As we all know from living in Australia, excessive sun exposure can be damaging to our skin and cause sunburn and premature ageing. In some cases it may also lead to the production of cancerous cells.
Sun-induced skin damage and the resulting premature skin aging is thought to be primarily due to UV-induced free radical formation in the skin.
Mother Nature has kindly given the skin an inbuilt antioxidant system to manage this damage, but its capacity is diminished by UV-exposure.
Skin antioxidants for summer
A German study reported that a supplement containing a mixture of the carotenoids betacarotene, lycopene and lutein at 8 mg each reduced the intensity of erythema caused by UV-light exposure.
Another study that compared the ingestion of tomato paste (a rich source of lycopene) with olive oil to olive oil ingestion alone found that after 10 weeks, the group consuming the tomato paste experienced significantly less UV-light-induced erythema.
Lutein, more commonly known for its eye health benefits, is also showing promise in the protection of the skin against UV-damage. One study which assessed oral and topical lutein administration found both to offer value in increasing photoprotective (protective against the adverse effects of UV-light) activity.
Vitamins C and E
High doses of oral vitamin C and vitamin E have also been shown to offer protection against sunburn.
Dietary dos to boost your resistance to sunburn
Focus on these food sources of antioxidants to boost your skin’s sun damage defences.
- Betacarotene: carrots, rockmelon, broccoli and spinach
- Lycopene: red tomatoes and tomato products (e.g. tomato paste), watermelon, pink grapefruit and papaya. Cooked tomato products consumed with dietary oils (e.g. a tomato-based pasta sauce with olive oil) may improve lycopene’s bioavailability
- Lutein: dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale), egg yolks and sweet corn
- Vitamin C: capsicum, blackcurrants, strawberries, citrus fruits and watermelon
- Vitamin E: cold-pressed vegetable oils (e.g. wheatgerm), spinach, sweet potatoes, egg yolk and soya beans
Did you know?
Betacarotene, lutein and lycopene all belong to the carotenoid family, a family with at least 600 members. Carotenoids are a group of yellow-, orange and red-coloured compounds found widely in fruits and vegetables and also some animal foods (e.g. egg yolk, salmon)
In plants, carotenoids assist in photosynthesis and protect plants from oxidative damage. Think of them as plant sunscreens.
References available on request