vitamin C and retinoids, can cause irritation and redness, particularly in sensitive skin.
  • Photosensitivity. Some antioxidants, like retinoids, can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, necessitating sunscreen during the day.
  • Allergic reactions. Natural extracts like green tea and resveratrol can sometimes cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.


Antioxidants play a vital role in skin care, protecting against oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and supporting skin repair. 

But it’s crucial to understand that they do not “clean” the skin in the traditional sense. Instead, they complement a comprehensive skincare routine that includes cleansing, moisturising, and sun protection.

To incorporate antioxidants effectively, choose products suited to your skin type and concerns and use them consistently. Be mindful of potential side effects and consult a dermatologist if you experience any adverse reactions. 

By doing so, you can harness the full benefits of antioxidants and achieve healthier, more radiant skin.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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