Free Radicals - Information
Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing one or more electrons. They very aggressively scavenge for electrons to replace the ones they are missing. These are chemicals that occur naturally in the body as a result of metabolic processes . These chemicals can be damaging to the cells if the natural defences are reduced or if there are just too many and the cells are swamped.
Free radicals are unstable small molecules generated by an oxygen environment which require stabilization by the body's antioxidant system. Free radicals occur throughout every cell in our body simply by virtue of the fact that oxygen is our principal metabolic fuel. Strong sunlight readily generates free radicals in the skin. Our hands, face, neck, and arms are the areas usually chronically exposed to light. These parts of the body, particularly the face, are where aging of the skin shows up.
The skin protein collagen is particularly susceptible to free radical damage, and when this damage occurs, it causes the collagen protein molecules to break down and then link back up again in a different way; this is known as cross-linking. Collagen cross-linking causes the normally mobile collagen to become stiff and less mobile. Sunlight also causes the messenger molecules present in skin cells to become active and create inflammatory products.
Free-radical damage occurs on an atomic level. Molecules are made of atoms, and a single atom is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Electrons are always found in pairs. However, when oxygen molecules are involved in a chemical reaction, they can lose one of their electrons.
UV radiation is one of the major creators of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that have only one electron instead of two. Because electrons are found in pairs, the molecule must scavenge other molecules for another electron. When the second molecule looses its electron to the first molecule, it must then find another electron repeating the process. This process can damage cell function and alter genetic material. Free radical damage causes wrinkles by activating the metalloproteinases that break down collagen. They cause cancer by changing the genetic material, RNA and DNA, of the cell.
Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable molecules that cause damage to healthy cells, leading to internal aging as well as visible signs of external aging. Each day, our young, healthy skin is exposed to trillions of free radicals; they are created inside our bodies through normal, necessary chemical reactions and all around us through pollution, UV radiation, x-rays, stress, strenuous exercise, and smoking.
In the case of our skin, cells exposure to free radicals can mean that over time our fibroblasts-the cells responsible for collagen and elastin production-work less efficiently to produce the skin protein necessary for skin smoothness, firmness, and elasticity. Although this decrease in collagen and elastin production happens gradually beneath the outermost surface of our skin, it becomes visible sometime in our late 20s or early 30s when we look in the mirror and discover our first wrinkle.
Free radicals damage lipids, proteins, and DNA. This damage is the root cause of aging. Every day, the DNA in a single cell receives thousands of free radical assaults. While our cells have repair enzymes that fix most of this damage, unfortunately, as we get older, the delicate balance between damage and repair becomes uneven. When cells with damaged DNA replicate, they create cells with imperfect structure and a compromised ability to function.
Exposure to the sun is the major source of free radicals and free radical damage because it creates massive amounts of free radicals on the surface of the skin. These free radical molecules move into the skin and damage the elastin and collagen cells. The damaged collagen becomes deformed, causing sagging and wrinkles. It also increases melanin production, which causes "age spots." Sun exposure is also the primary cause of skin cancer. By using a good sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB, you can dramatically reduce your exposure to free radicals.
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