Monday, March 16, 2009

Beauty Buzz Word: Free Radicals

Free Radicals are nasty little buggers that basically break down healthy cells. Environmental factors like pollution, automobile exhaust, and cigarette smoke can cause molecules to split and end up with unpaired electrons. This process, called oxidation, is responsible for everything from rust to the way an apple turns brown after being cut.

When a molecule has an unpaired electron, it becomes much like a drunken sorority girl looking for free beer- she wanders around until she finds the nearest stable cell, which she then attaches to in order to steal his electron. When the "boy" cell loses his electron, he becomes a free radical, and a chain reaction is started, which can eventually end in the destruction of the living cell. When skin cells are damaged or destroyed it results in wrinkles, dark spots and skin cancer.

Free radicals are thought to be neutralized by substances called antioxidants.

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