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What Is Superoxide Dismutase? Learn More About Your Body’s Most Powerful Antioxidant

Think you know all about antioxidants? Think again!

When we talk about antioxidants, it’s often vitamin C or resveratrol that steals the spotlight in the skincare scene. But what if I told you that neither of them is the most powerful antioxidant of all? Enter superoxide dismutase! Not ringing a bell? No worries. We’re here to break down all the facts about the ingredient.

What is superoxide dismutase?

Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is a special enzyme found in all kingdoms of life, including our body cells and fluids. While it wears a lot of different hats, our body largely uses it to boost certain processes and break down reactive molecules known as free radicals.[1]

Think about the countless challenges our skin faces daily: pollution, sun exposure, and other environmental aggressors. These are all stressors that release damaging molecules that, if left unchecked, can make our skin age faster. This is where superoxide dismutase comes in. It eliminates these harmful molecules before they harm our body cells.

Now, you might wonder, “Don’t other antioxidants do the same?” Yes, but there’s a twist. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E have a one-time action; they neutralize, and then they’re done. Plus, the body cannot synthesize them nor store them in large amounts, so you must constantly consume them to get that much-needed antioxidant protection.

Superoxide dismutase, on the other hand, is made by the body as needed. It not only tackles these damaging molecules but works long after its antioxidant cousins have clocked out. This persistent action means your skin remains protected 24/7 against free radicals, even if you haven’t boosted your superoxide dismutase levels in a while.

However, life throws a curveball. As we age, our reservoir of superoxide dismutase starts diminishing.[2] By the age of 40, it becomes essential to restore this reservoir. We can do this by consuming foods rich in superoxide dismutase, using skincare products, or taking supplements.

How does it work?

Unlike other antioxidants, superoxide dismutase breaks down free radicals into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. These are less harmful as our body knows how to handle them. So this is how it works. When our body senses a rise in free radicals, it responds by producing SOD. Superoxide dismutase then binds to various tissues and protects them from damage.

There is also a growing body of evidence to suggest that superoxide dismutase can make the skin age healthily. It’s proven to have a positive influence on genes that promote cell longevity and produce collagen (the protein that gives elasticity and structure to the skin).[3] In simple terms, superoxide dismutase can boost the natural production of collagen. This can make the skin thicker, firmer, and less wrinkled.

Moreover, superoxide dismutase is a natural anti-inflammatory. This means it reduces redness and irritation, which can be beneficial for treating inflammatory conditions such as acne and eczema.

How to use superoxide dismutase

Your body produces this enzyme naturally, but you can also get it from other sources, such as food, supplements, and even skincare products.

Skincare products

Products like Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Serum and Allies of Skin 35% Vitamin C Serum contain superoxide dismutase. However, we’re not sure how effective they are. Some studies claim our skin can absorb superoxide dismutase and increase antioxidant protection, but others aren’t so sure. The thing is, some enzymes in our skin might break superoxide dismutase down and make it ineffective. It’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to how effective the topical application is.


Vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage), berries, soybeans, and beans are rich in superoxide dismutase. These foods provide natural or synthetic forms of SOD that can be absorbed into the bloodstream.


Taking supplements with 200-400mg of superoxide dismutase can support a healthy antioxidative defense. However, we’re not sure how effective they are due to the degradation of superoxide dismutase in the digestive tract. You might as well consider taking minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese (which are co-factors for superoxide dismutase).

Is it safe?

Since it’s naturally found in our body, using superoxide dismutase is considered safe, and side effects are usually not severe or persistent. However, avoid it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. There is not enough evidence to confirm how it reacts in these cases.


Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is the most active antioxidant in our body. Unlike other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which act for a short period of time, SOD is made by the body and provides sustained protection. However, superoxide dismutase levels decrease as we age. While skincare products and supplements offer benefits, their efficacy is debatable. Topical applications might be ineffective if certain skin enzymes break down superoxide dismutase. On the other hand, supplements can break down in the digestive tract. Our take on this? Consume foods like broccoli, cabbage, berries, soybeans, and beans, as they provide absorbable forms of SOD.


Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information and our process of researching the content.

  1. Younus H. Therapeutic potentials of superoxide dismutase. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2018 May-Jun;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.
  3. 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.
Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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