What do antioxidants do?
Protect the skin from harmful free radicals
Repair sun damage and improve fine lines and wrinkles
Reduce inflammation
Fade dark patches of skin

What should I use antioxidants for?
To protect the skin from UV damage
Fine lines and wrinkles

Which antioxidant should I choose?
Vitamin C  – best for hyperpigmentation and brightening
Vitamin A – best for anti-ageing and acne-prone skin
Vitamin B3 – best for sensitive, inflamed skin

How do I use antioxidants?
Apply in the morning, followed by moisturiser and sunscreen

Evidence rating


 We all know antioxidants are good for us, but understanding what they actually do can be confusing. Here’s a summary. 

What are antioxidants and how do they work?

The cells in our skin produce molecules called free radicals. If we produce too many free radicals, which can occur in response to ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, smoking, alcohol and pollution, the free radicals can cause damage to the skin and accelerate signs of aging. Antioxidants help to protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. In addition, they can repair sun damage and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce inflammation, and lighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Examples of antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B3, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 and green tea polyphenols. Others include ferulic acid and resveratrol

Why should I use them? 

Use antioxidants to protect your skin from UV damage and other potentially harmful environmental factors (such as pollution, alcohol and cigarette smoke), to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, to reduce inflammation, and to even out pigmentation

How should I use them? 

Antioxidants help protect against UV damage, so it’s best to apply them in the morning, before moisturiser and sunscreen

Which one should I choose?

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to antioxidants, with so many great options available. Antioxidants often work best when used in combination, so choosing a product which combines two or three antioxidants may be most effective. In a nutshell, Vitamin C is great for pigmentation and brightening, vitamin A is great for anti-ageing and acne-prone skin, and Vitamin B3 is a good all-rounder, particularly for those with inflamed or sensitive skin

As well as protecting against free radicals, Vitamin C can improve collagen production and combat hyperpigmentation. It’s often found in products in combination with the antioxidants ferulic acid and vitamin E, creating a powerhouse of antioxidant goodness. 

Vitamin A is best known for its anti-ageing properties, as it helps to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and boost collagen production. It’s also useful for oily, acne-prone skin. It’s a great choice if anti-ageing or acne is a concern, but it can be a bit irritating. Check out our page on Vitamin A to learn more. 

Vitamin B3, or niacinamide, is a useful antioxidant and is also anti-inflammatory. It’s an excellent choice if you have sensitive skin, or can’t tolerate vitamin C.

Addor FAS. Antioxidants in dermatology. An Bras Dermatol. 2017;92(3):356-362. 

Aldag C, Nogueira Teixeira D, Leventhal PS. Skin rejuvenation using cosmetic products containing growth factors, cytokines, and matrikines: a review of the literature. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016;9:411-419. 

Fuchs J, Milbradt R. Antioxidant inhibition of skin inflammation induced by reactive oxidants: evaluation of the redox couple dihydrolipoate/lipoate. Skin Pharmacol. 1994;7(5):278-84.


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Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…