I love that you asked this.  In my opinion, this is a marketing ploy on the part of large manufacturers.  It’s a little like my the zinc issue.  My patients come in and say, “I found this great sunscreen at the pharmacy, and it has zinc in it!”   Sure enough, it HAS zinc in it but only 1-2% which is virtually useless.   If you look at the back of the tube or bottle, it tells you the active ingredients and their percentage.  For zinc you want 8-20% depending on where you live (like Florida versus Seattle :)), how much you are outside, in a car, sweating, what time of day you’re outside, etc.

The antioxidant issue is really similar.  Some large manufacturers are putting an antioxidant in their sunscreen products, but it’s so little, or not active that it’s useless.  Notice how they don’t mention a percentage, and if you contact the company, they generally won’t tell you.

You’ll get a much better result over time if you use a high-quality one.  Antioxidants are one area where it’s worth it to spend money.  Save on the gentle cleanser and moisturizer, and buy the better antioxidant.

What to look for in a quality antioxidant:

  • The main antioxidants effective in skincare products currently are vitamin Cs, polyphenol (like in green tea extract), and resveratrol (as in wine).
  • Are most of the antioxidants listed in the top half of the ingredients?
  • Is there a percentage listed?  If so, that’s helpful.
  • The vitamin C class is confusing. Look for L-ascorbic acid or ascorbyl glucoside
  • Other plant-based antioxidants are improving in quality and formulations, you might want to try one.

Why use a good antioxidant?

  • Binds to skin cell DNA and protects against free radicals generated by UV light and environmental pollutants
  • Reduces and lightens brown spots related to sun exposure
  • Helps to support collagen growth in the skin.


Hope this helps, and stay well!

Dr. B
Founder, SkinTour
Director, Madison Skin & Laser Center
Follow my skin tips and travels on Instagram!

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