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Free Radicals - What exactly is it?

So many of us including myself have wondered what free radicals are and how does it affect us and our aging process? I’ve looked into so many articles trying to explain it – but none that really gave me quite the right “simplistic” answer I was looking for.

In short : free radicals are the weakening and breaking of the bonds between cells and when a cell is weak they steal from healthy cells but now starts a downward spiral of continuous stealing until it completely breaks down the cell and mutates it. 

In full simplistic terms: To give a little science 101 – free radicals are first and foremost – leeches. I’ll explain a little further down what I mean by this.  The human body is made up of a bunch of different cells. Within that particular cell, we’re composed of a bunch of different types of molecules. Within the molecules, we’re composed of a bunch of one or more atoms that are held together through chemical bonds.

If you can go that far back (because let’s face it - I could barely), atoms consists of a nucleus, neutrons, protons and electrons. The number of positively charged particles (aka protons) determines how many negatively charged particles (aka electrons) there are. The electrons (negatively charged particles) are the ones who are involved in the chemical bonds and reactions that create the glue to make up the molecules.

Okay, now onto the juiciest part. Normally, chemical bonds don’t split to make an unpaired electron. Healthy atoms will have one part proton, and one part electron. But when the chemical bonds are weak and they split, that’s when free radicals are formed. Free radicals are first and foremost unstable compounds that realized that they lost their buddy electron, so what is the most natural thing to do? It’s to steal one from another. This is where the leech comment comes in. It’s essentially stealing from another to make it whole again. As you can imagine, it creates a chain reaction since if one is stealing from another, therefore, the other has to steal from another. Creating a vicious cycle of one atom never having the healthy bond of both is the kicker to creating a cascade effect causing, finally, the disruption of a living cell that makes up our body.

Now that we've "solved" the mysteries of free radicals - we go on to diagnose how to prevent it in the first place. Stay tuned!

Victoria Wong
Healthy Skin Educator

Article written by Victoria Wong