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Keywords:

  • antioxidants;
  • free radicals;
  • oxidative stress;
  • skin;
  • sun protection;
  • sunlight

Summary

The earliest known microfossil records suggest that microorganisms existed on the earth approximately 3.8 billion years ago. Not only did sunlight drive this evolutionary process, but it also allowed photosynthetic organisms to elaborate oxygen and fundamentally change the earth’s atmosphere and subsequent evolution. Paradoxically, however, an atmosphere of 20% oxygen offers aerobic organisms both benefits and some key challenges, particularly, to the external integument. This mini-review summarizes almost 40 years of research and provides a “60 000-foot” perspective on cutaneous oxidative stress. Topics reviewed include the following: What are free radicals and reactive oxygen species? Where do they come from? What is their chemistry? What are their roles and/or impact on the skin? What antioxidant defenses are available to mitigate oxidative stress.