ORAC Rating

Choose The Best Antioxidants For Your Skincare

The words “free radicals” and “antioxidants” are often bandied about in the world of skincare. But what does it all mean? To better understand how to neutralize free radicals there’s an effective rating system that can help us choose the best antioxidants to incorporate into our topical skin care routine.

Nearly all that is living relies on oxygen combined with the energy (generated from digested food) to survive. But oxygen can also harm our tissue through a natural process that creates reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is known as oxidative stress.

Free radicals are unstable reactive oxygen species. Exposure to free radicals on the inside and outside of our bodies is inevitable. Our bodies naturally generate free radicals on a regular basis from stress, cell metabolism or hormonal changes. Pollution, sunlight and smoking are other causes of free radical development in the body. Skincare companies talk a lot about free radicals because our skin is our body’s first line of defense against these toxins. Free radicals left unchecked can ignite a snowball effect that leads to damaged or dead cells. As we grow older these damaged cells are not quickly replaced, resulting in the premature aging of the skin. Antioxidants terminate this oxidation process by capturing free radicals and making them harmless.

To ward off environmental free radical damage, plants, over thousands of years of environmental adaptation, have developed complex antioxidant defenses. Plant extracts can be used in topical treatments to deliver polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids (vitamin A) tocopherols (vitamin E), and various forms of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to our skin.

How can you tell what plant extracts have the most antioxidant potency? The oxygen radical absorbance capacity, or ORAC, was developed at the National Institutes of Health to measure the ability of different antioxidant rich foods and supplements to terminate free radicals in a test tube. Despite receiving some flack over the years, the ORAC scores can be useful to consumers and should not be disregarded.

The rating system came under criticism when some unethical companies used the scoring data to mislead consumers; which was one of the reasons the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory removed ORAC ratings from its website in 2012. Another reason people have criticized the ORAC scores is that testing antioxidants in a lab setting does not provide an accurate picture of what happens inside our bodies when taken as an oral supplement.

The ORAC rating, however, is an incredibly handy tool to understand the power of antioxidant ingredients in topically applied products. So, what are the best anti-aging superfoods? Here are ten popular antioxidant rich foods and their ORAC scores per 100 grams.

Cinnamon (ground) - 267,000 Coffee Berry Extract (Kona) - 254,000 Acai Berry (freeze dried) - 100,800 Cocoa Powder - 76,800 Maqui Berry Powder - 74,300 Baking Chocolate - 48,500 Goji Berries - 24,300 Pecans - 17,900 Cranberries - 9500 Blueberries - 6550 Red Wine - 3900