Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Candidate
Welcome back! In part one of the series on anti-aging, we briefly discussed what antioxidants are and a simple step to prevent skin aging – sunscreen. As promised, we’ll discuss the following antioxidants, what their roles are, and the evidence behind their use, safety and efficacy.
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
Commonly known as vitamin C, ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin that has several roles in human skin:1
- Improves elasticity
- Reduces pigmentation
- Stimulates blood flow to your skin
Due to its effect on the skin, vitamin C can be used to improve dark circles on the lower eyelids which are often caused by hyperpigmentation and poor blood circulation.1 Additionally, the combination of vitamin C and vitamin E oral supplements seems to prevent sunburns, while applying vitamin C, vitamin E and melatonin prior to sun exposure may provide protection against UV rays. There seems to be some evidence suggesting that applying 5-10% vitamin C over 12 weeks may improve the appearance of wrinkled skin.2 While vitamin C is safe and generally well tolerated, it’s recommended to avoid taking more than 1 g per day due to an increased risk of diarrhea and kidney stones.3
Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
Carotenoids are organic pigments that are naturally produced by plants, algae, and some bacteria, and may be useful in protecting skin from UV induced skin damage.2,3 Components of carotenoids include:1
- Beta-carotene: Supplementation is not recommended for the general population due to safety concerns. Doses as low as 20 mg per day are associated with increased risk of lung and prostate cancer in those who smoke, and increased risk of death and toxicity in smokers and healthy non-smokers.2
- Astaxanthin: Commonly found in marine organisms such as salmon, trout, shrimp, and lobster, and is what gives them their pink-red colour. While it’s safer to use at doses of 4-40 mg per day for up to 12 weeks, the evidence supporting its use is weak. Preliminary evidence suggests taking a 2-3 mg oral supplement twice a day for six weeks or applying 0.094% topical agent to the face twice a day and taking 3 mg oral supplement daily for eight weeks may help improve elasticity, wrinkles and moisture in the skin of middle-aged men and women.2
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat soluble compound that offers its anti-aging effects by reducing UV-induced skin damage, as well as accelerating the production of new skin cells.1 It’s actually found our bodies at the highest concentration in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas.2 While you may have seen many skin products containing coenzyme Q10, there is not enough evidence to recommend its use. However, one article suggests applying 1% cream to the skin twice a day for five months to reduce wrinkles.
The last type of antioxidant we’ll discuss today are polyphenols, a big group of chemical molecules produced in plants.
- EGCG (epigallocatechin): It’s a type of polyphenol that may increase tolerance of the skin to UV stress after eight weeks of oral supplementation.1,2
- Resveratrol: It’s another type of polyphenol naturally found in red wine, red grape skins, purple grape juice, mulberries, and in smaller amounts in peanuts. It has potential to prevent UV-induced skin aging, decrease pigmentation of the skin2 and seems to be safe when consumed in amounts present in foods and in doses up to 1500 mg daily for up to three months.3 Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually have any evidence supporting its use in skin.
The Bottom Line
While there are many products and supplements claiming to have anti-aging effects on the skin, there is not enough evidence to support these claims. Based on the current evidence, it doesn’t seem to hurt to try topical versions of vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, coenzyme Q10 and polyphenols for your skin if you’re interested in seeing how they affect you. If you were to choose an oral supplement, it’s always important to talk to your health care professional to ensure you receive the appropriate dose, to assess its safety based on your medical conditions and to screen for potential drug interactions with your other medications.
We hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If we didn’t cover a type of antioxidant that you were hoping to learn more about, leave a comment in the article and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible! If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- Masaki, H. (2010). Role of antioxidants in the skin: anti-aging effects. Journal Of Dermatological Science, 58(2), 85-90. doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2010.03.003
- Natural Medicines Database