Here's How What You Eat May Protect Your Skin From The Sun

Two experts weigh in on which—and how—foods affects your skin's exposure to the sun, and how to get started on anti-aging today.

When it comes to skin, it's easy to have a love-hate relationship with the sun. On one hand, nothing is better than having an awesome tan (in my personal opinion at least); but on the other, nothing is worse than sun damage or the early appearance of wrinkles. For this reason, sunscreen is obviously a must — but did you know the foods you eat may also play a part when it comes to protecting your skin?

We talked to two experts who gave us the skinny on how food relates to skincare, as well as tips that will help you keep your skin looking youthful for longer. Dr. Clare Hasler-Lewis is the founder of Olivino, a convenient supplement that delivers the nutrients from a Mediterranean diet in pill form (see all the awesome benefits below), and is an expert on functional foods with over 35 years of experience in diet and health research, education, and consulting. Dr. Susan Silva is on Olivino's scientific advisory board and specializes in skin cancer surgery and anti-aging solutions.

Check out what these skin and health doctors had to say, and start taking care of your skin today. Bon appetit!

LIVINGLY: WE DIDN'T KNOW THAT FOODS YOU EAT RELATE TO THE EFFECTS OF UV EXPOSURE. CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW THIS WORKS?

Dr. Clare Hasler-Lewis: There is growing evidence that foods or food ingredients can protect human skin against the detrimental effects caused by solar UV radiation. Several mechanisms have been proposed, including: reduced generation of free radicals, reduced collagen degradation, increased collagen synthesis, reduced Mitochondrial DNA damage, production of natural sunscreen, and anti-inflammatory effects. Foods/beverages have been shown to reduce these in experimental studies.  

WHAT ARE THE FIVE ABSOLUTE BEST FOODS YOU CAN EAT FOR UV EXPOSURE?

Dr. Hasler-Lewis: Food from the Mediterranean diet:
1) Olives/olive oil. (Fun fact: In ancient Greece, athletes competing naked at the      Olympic games spread olive oil on their body to protect skin against the intense sun  of the Mediterranean area.) 
2) Tomatoes
3) Green tea. 
4) Oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines, etc.
5) Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, and kale.

AND WHAT ARE THE THREE WORST?

Dr. Hasler-Lewis:
1) Excess Caffeine. (Pro tip: Caffeine is a diuretic and can dehydrate the body. The better hydrated the body, the healthier the skin appears.  So, if you are going to drink excessive amounts of caffeine, be especially sure to drink extra water!)
2) Fried Foods and Hydrogenated Fats
3) Processed Meat

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION OR MISTAKE THAT YOU SEE PEOPLE MAKING IN REGARDS TO SUN EXPOSURE?

Dr. Susan Silva: Failing to realize that UV A penetrates glass. This means that we are absorbing damaging rays sitting in the car and through the kitchen window. People will often tell me that they wear sunscreen when they are going to be outside but do not apply it routinely. It is important to apply sunscreen every morning of every season. We also fail to appreciate that UV rays come through clouds. Patients get very burned on cloudy days particularly if it is cool or breezy. They don't realize that they are getting burned until later when the skin is damaged. Many folks deny they ever get any sun yet when I move their wristwatch, they are surprised to see a tan line.

IF SOMEONE DOES EXPERIENCE HARMFUL SKIN EXPOSURE, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE FOR A QUICK RECOVERY?

Dr. Silva: Clearly, preventing a sunburn in the first place is ideal. Apply sunscreen atleast 15 minutes prior to going out and reapply every 2 hours. Avoid direct sun on the skin by seeking shade and wearing sun protective clothing and a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. A healthy diet with plenty of antioxidant containing fruits and vegetables will mitigate some effects of the sun. And absolutely never use a tanning booth!

If a sun burn does occur, it sounds obvious, but get out of the sun! Damaged skin is more vulnerable to further damage. Cool compresses and cool showers are soothing. Apply aloe either from the plant or 100% aloe gel from a bottle, which is anti-inflammatory. Moisturizing creams containing ceremides and coconut oil will soothe and seal in moisture to damaged skin. Over the counter 1% hydrocortisone is a mild steroid that will decrease inflammation, pain and itching, but do not use topical antibiotics like Neosporin. Taking oral NSAIDS or aspirin will decrease pain and inflammation. Hydrate to replace lost body fluids by sipping water or coconut water or electrolyte drinks. Remember that a history of sunburns raises your risk of skin cancer so get in the habit of checking your skin monthly and seeing a dermatologist for a full skin exam every year or so. 

WHAT SKINCARE PRODUCTS DO YOU SWEAR BY?

Dr. Silva: All the Elta sunscreens are excellent. The variety of products make it possible for anyone to find a sunscreen that they enjoy using. I love ZO Oclipse sunscreen+primer SPF 30 which feels silky and has a light tint so it does not go on chalky white. SkinMedica Total Defense+Repair comes tinted or non tinted and blocks UV A, UV B and Infared.  

WHAT DOES YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE LOOK LIKE ON A GIVEN DAY? 

Dr. Silva: I apply an antioxidant in the morning under my sunscreen. I like ZO Ossential Daily Power Defense Anti-Aging Formula as well as Revision Skincare Vitamin C Lotion 30%. Some UV rays will seek past your sunscreen and antioxidants help mop up free radicals before they can damage your DNA.
At night I apply a retinoid. We know that topical retinoids reverse photodamage. They stimulate new collagen, improve pigmentation and pore size, and reduce roughness. Using a topical retinoid can prevent formation of UV induced pre-cancers like actinic keratoses. I use either Sente Bio Complete Serum or skinbetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream.  

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU GIVE YOUR PATIENTS?

Dr. Silva: Much of what people think of as aging is really sun damage. I often compare their arm to their abdomen to demonstrate the difference between sun damaged skin and protected skin. This drives home the point. Start young! Years of sun damage and skin neglect take a toll. But it is never too late to start. Studies show that pre-cancers can regress if our own immune surveillance is given a chance. Everyone should use a zinc oxide high SFP sunscreen daily and a retinoid nightly.

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Associate Editor at Livingly sydney.fogel@livingly.com
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