As we said, free radicals have become unstable due to having an uneven number of electrons. Atoms naturally tend toward stability, however. To regain this state, a free radical may snatch an electron from a neighboring molecule, or unload its spare electron on its neighbor. That molecule may likewise scavenge from a neighbor.
Molecular instability can weaken and kill a cell by damaging its membrane. That can mean poor collagen production and other breakdowns in the mechanism of healthy skin.
Antioxidants are chemical compounds that break this chain by supplying electrons to mollify free radicals. Foods made from plants are rich sources of antioxidants, which include vitamins A, C and E, plus color-bearing compounds such as beta-carotene and anthocyanins. Antioxidants work best when combined. Filling your plate every day with a variety of deep-colored fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and legumes, is the most effective way to add them in your diet.
Recent studies show that some antioxidants not only prevent damage from free radicals, but can also help reverse it. A form of vitamin A called retinol has been proven to reduce wrinkles by stimulating collagen-producing cells [source: Fisher et al]. Retinol is synthesized from beta-carotene. It's also found ready-made in liver, eggs and fortified (that is, vitamin-enriched) foods like cereals and dietary supplements. And vitamin E can be absorbed into cell membranes. Once there, it enables cells to repair damage caused by the reactions of fatty acids with oxygen, and can even help prevent that damage from occurring in the future [source: Howard et al].
Speaking of fats, they also play a role wrinkle reduction. Our next tip explains how.