Could you prevent sunburn with nutrition and is there natural sunscreen?
When I was younger my skin was particularly sensitive to the sun, I was burned red in couple of minutes. Currently my skin seems to be taking the midday sun for hours without burning. When I started to look into to this matter… I found that I eat pretty well-known “internal natural sunscreens”.
I don’t need normal sunscreens anymore, and according to present knowledge, I might not even want to use them…
Sunscreens – Good or bad way to protect yourself?
Today more and more people is avoiding using a sunscreens, and for good reasons. Evidence that the sunscreens would even reduce the risk of skin cancer is very weak and controversial.
In 2006, a lawsuit was raised against sunscreen manufacturers for their misleading claims. This time even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was forced to make a statement, which said: “The available evidence does not show that sunscreen use, alone prevent skin cancer.”
In fact, a number of studies, such as this, found that sunscreen users had increased risk of melanoma. Surprisingly, the biggest increase in the number of skin cancers have been observed in the countries where sunscreen is used most.
In the United States melanoma cases has risen 1800% from the moment first sunscreens come to sale. Why is this?
Scientists suspected that this is because sunscreen users are staying longer in the sun, which of course increases the risk of skin cancers.
However today it is known that at least part of the reason was chemicals that were added to sunscreens, such as retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, parabens, and other poison ingredients that may increase growth of skin cancer cells, at least in sunlight. (These are added in order to obtain the higher the SPF factor).
While the majority of the harmful ingredients are probably banned by the FDA, and European manufacturers have changed the ingredients. Sunscreens user should still be aware of this issues.
Chemicals are not the only thing you should be worried about. The biggest reason anyone who is interested in their health, does not use sunscreens is because it reduces the emergence of vitamin D on skin. Vitamin D is generated when UVB radiation hit on your skin, and you dont need to be an expert to know that vitamin D does not arise if you block it with a sunscreen.
Study made in 2012, demonstrated that if you apply an SPF-8 sunscreen as it is recommended: 2 mg/cm2 to your skin, you will discontinue vitamin D production completely.
Fortunately, very few people use sunscreen accordance with the instructions, so you might get small amounts of vitamin D, as this study showed. But if you use sun block according to the instructions, you will not get the most important benefit of sun bathing, which is vitamin D.
This is disturbing, because a number of studies like this tells it clearly: The more you can get vitamin D from the sun, the lower your chances are of dying from cancer.
Finnish university medical department study showed that vitamin-D produced by your skin, appears to reduce the risk of a number of cancers, especially gastric, colorectal, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, lung, female breast, prostate, bladder, and kidney cancers. Laboratory tests have also shown that vitamin D and its derivatives have the ability to destroy skin cancer cells.
Most sunscreens seem to remove almost all the positive benefits of the sun, and those chemicals might only increase your potential risk of getting skin cancer.
Especially when the world’s largest and most well-know individual medical university publish study, indicating that people who protect themselves from the sun have up to two times higher mortality rate, than those who spend time in the sun. It seems that the sun and it’s production of vitamin-D beats the potential risk of skin cancer (at least in nordic countries). You really do not want to prevent formation of vitamin D with sunscreens.
Of course for somebody who is working outside, using sunscreens can be useful. A well-known fact is that excessive UV radiation and burning of your skin increases the risk of getting skin cancers. But a sunscreen should be your last resort to protect yourself, as natural and proven effective means can be found.
Common sense, clothing, a hat and protective food remains the best way protected yourself from the sun, even if the sunscreen industry tells you otherwise. I highly recommend doing your own research in the subject.
Protecting yourself from the sun with nutrition
Here is some foods and vitamins that might protect against sunburn, at least they worked for me. Remember that nothing, even the sunscreens do not prevent burning if you spend too much time in the sun.
The best foods, supplements and vitamins to prevent sunburn.
The super antioxidant lycopene has been proven to give at least some kind a protection against sunlight and works as natural sunscreen.
Study investigated whether lycopene rich tomato paste can protect human skin against UV-radiation effects. This is what they found:
“Tomato paste containing lycopene provides protection against acute and potentially longer-term aspects of photodamage.” – Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial.
You can get lycopene from foods like: tomatoes, guavas, watermelon, papaya. See the full list here.
Remember blending and cooking might make lycopene more bioavailable.
Chocolate and red wine protects the skin?
If you need more excuses to eat more dark chocolate, you might want to read this article. And remember that only dark chocolate has protective effects on the skin. Ordinary chocolate where there wasnt flavonol substance, was not found to have a protective effects. The darker the chocolate the more it has “flavanol” ingredient (a little different than the flavonoid).
According to the study: you can protect your skin and improve skin quality with diet. Regularly consumed beverages rich in flavanols may provide significant protection against skin-aging (photoprotection) as well as help maintain skin health by improving the skin’s structure and activities. see the research here.
Red wine also includes flavanol subtances which have been found to give protection from UVB radiation in mouse studies. So in the summer you can drink red wine and eat chocolate with a good conscience. The same component can be found in blueberries, apples, cinnamon and definitely from many other fruit and berry.
