A Reactive Oxygen Species is very similar to a Free Radical. It is a form of oxygen whose molecular structure has been changed. It behaves like a free radical.
By definition, some Reactive Oxygen Species are considered free radicals. But a free radical does not have to be some form of oxygen. A free radical can be any atom or molecule with unpaired electrons.
Still with me? Don’t worry if you don’t fully understand it. Just know that they are both destructive.
There are 5 types of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), with varying degrees of harmfulness:
- Singlet Oxygen
- Lipid Peroxide
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Hydroxyl Radical
As the name suggests, they are all extremely reactive.
Hydroxyl Radical is the worst – the most destructive and difficult radical to fight. Singlet Oxygen is the least harmful of the bunch, but still harmful.
These ROS attack proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates — the building blocks of cells. They also attack different components inside the cell, such as:
- Cell Membranes
- Mitochondria (energy factories)
- Nucleus (where DNA is located)
- Lysosomes (sacs containing digestive enzymes inside a cell)
Lipid peroxidation occurs when the Lipid Peroxide radical attacks lipids.
Lipids are essential components of skin found in the lipid bilayers of the Stratum Corneum and in cell membranes.
- When the lipids in the Stratum Corneum are attacked by lipid peroxide, the skin’s barrier function is weakened.
- When the lipids in cell membranes are damaged, the membranes become less permeable. As a result, nutrients and wastes are transported less efficiently across the membranes, and the cells become less healthy.