Foods that can keep sunburns at bay. (Photo: Henry Leutwyler)
Certain foods have been proven to benefit your skin, but can they act as a substantial source of SPF? And do supplements dubbed “edible sunscreen” really work? As a pale person always on the quest for maximum sun protection, I reached out to Dr. Ava Shamban, a Beverly Hills dermatologist and author of Heal Your Skin, to find out if my produce-heavy diet can keep sunburns at bay.
“Some foods have been shown to protect against UV rays and the more of these foods you eat, the better,” says Shamban. “These foods are loaded with antioxidants so they protect you internally as well.” But don’t toss your sunscreen! Foods do not work as well as a topical lotion. “Eating different types of food is not a substitute for sunscreen, but it is a nice supplement,” says Shamban.“Some foods have been shown to improve the repair aspect of the skin and the prevention of damage to the skin, and they also have nutritional benefits and are useful for all of your organs.” Shamban says regular intake can increase your SPF factor up to a 4 or 5. If you’re game, here are the tasty foods to chow down on.
Tomatoes are one such food. “They have lycopene, which can protect the skin against the sun,” she says. “Go to farmers market — the redder you get those are the ones you want to eat.” She says tomato paste has been shown to have high levels of lycopene too, because each jar contains so many concentrated tomatoes.
Another skin saver is dark chocolate. “It contains flavonoids, which have been shown to protect against UV rays and sunburns,” says Shamban. She says studies have shown that if you eat it regularly (done and done) you’ll build up protection in your skin. Just make sure to get the strong stuff — anything that says 80% dark chocolate should do the trick.
Apples also contain protective flavonoids called procyanidins. “Studies have shown it helps reduce skin cancer when exposed to UV rays,” says Shamban. “Quercetin is another potent antioxidant found in apples that protects DNA.”
Lastly, green tea may help you combat the sun. “Polyclonal is a green tea extract that’s very potent at preventing cancer growth internally and externally — and good for the skin, too,” says Shamban. “For summer swap your regular iced tea for an iced green tea.”
For supplements, Shamban suggests Heliocare. “It has polypodium, a plant extract that has been shown to boost SPF in your skin,” she says. “It’s not enough sun protection on its own, but if you’re on a beach location or a boat it is useful additionally.”
While sunscreen application — and reapplication — is crucial for reliable SPF protection, Shamban says you can’t really overdo it by taking these supplements or eating these foods. Pass the chocolate, please.