The role of antioxidants in photoprotection: a critical review

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Nov;67(5):1013-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2012.02.009. Epub 2012 Mar 9.


Free radicals have long been studied as a contributor to aging and disease processes. Endogenous production of radicals from cellular metabolism and exogenous sources from ultraviolet radiation and pollution can damage the skin on the cellular and tissue levels. Although the body possesses an elegant defense system to prevent radical damage, this innate system can be overwhelmed and lead to a state of oxidative stress or immunosuppression, and can even trigger carcinogenesis. Topical supplementation of antioxidants can provide additional protection to neutralize reactive oxygen species from both endogenous and exogenous sources. This review will discuss our current understanding of the mechanisms of free radical damage and evaluate the potential benefit of topical antioxidants in sunscreens and skin care products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / physiology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / physiology
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Skin Aging / physiology*
  • Sunlight* / adverse effects
  • Vitamin E / physiology


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radicals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Vitamin E
  • Ascorbic Acid