Antioxidants: The Sunscreen Sidekick Your Skin Needs

Antioxidants: The Sunscreen Sidekick Your Skin Needs

Most people know that they should use sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging, but there’s an SPF-enhancing sidekick that’s often overlooked—ANTIOXIDANTS. We reveal the science behind how antioxidants boost your sunscreen’s effectiveness + tips to keep skin looking young, healthy, and vibrant.

Sunscreen Isn’t Failproof

As great as broad-spectrum sunscreen is, it doesn’t offer 100% protection from the harmful rays we encounter daily. For example, a sunscreen with SPF 15 keeps out approximately 93% of bad ultraviolet (UV) rays, SPF 30 equates to 97% protection, and SPF 50+ garners about 98%. Another factor is that most people don’t apply (or reapply) sunscreen as liberally as they should to get sufficient protection.

The residual UV exposure from the rays that get through can trigger free-radical damage that accelerates skin aging, in the form of wrinkles, dark spots, loss of firmness, and other issues. Even if you can’t see or feel the damage, it’s happening, albeit at a deeper level, and the results will show up over time. This doesn’t mean sunscreen isn’t effective or worth using—it absolutely helps protect skin from sun damage—but even superheroes need a little help every now and then.

Antioxidants to the Rescue!

Antioxidants can help compensate for sunscreen’s inherent shortcomings (and for human error in application) by neutralizing the free-radical damage that sun exposure causes. They literally play a defensive role by diffusing the effects of the bad rays that make it through your sunscreen. Not only that, antioxidants also help defend skin from other sources of free radicals, such as high-energy visible (HEV) light and blue light from your cell phone. Left unchecked, this damage can lead to skin problems no one wants.

Many antioxidants also have skin-calming properties (environmental exposure stresses skin) and play a formulary role by helping to stabilize the sunscreen while also boosting its effectiveness.

Simply put: Antioxidants supercharge your sunscreen by ensuring maximum protection and supplemental repair for your skin.

When & How to Apply Sunscreen-Boosting Antioxidants

The easiest way to get improved environmental protection is to apply a sunscreen infused with antioxidants every morning.

You can also use an antioxidant serum before applying your sunscreen. (Sunscreen should always be your last skincare step in the AM.) When it comes to topical application of antioxidants, skin can’t get enough, so don’t worry about overdoing it.

Additionally, consider applying a moisturizer loaded with antioxidants at night to help further repair signs of sun damage from rays that may have gotten through.

All of the above will help provide a synergistic defense and help your skin stay supple, healthy, even-toned, and vibrant.

Which Antioxidants Are Best?

There really is no single best antioxidant; rather, there are hundreds of amazing antioxidants that complement the anti-aging benefits of sunscreen. Following are just a few of the antioxidant-rich options that have substantial research supporting their benefit in countering the effects of UV light:

  • coffee fruit extract
  • ferulic acid
  • glutathione
  • green tea
  • kiwi fruit extract
  • superoxide dismutase
  • ubiquinone
  • vitamins C & E (all forms)
  • white tea leaf extract
  • wild cherry fruit extract

Keep in mind, however, that this is only the tip of the iceberg for SPF-boosting antioxidants—the more, the merrier.

References for this information:
Frontiers in Pharmacology, August 2018, ePublication; and April 2018, ePublication
Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, June 2018, pages 123-130
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, May 2017, pages 81-89
Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, August 2016, pages 34–39
European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, October 2015, pages 79–89
Journal of Photo
chemistry and Photobiology B: Biology
, November 2014, pages 36–40
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, June 2014, pages 71–77
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, November 2012, pages 1013–1024; and September 2008, pages 418–425

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!