Caring for your skin goes far beyond the aesthetic appeal of warding of the signs of aging. By taking care of your skin, you can simultaneously ward of the effects of sun damage caused by UV, which is key to preventing serious skin conditions like melanoma.
But what are the best natural ways to help your skin stay protected against the power of the sun? In this article we explore 5 simple ways to boost your skin’s UV resistance. For more health tricks and tips, remember to follow our blog.
Tomatoes and tomato-based products (like tomato puree) contain a high concentration of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.
Lycopene is technically a carotene and is responsible for giving tomatoes their iconic red colour. It is also found in other fruits and vegetables, including red carrots, watermelons, gac, and papayas.
A 2001 study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked into the effects of dietary lycopene (in the form of tomato paste) and how it affected the skin’s ability to resist UV stress.
The study included a group of participants who consumed 40g of tomato paste (providing 16mg/d of lycopene) together with 10g of olive oil for a period of 10 weeks. The control group consumed only olive oil, and both groups were exposed to high levels of UV to produce erythema (or reddening of the skin).
At week 10, erythema was up to 40% lower in the group that consumed tomato paste, showing that consuming lycopene through a regular dietary supplement helps protect against UV-induced erythema.
The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have been well documented over the years. But did you know that omega-3 fatty acids (like those found in fatty fish and shellfish) can help protect cells against free radical damage like that caused by the sun?
A 2006 article written by researchers at the Department of Dermatology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA explored how omega-3 fatty acids might help protect against certain non-melanoma skin cancers.
The article states that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit ultraviolet radiation and therefore help increase the latent period of some tumours and their multiplicity. The authors also claimed that omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce the levels of prostaglandin E synthase type 2, a protein known to produce inflammation and immunosuppression in ultra violated human skin.
Some great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty fish, like mackerel and salmon.
- Cod liver oil.
- Chia seeds.
- Hemp seeds.
- Egg yolks.
Do you really need to know more? Dark chocolate is arguably one of the most delicious sweet treats and research shows it might also help protect your skin against UV radiation.
This is because dark chocolate and other products rich in cocoa (like cocoa powder) contain some flavonoids that have been shown to improve skin condition and increase photoprotection against UV-induced erythema
A study conducted by researchers at the Institute for Experimental Dermatology at the University of Witten-Herdecke, in Germany in 2006 found that cocoa with high concentrations of flavonol helps increase the UV resistance of the skin.
The study lasted 12 weeks and involved two groups of female participants; one which consumed a high flavonol cocoa powder, and another which consumed a low flavanol cocoa powder.
Both groups were exposed to radiation from a solar simulator and the researchers examined the UV-induced erythema of each group. The group which consumed the high flavanol cocoa powder had significantly lower levels of erythema than the other participants. The study found that the flavanol reduced UV damage to the skin by up to 25%
Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits are renowned for being rich in a whole variety of vitamins. Well, research also shows that vitamin C, a major vitamin found in citrus fruits, can help protect the skin against UV.
In a 2013 article published in the Indian Dermatological Online Journal, Pumori Saokar Telang, Consultant Dermatologist at the Joshi Hospital Maharashtra Medical Foundation in India, explores the importance of vitamin C in dermatology.
His article explicitly explores the benefits of using topical vitamin C together with regular sunscreen to help minimize UV damage. Vitamin C, unlike sunscreen, exerts an UV-protective effect by neutralizing free radicals.
Under laboratory conditions, it has been shown that application of 10% topical vitamin C produced a statistical reduction of UVB-induced erythema by 52% and sunburn cell formation by 40-60%.
For ultimate protection, vitamin is best combined with vitamin E and used regularly, both as a topical agent and consumed via foods such as citrus fruits or dietary supplements.
Leafy greens are considered a super food and are the backbone of a whole variety of dieting/health trends, including the “green juice” craze. Research shows that leafy greens like spinach, kale, and watercress can help you protect against UV damage as well.
These foods are extremely rich in vitamin E which, as we saw earlier, plays an important role in helping the skin protect itself against UV damage, as well as vitamin A.
Much like vitamin C, vitamin E helps neutralize free radicals caused by UV exposure. Vitamin A has similar benefits, and can be found in a wide variety of foods besides leafy greens including:
- Almonds and almond butter.
- Sweet potato.