Oxidative Stress and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)
The stress you face every day – at work, during daily activities, everyday pressure, and rush – strongly affects your skin in a very negative way. One of the most harmful enemies our skin could imagine is oxidative stress.
Such stress is caused by free radicals (ROS). During some physiological conditions, they are formed as by-products of various metabolic processes that consume oxygen. However, free radicals are not always harmful. They play an important role in some biological processes in our bodies. Our cells need them to work properly. For example, the fight against pathogens.
Free radicals become harmful when there are way too many of them in the body. The excessive production of ROS may be the result of UV radiation, smoking cigarettes, inflammation that lasts too long, etc. In such cases, free radicals can cause damage to the skin cells because of peroxidation (the situation when oxidation processes are dysfunctional). Thus, oxidative stress occurs.
Oxidative stress is continuous exposure to the harmful effects of free radicals. The more of them are present, the more oxidative stress is generated. It also depends on skin defense mechanisms and the number of antioxidants in the body. Once oxidative stress occurs, it is really hard to stop it – the domino effect begins. One oxygen molecule takes an electron from the second molecule, the second one – from the third one, etc. Free radicals, when unpaired with one electron, always look for a chance to take an electron away from other paired atoms. This may result in tissue pathology, various diseases, or accelerated aging processes. Each type of stress (psychical, physical, chemical) usually results in oxidative imbalances.
What happens to the skin then?
As the skin metabolism is high and the total surface of the skin (located between external and internal parts of our bodies) is quite big, the skin is constantly producing ROS. What happens to the skin then? It ages much faster, Moreover, collagen and elastin, the most important proteins in our bodies, are damaged. Melanocytes don’t work properly, which is the result of invalid protection against UV radiation. The skin’s immune system is weakened, and the skin is more sensitive to numerous external factors. What is sad, you can see the negative effects of oxidative stress almost immediately. The skin becomes a bit dull; it loses its smoothness, elasticity, and firmness. The skin cells die much faster so the skin regeneration is much slower.
How to deal with oxidative stress?
First of all, try to avoid the factors that cause the overproduction of free radicals. Okay, it's not easy, we all know that. However, giving up smoking is a good first step. Same as giving up alcohol, saying no to exposure to sunlight, and saying yes to a healthy diet. By healthy diet, I mean e.g. eating much more vegetables and fruit. Among the most popular antioxidants, you will find vitamins A, E, and C, carotenoids, coenzyme Q, flavonoids, linoleic acid, etc. Also, staying fit and active is helpful if you want to keep free radicals at a low level. Avoiding stress might sound like a really difficult task, so just try to keep a healthy balance – get enough sleep, meditate, pay attention to what you eat.
The proper skincare and little habits you can implement in your everyday life may help you reduce or even eliminate oxidative stress. So, are you ready to go? I keep my fingers crossed!