Did you know supplements can be a great way to get extra sun protection for your skin? It’s easy to get the impression that sun damage can only be prevented from the outside, but what you put into your body is just as important! We talked about that last week in our article on diet and sun protection, but supplements can take things a step further and offer substantial protection from the sun.
One of the major causes of sun related aging is the free radical damage caused by the sun’s UV rays. This can cause inflammation and a breakdown of the collagen and elastin that give the skin its structure and elasticity. Once the collagen and elastin break down it can cause uneven, sagging skin and deep wrinkles. Some of the best and most researched supplements are able to destroy free radicals and protect collagen and elastin.
The polyphenols in green tea are some of the most researched antioxidants when it comes to protecting against sun damage. Studies have consistently found that green tea offers significant protection against skin cancer, sunburn, UV induced immunosuppression and aging cause by the sun (1). One animal study found that intake of EGCG (an active polyphenol in green tea) administered over 8 weeks was able to reduce sunburn and prevent damage to the skin from UV rays (2). Another study found that the polyphenols in green tea can reduce cell death in UVB-exposed cells and repair damage to DNA (3).Green tea also has the ability to support healthy blood glucose levels. High blood sugar can cause damage to collagen and elastin. Regulating blood sugar is an important step in keeping the skin healthy.
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Carotenoids are a class of antioxidants found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. The beta carotene found in vegetables like carrots and red peppers as well as the lycopene found in tomatoes are found in large quantities in human blood and tissue. Both compounds are able to support the health of the skin when eaten or taken as dietary supplements. They can protect against sunburn and UV mediated damage to the skin (4). Other carotenoids like astaxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein have similar protective properties. The length of supplementation seems to be important; one study looking at the research on beta carotene concluded that at least 10 weeks of supplementation is necessary to provide protection against sunburn and that protection will continue to increase the longer the supplement is taken.
Not only do the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil regulate inflammation in the body in general, they are also able to mediate the specific type of inflammation caused by UV exposure. In addition to their role in regulating inflammation, fish oil also plays a part in maintaining the structural integrity of the skin (5). Studies have also shown that fish oil can greatly reduce sunburns and sensitivity to UVA rays- even in those who are sensitive to light (6).
It’s easy to see that adding a few supplements to what you are already doing is an affordable and effective way to increase your tolerance to the sun while protecting your skin from free radical damage caused by UV rays. The added benefit is that all these supplements work throughout the body to support other important areas of health!