This handy guide will help you choose the perfect antioxidant for your skin


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Photo: Getty Images/ Elizabeth Fernandez

We all know that different skin conditions need different products (which is why fellow beauty editors Rachel, Ali, and I never have to battle it out over who gets to test whatever comes across our desks), but there’s one thing that every morning routine should have in common: an antioxidant.

No matter which skin condition you’re dealing with—whether it’s acne, oiliness, aging, dryness, sensitivity, or “all of the above”—an antioxidant serum should be the meat (or, alt meat, for my veg friends) of your routine, sandwiched between your cleanser and SPF. Why? Because these ingredients work to zap away free radicals in your skin. “Whether you are in highly polluted areas or getting too much UV damage, free radicals form and can harm your cellular structures, and antioxidants protect you from this and are crucial to good skin health,” says board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD.

While there’s no question that everyone should be using an antioxidant on their skin, the question does remain of which one is worth reaching for. And the answer depends on your skin concern. An easy way to figure it out? By way of this easy-to-navigate guide. Read on for more info, below.

For aging and hyperpigmentation, try vitamin C

Of all of the antioxidants on this list, vitamin C is likely the one you’re most familiar with. Most derms will recommend it as part of a daily regimen for its brightening and skin tone evening properties, and for the fact that it stimulates collagen synthesis.

For breakouts, try resveratrol

You know how people are always saying that red wine is good for you? Well, that’s thanks to resveratrol, the primo antioxidant found in red grapes. It acts as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, which means it’s great for fighting acne. According to research, it also helps fight oxidative stress and can boost your complexion’s health and appearance.

For dryness, try vitamin E

We’ve called vitamin E “vital” to you beauty routine, and it’s true. This ultra-nourishing ingredient guards against free radicals while also offering up moisture to skin. You’ll often find it paired with vitamin C for a double-dose of antioxidant protection, and a combo that promotes healthy cell growth.

For oily or sensitive skin, try green tea

Tea is not only a critical ingredient for the best hygge nights in, but it’s also great for your skin. Many teas are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used both internally or topically to reap this benefit,” Frank Lipman, MD, founder of BeWell and the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC, previously told Well+Good. “Tea gets its health-enhancing power from flavonoids, the natural chemical compounds that help neutralize free-radicals, limiting their ability to inflame and damage the body.” Green tea is one of these such teas, and offers antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and sebum regulating properties, which means oily and sensitive skinned people can benefit from it, whether drinking or slathering it on.

For signs of aging, try CoQ10

CoQ10—which is short for “CoEnzyme Q10″—encourages collagen production. Collagen starts to deplete as you age,  but “needs to be bio-identical, meaning it needs to be your collagen to replace lost collagen,” Hannah Hatcher, global educator and supplements education manager at Jane Iredale previously told Well+Good, explaining that CoQ10 is a great pick for that reason exactly, it helps to fight off lines and wrinkles, leaving skin plump and supple.

For oily and dry, acneic, or hyperpigmented skin, try niacinamide

Otherwise known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is a hero ingredient for a whole lot of different reasons. “It helps brighten the complexion and lighten dark spots. It also helps calm inflammation and supports healthy collagen production,” says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD.  It also helps to repair the skin barrier and regulate oil production, while also calming inflammation and fighting off fine lines and wrinkles. In other words, pretty much anyone can benefit from it.

If you’re only going to add one serum to your routine, make it one of these multitasking bad boys. Plus, why pearl (yup, pearl) is another antioxidant-packed ingredient worth investing in

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