Spin trapping has to do with an ingredient that is a molecular “trap” for short-lived free radicals. What happens is an unpaired electron (from a free-radical molecule) is “caught” and then neutralized by the spin trap molecule, which prevents it from going on to become a cell-damaging free-radical molecule. Spin traps have been useful to researchers in learning how plants protect themselves from oxidative damage, and, of course, the skin-care industry is interested in finding out how to apply that concept to benefit skin.
According to Dr. Cheryl Burgess’ Cosmetic Dermatology (link below), spin traps are a ‘new’ form of antioxidant that have the ability to catch an electron as it spins out of control and actually returns it to its normal orbit before it can do any damage. Numerous studies by Dr. J. Carney and his associates, including this 1996 study (below) in Radiation Research, have shown that phenyl butyl nitrone has anti-inflammatory and age-reducing effects.
Spin trap is basically a fancy name for an antioxidant which remains stable (and therefore harmless) even after reacting with a free radical (and thus is highly effective in stopping the chain reaction). Such molecules have been around for a long time: one good example is BHT, a common preservative. Whether newer spin traps are more effective than common (and more easily available) antioxidants remains to be seen. The anti-aging effectiveness of an antioxidant depends on many factors — post-reactionary stability is only one of them.
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