Oxygen is essential for all higher living organisms, as it helps produce energy from organic matter. Through this specific process, in addition to energy production, oxygen free radicals are created. These are highly active molecules, which are created as by-products of normal metabolism (endogenous) and environmental stress (exogenous).
The term “oxidative stress” refers to the predominance of free radicals in our body and aptly describes the “stress” of the body that occurs due to oxidation. In particular, free radicals are transported through the bloodstream to all tissues and organs of the body and attack our cells, leading to the activation of a series of reactions that can cause unpleasant effects on our health.
Oxidative stress, then, is a form of attack that weakens our defense system and damages our skin and our body in general. It is no coincidence that it is one of the main factors of aging and has been associated with the development of cancer, the prevalence of chronic inflammation and the occurrence of various diseases.
There are many oxidizing factors that are responsible for the weakening of the body’s antioxidant capacity, such as air pollution, consumption of foods deficient in antioxidants, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalances and exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Oxidative stress and skin diseases
Studies suggest that oxidative stress can contribute to the denaturation of proteins, the alteration of cell cycles and the release of cytokines, factors that may trigger the onset of certain inflammatory skin conditions.
In fact, free radicals have been shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of allergic skin reactions. Ultraviolet radiation, which is also an important source of oxidative stress for the skin, in addition to producing free radicals, has a catalytic effect on the defense enzymes available in the skin against oxidation. In this way, skin aging can be accelerated.
Free radicals, due to their highly toxic nature, can trigger the onset of a chain reaction below the surface of the skin, resulting in skin damage. In fact, the oxidative stress that takes place in all the cells of our body is externalized through the aging of the skin and is the primary cause of sagging skin and the development of wrinkles.
The mechanisms involved in the appearance of skin lesions due to oxidative stress
Ultraviolet radiation in combination with oxygen diffused into the atmosphere triggers a series of photochemical reactions. Such reactions may cause skin cancer or aging due to changes in the DNA, including nucleic acid oxidation.
In general, exposure of the skin to UV rays is responsible for causing imbalances in the protective antioxidant system of enzymes in the exposed areas of the skin. Chronic or excessive exposure to UV radiation can operate as a causative agent of skin disorders.
Facial angiomas, freckles and radial keratosis occur as a result of exposure to sunlight. In fact, spots and freckles develop on the skin as a result of the damage caused to the body by the action of free radicals. Another thing that characterizes sun-aged skin is the loss of elasticity, roughness and dryness of the skin.
Therefore, free radicals, which are created by exposure to sunlight, can cause damage to collagen, elastin, melanocytes and the moisture barrier, leading to heterogeneity of skin tone, as well as the development of dark spots.
Based on new research, it has been suggested that vitiligo may also be due to the excessive accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the skin of patients. Therefore, oxidative stress is not excluded to contribute to the appearance of vitiligo, as patients do not find the appropriate enzyme (catalase) or at least the amount required to break down the hydrogen peroxide that accumulates in the skin.
The importance of Antioxidants in the treatment of Oxidative stress
The body has endogenous and exogenous defense mechanisms against oxidative stress. The various enzymes and proteins are classified as endogenous defense mechanisms, while the antioxidants we receive from our diet are among the exogenous mechanisms. These defense mechanisms can be compared to the oil in engines, which is characterized by the ability to reduce friction and heal cracks, thus enhancing engine performance.
So, taking in antioxidants through our diet is one of the ways to regulate and maintain a healthy defense system, which will be able to repel stressors, such as free radicals. Antioxidants help reduce wrinkles and normalize the rate of natural skin exfoliation. They protect our skin from UV radiation and the associated inflammatory reactions. Furthermore, they accelerate the healing process of skin wounds and help prevent and eliminate scars.
The Modern Medical Treatment of Oxidative Stress
Through the Basic Control of Oxidative Stress, the balance between oxidative stress and the antioxidant potential of the organism is assessed and the basic control of the enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant systems of the organism is evaluated. Based on the laboratory findings, a base can be formed to produce the necessary supplies in the body, in order to activate the healing mechanisms. Furthermore, it is possible to detect the underlying causes of many chronic diseases and clinical disorders.
Then, the appropriate treatment protocols are developed and personalized medical treatments are administered, with the help of which the oxidative processes that take place under our skin can be neutralized, as the destructive activity of free radicals for our skin is prevented.
These treatments are aimed at people who want to prevent their health levels and assess the levels of oxidative stress in their body, so that, if necessary, they can follow an antioxidant treatment. Nevertheless, antioxidant therapies are indicated even for patients with chronic diseases.
- Poljsak B., Dahmane R.G., Godic A. Intrinsic skin aging: The role of oxidative stress. Acta Dermatovenerol. Alp. Pannonica Adriat. 2012;21:33–36.
- Bae Y.S., Oh H., Rhee S.G., Do Yoo Y. Regulation of reactive oxygen species generation in cell signaling. Mol. Cells. 2011;32:491–509. doi: 10.1007/s10059-011-0276-3.
- Poljsak B., Dahmane R. Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging. Dermatol. Res. Pract. 2012 doi: 10.1155/2012/135206.
- Chen L., Hu J.Y., Wang S.Q. The role of antioxidants in photoprotection: A critical review. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2012;67:1013–1024. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2012.02.009.
- Schafer M., Werner S. The cornified envelope: A first line of defense against reactive oxygen species. J. Investig. Dermatol. 2011;131:1409–1411. doi: 10.1038/jid.2011.119.
- Aung-Htut M.T., Ayer A., Breitenbach M., Dawes I.W. Oxidative stresses and ageing. Subcell. Biochem. 2012;57:13–54.
- Sadowska-Bartosz I., Bartosz G. Effect of antioxidants supplementation on aging and longevity. Biomed. Res. Int. 2014 doi: 10.1155/2014/404680.
- Pandel R., Poljsak B., Godic A., Dahmane R. Skin photoaging and the role of antioxidants in its prevention. ISRN Dermatol. 2013 doi: 10.1155/2013/930164.