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Antioxidants - what are they, and why are they so great for our skin?

Published: 16/08/2022

Antioxidants are a must-have in any skincare regime, helping us to protect, replenish and prevent premature skin ageing. While one of the best ways to consume antioxidants is through our food and drink, we can also apply them topically within our regular skincare routine.

But what makes antioxidants so special? It’s all about balance.

The Oxidant/Antioxidant Balance

Just like all healthy organisms, our bodies experience multiple oxidative reactions every single day. This is a normal part of how we function. We protect against harmful reactive oxygen species (or free radicals) by maintaining a delicate balance of oxidants and antioxidants, and most of our oxidative reactions are swiftly neutralised by the body. However, sometimes the equilibrium is compromised by free radicals.

Free radicals are everywhere, generated by the food we eat and the air we breathe. Fried food, alcohol and some medicines all cause free radicals, along with environmental stressors like pollution and cigarette smoke. UV exposure is perhaps the biggest trigger of free radicals in the skin, thought to contribute to up to 80% of skin ageing.

The Problem: Free Radicals

So what are free radicals, and why are they wreaking havoc?

Free radicals are unstable atoms with an unpaired electron that will stop at nothing to find an electron to couple up with. This means scavenging the body for electrons to steal from healthy cells, which leads to oxidative stress. It’s this stress that can cause DNA damage and contributes to a number of cardiovascular and inflammatory health conditions. Free radicals are also responsible for premature skin ageing, causing symptoms like fine lines, wrinkles and dull, discoloured skin. Fortunately, there’s a way to fight free radical damage and help the oxidant/antioxidant equilibrium, creating a healthier, more balanced body and skin. The key is antioxidants.

The Solution: Antioxidants

antioxidants in food

Antioxidants are molecules that can help to delay or prevent cell damage. They do this by stabilising free radicals, counteracting oxidation and helping to maintain healthy cells. Antioxidants have a unique ability to donate an electron to unstable cells without becoming unstable themselves. By offering electrons to free radicals, they appease their desire to be paired up, making them less reactive. This helps to slow down or completely stop damage.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-oxidants that are available from different sources. Some examples include vitamins A, B3, C and E, as well as the minerals selenium and manganese. Many of these anti-oxidants are naturally occurring and we can find them in fruit, veg, nuts and seeds. Natural antioxidants are also present in flowers, leaves, roots and barks.

Antioxidants in Skincare

In terms of skin health, the antioxidant ingredients you’ll often come across in your products include niacinamide (vitamin B3) and retinol (vitamin A). These ingredients are highly effective in creating a complexion that looks and feels brighter and healthier. For instance, niacinamide helps to give the skin luminosity and strengthen the skin’s surface. Meanwhile, retinol increases skin cell turnover, improves collagen production and stimulates new blood vessels.

Other popular skin-boosting antioxidants include vitamin E, which improves the skin’s protective barrier; vitamin C, which softens pigmentation and makes the skin firmer and plumper; and green tea extract, which reduces inflammation and slows collagen breakdown. Of course, no single anti-oxidant can do all the work. But certain anti-oxidants stand out from the crowd, including FernblockⓇ.

Fernblock, the Antioxidant Powerhouse

FernblockⓇ, the antioxidant powerhouse, is present every product in our award-winning Heliocare 360° range.

FernblockⓇ is an extract of the fern Polypodium Leucotomos, an aquatic plant that developed a natural sun protection ability and evolved to flourish on land. This power has been harnessed by the geniuses behind Heliocare, creating products that protect like never before. FernblockⓇ offers multiple levels of protection, preventing immediate sun damage as well as protecting against the long-term effects of sun exposure. Its anti-oxidant properties help to increase collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production, which in turn help to prevent wrinkles and pigmentation. What’s more, FernblockⓇ protects our skin’s Langerhans cells, which play a vital role in our skin’s immune system. Clinically proven and backed by science, FernblockⓇ is available exclusively from Heliocare, which is developed by Cantabria Labs, a world leader in dermatology.


Heliocare provides high-level broad-spectrum protection against the damaging effects of UVA, UVB, visible light – including blue light from digital devices – and infrared-A.

Every product contains FernblockⓇ to protect our skin cells and their DNA from within. There’s a product for every skin type including spot prone skin, dry and sensitive skin.

It’s a daily essential in every skincare regime – contact us to find the Heliocare that you’ll love to use every day.


1. Sharifi-Rad, M. et al (2020). Lifestyle, Oxidative Stress, and Antioxidants: Back and Forth in the Pathophysiology of Chronic Diseases [online] Frontiers. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2020.00694/full 

2. Szalay, J. (2016). What Are Free Radicals? [online] Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/54901-free-radicals.html

3. Poljšak, B. and Dahmane, R. (2012). Free Radicals and Extrinsic Skin Aging. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012, pp.1–4.

4. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (2013). Antioxidants: In Depth. [online] NCCIH. Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth

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