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What Causes Free-Radical Damage To The Skin?

Most people have a rudimentary idea of what free radicals do.

The short version is they are often cited as major contributors to cancer and are the result of extended sun exposure, among other environmental factors. Answering what causes free-radical damage to the skin requires a close look at UV ray damage, otherwise known as radiation damage.

First, letís be clear about what a free radical is. It is a compound that has one electron in its outermost orbital, which makes it unstable. Stable chemical compounds have two electrons in their outer orbit. This single, unstable electron loves to react with other single electrons, thereby forming a different compound which may be quite damaging to our dermis or skin layers.

What Types Of Free Radicals Are There?
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There are a number of free radicals humans have to deal with. Some come from the combination of two pure oxygen molecules, they are referred to as a superoxide. Others are called hydroxyl ions, which happen when water molecules in human cells are hydrolyzed into one hydrogen molecule and one hydroxyl ion and yet others are named peroxides.

Peroxides are the combined form of two hydrogen molecules and two oxygen molecules. The human body produces free radicals in response to normal metabolic activity as well as to chemical or gaseous poison exposure. This is what causes damage to the skin. Luckily, a healthy body can launch an immediate defense by neutralizing such free radicals, thus preventing any damage.

What You Can Do To Minimize Skin Damage?

Most of the repair work is done by the body without our knowledge by bringing enzymes to the damaging radicals. These enzymes, through their chemical reactions, will neutralize or kill off the harmful radicals. With that said, antioxidants have many benefits that help restore healthy tissue growth as well as providing protection from cell damage.

Enzymes like superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase will do that work and protect the health of the body. The best weapon you have for your defense is good health. Vitamin C, Vitamin E and carotene are anti-oxidants. They are very active in producing the enzymes required to neutralize free radicals. Exercise will also boost your immune system, increasing the endogenous enzymes which will then fight against free radical formation.

What Is The Biggest Cause Of Damage To The Skin Then?

Most free radicals are produced by our own excesses. By far the biggest enemy to the health of skin is the exposure to ultraviolet rays for an excessive amount of time. Repair mechanisms break down by repeated onslaughts from radiation. This is particularly true with UVA rays because they penetrate the dermis deeper to reach skin cells than UVB rays. UV radiation may eventually result in skin cancer.

Smoking cigarettes and exposure to cigarette smoke is linked to free radical production more than not smoking. Cigarette smoking will cause a multitude of damage but its effect on skin is premature wrinkling and aging. Food preservatives are also culprits that will harm our body. Excessive amounts of fat and cholesterol will do damage, as will too much alcohol consumption.
Alcohol will age the skin and reduce its elasticity before itís time. It is true that there are many causes for increased amounts of free radicals in the human body. In short, when answering the question of what causes free radical damage to the skin, the most common answer lies in radiation, smoking and alcohol abuse.

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