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Guide to Nutrition for Sun Damaged Skin   ( Home | Diet | Foods | Recipes )

Diet Tips for Protecting Skin From Sun Damage

The impact of diet on your skin's natural ability to defend itself against the sun's damaging UV rays is often underestimated. These 4 diet tips will help you activate your skin's natural defense mechanisms. Note, however, that depending on weather conditions, your skin type and your location, these diet tips alone may not be able to provide sufficient protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Therefore, always use sun screen with an appropriate SPF.

Note: The information below and elsewhere on this website has not been reviewed by dermatologists or other medical professionals, nor is it intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical, nutritional, or health advice. Always seek the advice of a professional health care provider.

#1: Eat Plenty of Foods Rich in Carotenoids

A diet rich in carotenoids may help protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Carotenoids are pigments that give fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cantaloupe, tomatoes, kale, spinach, and collard greens their orange, red, yellow, and green colors.

Carotenoids, which give many vegetables their vibrant colors, provide increased against sunburn.

There are more than 600 different carotenoids, but the most common carotenoids in the Western diet include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and lutein and zeaxanthin. There is evidence that each of the five key carotenoids could increase protection against sun burn, especially when combined with vitamin E. This is believed to result from their ability to neutralize the harmful effects of UV light by scavenging skin-damaging free radicals.

In one study, a daily intake of five tablespoons of tomato paste (rich in lycopene) served with olive oil increased the protection against sunburn by 33 percent (estimated to correspond to a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 1.3).

Another interesting carotenoid is astaxanthin — a powerful antioxidant found in red ocean plants and animals such as salmon. Astaxanthin has been shown to scavenge free radicals created by skin exposed to ultraviolet rays and to alleviate the pain and inflammation associate with sunburn.

#2:  Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids in You Diet

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help protect the skin from UV damage. The protective effects are believed to result from the anti-inflammatory properties these fatty acids have. Today, most modern diets in Western countries do not enough anti-inflammatory omega-3 acids. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, and cold water fish like salmon, cod, and halibut.

Due to its antioxidant powers, vitamin C helps protect the skin.

#3: Consume Foods That Provide Vitamin C and E

Another excellent tip for protecting your skin from the sun is to eat plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin C and E. Research suggests that a sufficient, long-term intake of vitamins C and E can reduce the sunburn reaction to UVB irradiation. In one study, subjects were given a combination of vitamins C (1g) and E (500 IU) for a period of three months. A significant rise in vitamin serum concentrations, associated with an increased protective effect, was already found after one month. The protective effect of these vitamins is believed to result from their antioxidant properties. It makes sense to combine foods that contain vitamin C with foods high in vitamin E as these two nutrients act synergistically.

#4:  Ensure a Sufficient Intake of Selenium

Improving dietary intake of the trace element selenium through foods such as Brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms, cod, shrimp, and halibut may help protect the skin from the sun. Selenium helps make special proteins, called antioxidant enzymes, which play a role in the body's antioxidant defense. To get the most out of selenium's antioxidant benefits, combine selenium-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin E (selenium boosts the effectiveness of vitamin E).

More on Sun, Skin and Nutrition:

For further information on how you can protect your skin from sun damage through proper nutrition, see: