What the Science Says about Antioxidants and your Skin

Skin is the body's largest organ, facing a large number of stressors on a daily basis. Numerous extrinsic and intrinsic factors influence the chronological and photoaging of skin: including genes, stress, sunlight, diet, hormonal changes, etc. In younger years, our skin does a great job of regenerating itself, but our repair efficiency degrades with age.

…and the culprit behind the fine lines? Thinning crepey skin? Inflammation? Age spots?

In this constant battle, antioxidants are the peacekeeper vigilantes just trying to keep the equilibrium, which fortunately helps our skin in the process.

How do free radicals age skin?

Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons; unstable molecules generated in response to environmental insults such as UV rays, air pollutants and toxic chemicals. Our bodies experience oxidative stress when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. We produce free radicals naturally, in response to the food we eat, the air we breathe, exposure to UV rays, and so much more. 

We see our skin begin to “age” as cellular levels of reactive oxygen species (a subset of free radicals) increase. Under the microscope, we see damage to lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids in both epidermal and dermal cells, which leads to premature skin aging and photoaging

Free radicals also play an important role in senescence (the loss of cells’ ability to regenerate) by transforming protein conformation and disrupting several other interactions and activities needed to maintain cell health.  Skin fibroblasts, the primary active cells responsible for making collagen and the extracellular matrix, undergo substantial changes and reduction in number along with impairment of functional capacity. Skin thinning, the loss of skin flexibility and elasticity, and wrinkle formation are a consequence of such a decline. This process causes skin to lose much of its elasticity, firmness and resilience resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin.

What exactly are antioxidants?

Antioxidants constitute an important group of compounds capable of preventing or reducing skin damage and aging resulting from internal and external factors.

Whether harnessed from nature or synthetically created, antioxidant compounds such as vitamins A, C and E, polyphenols and enzymes can act as electron donors to free radicals, stabilising electron pairs and reducing oxidative damage to the skin. They are frequently found in skin care product formulations for their skin-benefiting properties. 

Why is Oxidative Stress bad for the skin?

When free radicals overwhelm antioxidant defences, an oxidative stress state develops. Free radicals damage and disrupt cellular function, resulting in chronic inflammation, impaired barrier function and the following:

1. Skin Aging

- Causes cell DNA damage;
- Triggers lipid and protein oxidation;
- Contributes to glycation activity;
- Decreases barrier function and dehydration;
- Increases inflammation.

2. Inflammatory skin disorders

- Associated with atopic dermatitis, urticaria and psoriasis.

3. Acne

- Increases inflammation;
- Decreases barrier function;
- Triggers lipid and protein oxidation.

4. Barrier Function

- Increases inflammation;
- Increases transepidermal water loss (TEWL).


What do antioxidants do for the skin?

Antioxidants primarily work to prevent oxidative stress or the damage caused by free radicals. This damage, which causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin, can manifest as premature aging, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation. Antioxidants help to protect the skin. Research suggests that, when used correctly, antioxidants can assist with the signs of aging and skin damage by soothing irritation, and brightening and smoothing fine lines. 

Which antioxidants should you consider for your skin or product formulation?

Our customers often ask us "What are the best antioxidants for skin?" There are dozens of incredible NATURAL antioxidants available in our botanical extracts range. Despite the seemingly limitless number of beneficial antioxidants, a few are standouts when it comes to skincare. Knowing which ones to look for can make formulating skin care products a lot easier.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that is especially effective at reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, and uneven skin tone. This well-studied water-soluble vitamin is regarded as an age-supporting powerhouse for all skin types. Vitamin C can be sourced as synthetic ascorbic acid or natural ascorbic acid.  

When applied topically, vitamin C has been shown to maintain skin resiliency, giving it a firmer feel and smoother appearance. According to research, vitamin C also helps improve uneven skin tone and brighten dull skin, making it appear younger.

As an antioxidant, vitamin C works to maintain the skin’s barrier function through hydration, limiting UV damage and preserving skin integrity.

NATIVE EXTRACTS’ Kakadu Plum Cellular Extract concentrate delivers a stable, natural source of vitamin C in its water-soluble entourage suitable for a variety of skin care products, from lip balms, serums, lotions, active mists to eye creams.


Polyphenols are secondary metabolites naturally produced by plants. There are many different types of polyphenols and they are generally involved in protecting the plant against pathogens and UV radiation.

Flavonoids are a major class of polyphenols that include compounds such as quercetin and anthocyanins. In addition to their other multiple attributes, these compounds can function as antioxidants to provide protection from UV damage and to stabilise free radicals when used in a topical application. Sun exposure is widely regarded as the primary cause of extrinsic skin aging, and the search for natural ingredients that can help protect the skin from UVA and UVB radiation has been a hot topic.

Quercetin is one of the most abundantly found dietary flavonoids in plants. It is used extensively for the treatment of metabolic and inflammatory disorders due to its ability to increase the body’s antioxidant potential through glutathione regulation. Topically, this strong antioxidant potential provides for protection from UV radiation damage, reduced inflammation and more effective healing of damaged skin. 

Anthocyanins are highly water-soluble plant colourants thought to provide photoaging protection, and act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. The topical application of anthocyanin-rich extracts may prevent UV skin damage by reducing the amount of UVB radiation reaching the epidermis. Including quercetin, and an anthocyanin-rich extract may be a viable natural alternative for sun protection and provide high levels of antioxidant potential to combat the damage from the extrinsic and intrinsic stressors experienced in everyday living.


Request the FROM THE LAB – Antioxidant Brochure for more information



Explore plant extracts that contain antioxidants

The concept of skin care is evolving, along with the definition of “beauty,” shifting from age-defying to aging-well (wrinkles and all). With a natural approach, formulators and brands are looking for more plant-based and biodegradable antioxidant sources.  Our ‘aging-well’ Cellular Extracts contain key antioxidants and characteristics to help skin mature with grace.


Request our FROM THE LAB – Anti-aging brochure for more information


NATIVE EXTRACTS’ biochemists continue to investigate the antioxidant potential of our extracts through extensive third-party testing with leading plant science university laboratories, which demonstrated considerable antioxidant activity in many of our extracts.

Three widely accepted antioxidant assays (FRAP, DPPH and ABST) were used to challenge our extracts against industry-standard commercial products such as synthetic ascorbic acid, tomato and orange juice. All our tested Cellular Extract concentrates showed significantly greater antioxidant potential! NE Mountain Pepper Berry Cellular Extract Concentrate and NE Quandong Cellular Extract Concentrate showed standout results. Test results show that the NE Mountain Pepper Berry Cellular Extract contains the highest levels, with the NE Quandong Cellular Extract also demonstrating high levels. Other extracts worth exploring:

NE Tasmanian Lavender Cellular Extract Concentrate

NE Green Tea Cellular Extract Concentrate

NE Green Coffee Bean Cellular Extract Concentrate

NE Blueberry Fruit Cellular Extract Concentrate

To learn more about our NE Cellular Extract Range and the antioxidant results we achieved in the University of Queensland screening please download our latest findings in our FROM THE LAB Series - Antioxidants: Why do we need antioxidants” brochure.








Additional research can be found in our From The Lab-Antioxidants brochure