Why You Should Be Eating Your Sunscreen

For close to 100 years, people have been applying commercial sunscreens to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, preventing burning, premature aging and even carcinoma. But did you know that sunblock is just one method by which you can avoid burning? You can eat your sunscreen too — no joke!

Your diet has a lot of sway when it comes to determining how easily you burn. Sunburn, at its core, is simply a type of inflammation — an immune response in which the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot and painful. Most of the time, this inflammatory response is truly useful; it’s the way your body confronts threats like stress, infection and toxic chemicals. On the skin, however, this sunburn-triggered inflammation indicates an overexposure to ultraviolet radiation.

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“Ultravoilet damage causes free radical production and oxidative stress, which causes DNA damage,” says dermatologist Neal Schultz, M.D. “This causes a cascade of different tiers of chemical and cellular mediators of inflammation and damage.” In other words, a sunburn wreaks just as much havoc internally as it does externally. That sunburn is more than a “pre-tan” — it’s induced cell death.

But what does diet have to do with this? Research shows that applying sunscreen alone cannot guarantee that you’ll be protected from UV damage. In order to truly enhance your body’s inflammation-busting capabilities, you also need to eat a variety of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, reduce the photo aging effects of the sun and limit the likelihood of skin cancer. The big winners: vitamin C, E and A, as well as resveratrol, found in foods like blueberries and red wine, lycopene, found in tomatoes and catechins, found in green tea — all Care2 favorites!

Here’s an example of a great internal/external sunscreen routine.

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Morning

  • Smooth on an antioxidant serum after you cleanse and before applying sunscreen.
  • Apply a non-toxic SPF 30 sunscreen to your face, neck and other exposed areas.
  • Enjoy a healthy breakfast complete with vitamin C-rich blueberries or an orange.
  • Drink a cup of green tea with lemon.

Noon

  • Reapply topical sunscreen if you’ll be out in the sun for an extended period of time.
  • Eat a lunch that contains antioxidant foods like artichokes, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, basil, kale or cilantro.
  • If you need a snack, munch on goji berries, hazelnuts or a handful of pecans. A tablespoon or two of tomato paste (weird, I know) works too!

Night

  • Eat a dinner that contains one of these high-antioxidant foods: tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes or broccoli.
  • Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, but at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Apply a moisturizing night cream to counteract any dehydration and damage to the skin.
  • Have a cup of tea before bed that features anti-inflammatories like cinnamon or ginger.

Additional Recommendations

  • Pair these nutritional recommendations with a hat, rash guard or other physical protector.
  • Start taking these measures above at least a month or two before beach season!
  • Talk to your doctor about a specific regimen of supplements that may enhance your natural sun tolerance, specifically: vitamin D3, vitamin C, omega-3s and astaxanthin.

60 comments

Richard B
Richard Byesterday

thanks very much

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Jan S
Jan S8 days ago

thank you

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Christine S

interesting

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Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall16 days ago

Thanks

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Lesa D
Lesa D17 days ago

thank you Lauren...

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell18 days ago

Thanks for sharing =)

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell18 days ago

noted

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Ruth S
Ruth S18 days ago

Thanks.

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Leo C
Leo Custer18 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Marija M
Marija M18 days ago

tks

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