Even if you're not a beauty or skin care expert, you've surely heard the word "antioxidants" tossed around—and there's a good reason for it. When it comes to hero skin care ingredients, antioxidants are one of the best for keeping your skin looking healthy. Antioxidant benefits for skin are many, and you can find them in countless products, making them easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

What Are Antioxidants?

First off, it's important to know what antioxidants are. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (part of the NIH) defines antioxidants as substances that fight against cell-damaging compounds called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that come from your body's natural metabolism as well as environmental pollutants. They are known to neutralize viruses and bacteria, but too many in your system can cause illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer. They can also break down your skin's natural barrier to cause a number of skin problems, such as the increased risk for sunburn, lines, and creases, and possibly even skin cancer.

Your body already produces natural antioxidants, but there are foods and vitamins that contain antioxidants to provide an extra boost you might need. You can find antioxidants in many kinds of produce, including beets, beans, spinach, and kale. If those aren't to your taste, you can get plenty of antioxidants from strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and even dark chocolate. With all these healthy and tasty options, you shouldn't have any trouble getting the internal antioxidants you need.

As for the best antioxidants for skin, look for products that contain vitamins C and E, as well as retinol and niacinamide. Packaging for the products you browse will usually be upfront about containing these substances—after all, who wouldn't want to boast such helpful ingredients?

What Are the Antioxidant Benefits for Skin?

Your skin is constantly protecting you from the elements and external pollutants. Antioxidants are popular in skin care because they do so much to protect it against further damage. The skin benefits include:

  • Preserving collagen to prevent lines and wrinkles
  • Reducing acne
  • Preventing sunburn and skin cancer
  • Repairing damaged skin
  • Brightening your complexion

Studies show that antioxidants exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that will help combat acne and prevent damage from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays—a constant threat for which you should wear a daily broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen. The National Cancer Institute lists antioxidants as an important ingredient to preventing skin cancer. By reducing inflammation, antioxidants also allow the skin to rejuvenate and correct any damage. They also are known to preserve collagen to keep the skin plump and smooth.

How Do You Use Antioxidants in Skin Care?

Many skin care products boast antioxidants in their ingredient list, and they can be used together with other ingredients such as powerful amino acid complexes if you're trying to repair damaged skin and support immune health. In fact, more than 20 EltaMD skin and sun care products contain antioxidants. Although each product is specially formulated for a different purpose, you'll reap the same free radical fighting skin benefits of antioxidants for each one you use.

As long as you use your products in the correct order on a consistent basis—just like your daily use of sunscreen—you'll be using antioxidants correctly. All your body's systems, internal and external, will thank you for it.


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.