Superoxide Dismutase in Skincare Explained: The Most Powerful Antioxidant Of All

The full 101 on superoxide dismutase for skin.
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We’re all fond of antioxidants as they’re our most trusty allies in battling external foes from depleting skin integrity. And I know when I say antioxidants, you probably think of vitamin C or resveratrol, but these aren’t the only powerhouses you should be focused on. That’s why in today’s post, we’ll introduce you to the big league of antioxidants, the strongest of all, yet very few are familiar with it: meet superoxide dismutase in skincare. Maybe it isn’t as popular as its counterparts, but this superpower antioxidant shouldn’t fall by the wayside and could very likely be your ticket to unbreakable skin. So read on to find out everything you need to know about superoxide dismutase for skin.

What is superoxide dismutase?

Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is the body’s most powerful antioxidant enzyme found in all our cells that form the front line of defense against highly reactive radicals. What superoxide dismutase does for skin is hunt and break down these cell-damaging molecules, which in turn prevents all sorts of issues such as premature aging and oxidative stress.[1]

Now, the thing that makes SOD stand above other antioxidants is that it continues to fight the harmful radicals even after the neutralization process, compared to others like vitamin C or E, which only work during the process. That means SOD keeps your skin protected all day long, 24/7, even when you haven’t supplemented your body with it for weeks. However, that only happens if you have enough superoxide dismutase in your cells, which is difficult to maintain since the natural SOD levels drop as we age.[2] Hence, to keep skin shielded from oxidative damage, you have to complement SOD levels either by eating foods rich in superoxide dismutase, applying topical products, or taking supplements.

As a side note, SOD is actually found in all kingdoms of life, including in vegetables and green plants, which are excellent sources to get your intake of superoxide dismutase.

What does it do to your skin?

Superoxide dismutase is used in skincare mostly as an anti-aging and restorative ingredient due to its antioxidant and free radical-scavenging power. There’s also evidence suggesting superoxide dismutase possesses anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great multitasker that can give you a healthy and resilient complexion.[3] More exciting still, emerging research shows that superoxide dismutase can prevent skin aging by promoting collagen production and reducing protein degradation, helping preserve skin firmness and thickness.[4] P.S: More collagen is needed not only for anti-aging but also for wound healing, so superoxide dismutase is truly a skin savior for all of us.

Given the above, the skin benefits of superoxide dismutase include:

  • Offsets oxidative stress
  • Supports wound healing
  • Boosts collagen
  • Prevents aging signs such as wrinkles and fine lines
  • Reduces UV-induced damage
  • Softens scars

Is it safe?

Since the body produces it, superoxide dismutase is considered safe for skin whether topically applied or taken orally. However, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid superoxide dismutase to stay safe, as there is not enough solid evidence to confirm how it reacts in these cases.

How to use superoxide dismutase

Your body makes superoxide dismutase naturally, but you can boost its levels for more intense benefits by eating fresh food sources of SOD (like broccoli and cabbage), taking supplements, or using skincare products containing SOD. However, there are a few downsides to the topical use of superoxide dismutase for skin. That is, the ingredient is very unstable and has a high molecular weight, affecting its delivery into the skin. Hence, the most effective way to use superoxide dismutase for skin is to take it internally from your diet or supplements. Last but not least, you should still use skincare products infused with superoxide dismutase to reap all the benefits. We consider the following products to be the best:

  1. Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Serum (view on Paula’s Choice)
  2. SkinMedica Replenish Hydrating Cream (view on Amazon)
  3. Allies of Skin Vitamin C 35% Collagen Rebuilding Serum (view on Allies of Skin)
  4. 100% Pure Vitamin C Serum (view on 100% Pure)
  5. Tata Harper Restorative Eye Creme (view on Tata Harper)
  6. Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Serum (view on Sephora)

Take takeaway

Superoxide dismutase remains one of the most important antioxidant defenses against free radicals in the body. So you should include it in your skincare routine ASAP to keep your skin healthy, especially since its levels start to decline with age. If you’re a skincare enthusiast, our skincare dictionary and ingredients cheat list are great places to keep an eye on all ingredients and learn how you can mix them for dramatic results.

References

  1. Younus H. Therapeutic potentials of superoxide dismutaseInt J Health Sci (Qassim). 2018;12(3):88-93.
  2. Inal ME, Kanbak G, Sunal E. Antioxidant enzyme activities and malondialdehyde levels related to aging. Clin Chim Acta. 2001 Mar;305(1-2):75-80. doi: 10.1016/s0009-8981(00)00422-8. PMID: 11249925.
  3. Artur Shariev, Spiro Menounos, Alistair J. Laos. Skin protective and regenerative effects of RM191A, a novel superoxide dismutase mimetic. Redox Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2020.101790.
  4. Lee MJ, Agrahari G, Kim HY, An EJ, Chun KH, Kang H, Kim YS, Bang CW, Tak LJ, Kim TY. Extracellular Superoxide Dismutase Prevents Skin Aging by Promoting Collagen Production through the Activation of AMPK and Nrf2/HO-1 Cascades. J Invest Dermatol. 2021 Oct;141(10):2344-2353.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2021.02.757. Epub 2021 Apr 6. PMID: 33836179.
Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana is a sociologist and feminist with a shared passion for literature, psychology, and skincare, the combo that made her determined to start Women's Concepts. With over five years of experience in dermatological research, she has now become a certified skincare consultant keen to convince others of the importance of a diligent routine. Her close relationships with dermatologists around the globe, along with years of researching, analyzing studies, and hand-testing products on a daily basis, made Ana one of the best persons you can get advice from.
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Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
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