Sulforaphane: A Potent Antioxidant That Neutralizes Inflammation In The Skin

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.
Smiling women with perfect face skin and makeup portrait

Inflammation comes up all the time in beauty. It's what triggers or contributes to many skin conditions, like acne and rosacea. It's a major contributor to signs of premature aging, like fine lines, dark spots, and volume loss. It can make skin appear stressed, dull, and tired. Because it contributes to just about every single beauty woe out there, so many internal and topical beauty products are focused on getting inflammation under control. A valiant goal, to be sure. 

But here's the thing about tending to inflammation and its effects—not all ways to do so are created equally, nor do they do it in the same way. For example, antioxidants. These free-radical neutralizers are experts at keeping inflammation at bay and our skin healthy—yet they each have unique strengths that can lend themselves to different needs. Vitamin C is an expert at building collagen. Astaxanthin helps deal with UV damage. Vitamin A aids in skin cell turnover. 

Then there's sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS, or commonly referred to simply as sulforaphane), which is a mouthy antioxidant that literally stops inflammation in its tracks.

Why sulforaphane is the key to tending to inflammation.

The most common way that antioxidants work is they stabilize free radicals, thereby stopping them from spiraling out of the control and wreaking havoc on the body. 

"But that's not quite how sulforaphane works," explains registered dietitian Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN. Rather, sulforaphane activates the protein Nfr2, which, in turn, activates certain antioxidant genes in your body. What does that mean? SGS doesn't just stop free radicals—it activates the body's natural antioxidant enzymes defense system.* 

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See, your body has natural antioxidant abilities inherently—however, it often doesn't have quite enough, which is why we are encouraged to use topicals and eat antioxidant-rich diets. (These essentially supplement what can't be done by the body itself.) And while this is all-important and should be done to encourage a healthy body and skin, SGS actually enhances your body's natural ability in the first place.*  

A few examples of how this is shown in research: One study shows sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts activated enzymes in the body that picked up pollutants from the bloodstream and flushed them out via urine.* And according to a study on sulforaphane's protective effects, it is particularly effective at dealing with inflammation from external aggressors that may lead to premature aging.* Another study investigating sulforaphane as an antioxidant agent demonstrated similar protective effects against UV-damage, touting sulforaphane as a "very promising ingredient."*

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The takeaway.

SGS is a potent antioxidant that we are just beginning to understand the effects of. But we do know that it is able to aid our body's natural inflammatory response and thus is a powerful tool for so many skin conditions and issues. 

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