Our skin is the first interface to the external environment and all its stressors. The main external factors that cause oxidative stress to our skin include environmental UVA and UVB solar light, air pollution, alcohol, smoking and psychological stress. But it’s not all death knells and doom and gloom, we can support our skin’s oxidative stress levels through lifestyle choices and intelligent supplementation.


Molecules that trigger oxidation are called oxidants, also known as free radicals. When oxygen is metabolised, it creates these unstable molecules called ‘free radicals’, which cause damage to DNA and other cells. Free radicals are produced by nearly everything we do that involves oxygen – from breathing to digestion. 

Free radicals have an uneven number of electrons, and this is a problem, because electrons like to be in pairs. To even things out, free radicals steal electrons from healthy molecules to stabilise themselves. It’s this molecule that then becomes a free radical.

But not all free radicals are out to get you, and some are necessary for certain physiological functions like killing off old cells and germs. They only become a problem when the amount of oxidants exceeds the antioxidant capacity – this leads to oxidative stress.

A sustained state of oxidative stress speeds up the skin aging process, contributing to the loss of collagen and elastin fibres, resulting in fine wrinkles, sagging, and texture changes. It can also trigger dark spots and other discoloration. Oxidative stress also affects skin’s basic functions, like a reduced barrier function, increased sensitivity, and decreased moisture.


Making small changes can have a big impact on your body’s fight against oxidation. These adjustments are pretty obvious – avoid cigarette smoke, manage your alcohol consumption, get regular exercise, and eat foods rich in antioxidants. 

The effects of daily life on our decreasing antioxidant capacity is astounding. Things you never thought of can affect your body’s oxidative stress levels, like the amount of time you spend in traffic, if you live in an urban or suburban setting, or how close your home is to a main road. Because life as it is in the 2000s is putting our bodies under more toxic stress than ever, it’s prudent to consider antioxidant supplements for extra support in the fight against free radicals.



Astaxanthin is the pigment that gives salmon, some crustaceans, and flamingos their coral shade of pink. It’s a potent carotenoid that may help protect your skin from wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Side note: carotenoids also occur in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables like oranges, carrots, butternut squash, spinach, and red pepper.

Astaxanthin wears many hats, but for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on its external benefits of the skin. 

One 2009 study showed that combining oral supplementation and topical application of astaxanthin improved wrinkles, age spots, skin texture and moisture content of the skin.

In other randomised, controlled trials reviewed, it was found that astaxanthin supplementation improved skin texture, appearance (wrinkles), and moisture content at the end of the study period. The supplement also appeared to protect against UV-induced skin damage, and no adverse effects were reported in any of the studies. 


Ubiquinone (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that can help stressed skin by reducing free radicals and increasing antioxidant capacity. It’s the active form of CoQ10, a fat-soluble compound found in all cells of the body. 

It’s a naturally produced organic molecule that’s crucial for cellular energy production, but levels decrease with age and external stress. Some research suggests that supplementing with Ubiquinol can reduce signs of ageing, reverse sun damage, and promote collagen production.

Ubiquinol benefits for skin are derived from its ability to help rapidly regenerate cells and fight free radicals. Sustained use of Ubiquinol may improve the look of your skin. Moving beyond an improvement in the appearance of wrinkles, there’s also added protection from external exposure to free radicals such as smoke, pollution, UV rays and other environmental sources. By neutralising these free radicals with the help of other antioxidants like Vitamin C and E, Ubiquinol may help skin appear smoother and healthier.


Pycnogenol is my secret weapon. It’s a registered trademark name for a natural antioxidant supplement made from the bark of a French maritime pine tree. 

A 2017 review reported on the many benefits of using pine bark extract to reduce the effects of ageing on skin. Pine bark extract appears to reduce the creation of free radicals, which are molecules linked to several skin conditions. It also seems to help with cell regeneration and replication. The skin benefits noted in the review were an improvement in visible signs of ageing, a reduction in wrinkles from UVB rays, reduced discolouration, and reduced skin thickness.

Another study concluded that Pycnogenol significantly improved hydration and elasticity of skin. These effects were most pronounced in women presenting with dry skin conditions prior to the start of supplementation.

There are lifestyle choices you can make to reduce oxidative stress, eliminating stressors like smoke, alcohol, a diet low in antioxidants and managing your stress levels, but choosing a smart supplement that gives you an extra antioxidant boost is a worthwhile investment for your skin and beyond – your future self will thank you.