You expect certain changes to occur in your skin over time. Aging skin loses its elasticity and springiness and gradually wrinkles and sags. Although these are all natural changes related to aging, certain factors can speed up the process and leave you looking much older than you are.

Free Radicals Are the Enemy

Environmental exposure to certain toxins and radiation, including ultraviolet radiation, produces unstable molecules known as free radicals. When these molecules get together, they form a highly reactive chain that can result in cell damage or even cause cellular death–a process known as oxidative stress. Your skin cells are affected just like any other bodily cells, making free radicals a primary culprit in premature aging and skin cancer.

Antioxidants Are the Weapon

Antioxidants are nature’s choice defenders against free radical activity. These naturally occurring molecules have the ability to interact with free radicals, destroying them before they do too much damage. In addition to preventing accelerated aging in the skin, antioxidants also protect other body systems, which means they are a major aid in overall health and wellness.

Photo by @rebbl

You can protect your skin by getting more antioxidants, many of which can be absorbed from eating antioxidant-rich foods. Here are three antioxidants that are major free radical-scavengers. These antioxidants protect the skin against UV radiation and other environmental factors.  Eat more of these to promote healthier and younger-looking skin.

Vitamin A

This vitamin converts into the antioxidant phytochemicals called carotenoids in the body. You can get carotenoids from orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and papaya as well as from leafy green vegetables like kale and Swiss chard.

Vitamin C

This antioxidant contains an essential nutrient called L-ascorbic acid, which has been proven to minimize and reverse premature aging. Get Vitamin C from citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

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Vitamin E

This vitamin contains d-alpha tocopherol, an antioxidant linked to an increase in collagen, which helps reduce the appearance of fines lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E can be absorbed in the diet by eating nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, and spinach.

In addition to upping your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, you can also benefit from the topical application of antioxidants. Talk to your esthetician or dermatologist about different beauty treatments, such as peels, masks, and creams, that offer antioxidant protection.