What Is Oxidative Stress?

Linked to factors that influence our skin’s environment, from seasonal changes to pollution and stress to lack of sleep, oxidative stress is a biological process that degrades cells’ integrity across the body. It is thought to be one of the main causes of organism aging. At skin level, it accelerates the visible signs of aging. In particular, pollution and UV rays—often found in urban environments—combine to intensify the effects of oxidative stress, encouraging the spread of free radicals. This results in skin appearing dull and fragile, but what exactly causes it?

What Causes Oxidative Stress?

We asked dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos to explain how oxidative stress occurs. Dr. Roos explains: “Polluted air particles and UVA rays are responsible for an upsurge in skin cell oxidation, which increases the number of free radicals. In response, the skin undergoes a process known as oxidative stress, which affects skin cells’ DNA—and thus, their ability to function. As a result of these freed molecules, skin can subsequently go on to suffer inflammation, with visible signs including redness and heightened sensitivity.”

How Does Oxidative Stress Affect my Skin?

We asked Dr. Roos to elaborate on some of the most visible ways skin responds to oxidative stress. As well as encouraging the development of wrinkles and fine lines, skin affected by free radical damage undergoes a reduction in firmness, resulting in less elastic skin. Sun damage, for example, tends to result in an increase in dark spots, as well as potentially provoking reactions on the skin’s outer layer, including redness and inflammation.

How to Treat a Skin Affected by Oxidative Stress?

In addition to these general effects, certain parts of the body tend to be more exposed to the exposomes that provoke oxidative stress. Dr. Roos says that areas particularly affected by oxidative stress include the face and neck, as well as the hands and décolleté. This makes antioxidants particularly important in the fight against free radical damage, helping to slow down the process of accelerated aging.

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