Highly unstable molecules created in the body by sunlight, cigarette smoke, and pollution that latch onto and damage cells in ways that can lead to roughness, sagging, and wrinkling. Molecules that have gained or lost an extra electron, which means they need to “steal” electrons from surrounding sources. Free radicals are sometimes created in the body in small amounts through totally normal and natural processes. But they can also be created by exposure to some kinds of radiation, including UV rays. And in high enough doses, free radicals can damage the skin. Antioxidants are thought to neutralize free radicals and prevent that damage. Unstable reactive molecules that can initiate a chain reaction of gradual damage to skin cells. They are generated through UV exposure, smoke, and other pollutants – and can be prevented primarily through the use of antioxidants and sunscreens. Free radicals are some of the biggest culprits of environmental aging, reducing the integrity of collagen and elastin in the skin, as well as decreasing the skin's natural rejuvenating abilities. Antioxidants protect against free-radical activity to promote skin's defenses. In chemistry, a free radical is an atom, molecule, or ion that has at least one unpaired valence electron. With some exceptions, these unpaired electrons make radicals highly chemically reactive. Many radicals spontaneously dimerize. Most organic radicals have short lifetimes.
A notable example of a radical is the hydroxyl radical (HO·), a molecule that has one unpaired electron on the oxygen atom. Two other examples are triplet oxygen and triplet carbene (꞉CH2) which have two unpaired electrons.
Radicals may be generated in a number of ways, but typical methods involve redox reactions. Ionizing radiation, heat, electrical discharges, and electrolysis are known to produce radicals. Radicals are intermediates in many chemical reactions, more so than is apparent from the balanced equations.
Radicals are important in combustion, atmospheric chemistry, polymerization, plasma chemistry, biochemistry, and many other chemical processes. A majority of natural products are generated by radical-generating enzymes. In living organisms, the radicals superoxide and nitric oxide and their reaction products regulate many processes, such as control of vascular tone and thus blood pressure. They also play a key role in the intermediary metabolism of various biological compounds. Such radicals can even be messengers in a process dubbed redox signaling. A radical may be trapped within a solvent cage or be otherwise bound.
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