Free radicals to antioxidants: the science behind caring for oily skin

Problem skin often needs special attention. Here’s how to keep a blemish-prone complexion in check

by Emma Gunavardhana

Dr Emma Craythorne has spent her life studying skin; she is a consultant dermatologist, dermatological and laser surgeon and has a private practice on Harley Street. Problem skin, or skin types that can be challenging to manage, is something Craythorne knows a lot about. Aquí, she gives her unique insight into the way she helps people identify whether they have oily, blemish-prone skin and the skincare ingredients that’ll work best to target it …

Understand your skin type
“The first step in choosing the right skincare products is understanding what your skin type is,” says Craythorne. “To find out if you have oily skin, you want to assess what it feels like after you’ve washed it in the morning and patted it down. Esperar 20 minutos; if after 20 minutes oily areas are appearing then you have oily skin.”

De todas formas, using antioxidant skincare is vital because we are all subjected to the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, says Craythorne. “Free radicals exist within our body because we breathe – they are a byproduct of the cells and are caused by ageing, external damage such as UV, estrés, pollution and other external aggressors. A free radical is essentially a molecule that doesn’t have a paired electron – so it takes an electron from something else to become more stable, but that then leaves another molecule missing an electron, and so you have a chain reaction that causes a constant breaking of bonds.”

How can an antioxidant help? “This is where a topical antioxidant – such as vitamin C – can help,” says Craythorne. “Because it’s quite happy to give away an electron to stop that chain reaction and the breaking of those bonds.”

How antioxidant skincare works
“For patients who have blemishes, I always recommend an antioxidant,” Craythorne says. "Primero, because we know that when the oil in our skin is undergoing lots of oxidation it makes the environment a much happier place for blackheads to form and for bacteria to get in. We also know that people who have blemishes have issues with overall oxidation of the skin, so that’s another good reason to include an antioxidant. Finalmente, an antioxidant can be helpful with clearing pigment, which can be useful for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by blemishes.”

The ideal skincare regime for blemish-prone skin
“The best skincare routine, en mi opinión, is one that’s consistent and persistent and uses gentle, scientific, evidence-based skincare,” says Craythorne. “In the morning, wash your face, pat it dry and then apply your antioxidant serum. A really important step is to put on your sun protection factor (SPF). It doesn’t matter if you’re going outside or not because UVA can penetrate glass. I tell my patients to wear SPF every single day.”

But what other ingredients should you be looking for in your skincare? “Salicylic acid is a pretty wonderful skincare ingredient,” says Craythorne, “because it’s drawn to areas that have fats in them, which is great if you have oily skin because it’s drawn straight down into the follicles and it stays there and stops the connection between the cells and prevents those follicles from being blocked up by the oil.” There are a few ways to incorporate salicylic acid into your regime: “I’m a huge fan of facial washes with salicylic acid in, and a serum containing anything up to 2% is a great addition,” says Craythorne.

“Another ingredient to look out for is silymarin. It’s derived from milk thistle and it does a whole host of things, including reducing the amount of sebum and also reduces the oxidation of that sebum.”

The most important “ingredient” in any regime is consistency and persistence, says Craythorne. “It’s so important to be consistent and persistent because, generalmente, when we introduce anything to our skin it doesn’t do much until around seven weeks of being consistent and persistent. In the case of retinol, por ejemplo, your skin will likely get worse before it gets better, so you do have to wait it out to see how it’s impacting your skin. In an ideal world, you should set up a good skincare routine that you can stick to for three months and avoid the temptation to dabble. Después, you can look at what your skin is doing and how it has responded.”

Discover the skincare for you with SkinCeuticals’ antioxidant finder

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