Berries and fruit
Everybody knows that berries and fruits are healthy. But should you guzzle more berries and fruits in summer times, as they may have protective effects of against the sun?
In berries, fruits and some vegetables has a substance called
ellagic acid, which have been shown to prevent collagen damage from UV-B radiation induced inflammation.
According to this study, berries from a diet can be considered as one of the treatment strategy for UV exposure and subsequent inflammatory reactions, wrinkles and skin aging (photoaging). Similar results were also obtained in this study where pomegranate extract (which has large amounts of ellagic acid) was examined.
Vitamin D and the skin protection?
As you already probably know that by far the most important thing in health is to keep your blood levels of vitamin D in order. But few people know, that vitamin D is one of the most important things which supports skin protection and regeneration. I suggest you to read: Optimal Skin Protection with Vitamin D and Vitamin D and Skin Health /
Astaxanthin – skin protection king?
Astaxanthin is known to be the world’s most powerful antioxidant, and its role in the nature is to protect marine algae from UV radiation, but will it work as well in humans? – According to research and human experiences: it seems to be working as natural sunscreen.
In this study with isolated human cells, it was found that astaxanthin gave significant protection from UV-A radiation, and it can prevent wrinkles. Another similar study showed the same results, astaxanthin seemed to give protection against UV-A radiation-induced DNA damage.
Also it has beenproven to protect skin also in topically applied sunscreens, so it might be good addition to sunscreens.
In this human study astaxanthin significantly reduced DNA damage, inflammation and improved immune function.
The well-known author and “life hacker” Tim Ferriss praises power of astaxanthin against sunburn. Starts at about 2:00 (Warning: video contains female breasts!)
From my experience, I can also say that it works. In January 2014 I tanked astaxanthin about 24mg daily for 3 weeks, before I traveled to Thailand. As a result: burning in the sun just seemed to be simply impossible (even there UV index is about double compared to the Finnish summer). With astaxanthin and other “edible sunscreen” I could take mid day sun for up to 2 hours without burning (without sunscreen, of course).
Astaxanthin should be consumed in small amounts (2-4mg) year round, but in the summer and before travelling to holidays it’s worth to take bit more to fill up storages.
Astaxanthin is not some synthetic invention, as it can be found from shrimp, shellfish, crabs, lobsters and wild salmon. (They consume micro-algae that produces astaxanthin.) In Asia most people have astaxanthin rich diet(seafood) so there is no need to wonder why some 40 year old asian women look there twenty years younger . On the other hand, they also avoid dealing with a sun, which also saves their skin from wrinkle and obsolescence.
“The antioxidant marketing position for astaxanthin is validated, as natural astaxanthin is the strongest natural antioxidant found to date. But consumers in the US aren’t buying it for its antioxidant power; for the most part, they’re buying it for one of its other clinically validated benefits, such as eye and brain health, skin health, joint health or for the benefits it has for athletes and active people.” – Astaxanthin: Still red hot or cooling off?
Astaxanthin benefits are of course not limited to the protection against UV radiation, it may possibly also promotes eye health, slow down brain aging, enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation. Read more from this article: Astaxanthin Provides Broad Spectrum Protection
Is not really worth having astaxanthin with beer, as Tim Ferriss mentions in the above video as a joke. To get maximum benefits from astaxanthin, it should be taken with a high-fat food. (This is explained here in more detail part “How to Enhance the Bioavailability of Astaxanthin”.)
Bad news for smokers: astaxanthin is absorbed 40% less if you are smoker. So if you smoke you should increase the dose. The normal dosage of 4mg a day is enough for most people, but if you were going to stay in the sun a lot, you should fill up at least a bit more to the top.
The lowest quality astaxanthin is produced from petrochemicals, but it’s not allowed for human consumption and is used primarily by a salmon farms. Astaxanthin can also manufacturesd by yeast fermentation, but it is rare. The most effective natural astaxanthin produced from Haematococcus pluvialis algae, and its about 20-30 more potent as synthetic petrochemicals produced astaxanthin.
I use the same product what Tim Ferriss shows in the upper video. Cyanotech is the world’s largest manufacturer of astaxanthin and the only manufacturer that sells genuine natural “BioAstin astaxanthin,” which most studies have been done. (Before they re-sold the product to others, but now the demand is now so great that they no longer need.)
BioAstin 120 4mg capsules. My personal favorite for year-round use.
BioAstin 50 12mg capsules. Big 12mg capsules for quick astaxanthin tanking.
Other useful stuff
Beta-carotene is generally most famous natural skin protector. Eat sweet potatoes, carrots, chlorella, spinach, peppers and so on.
According to studies green tea seems to give some protection, it may also have cancer protection effects. Green tea contains powerful polyphenol antioxidant that protects against UV A and B rays. During the summer, you should probably having something green tea polyphenol / catechin extracts if you want to maximise your protection. Green tea has also one another (unexpected) benefit, namely, theanine, which you can read more here.
In general, almost all antioxidants such as C, E -vitamins protects cells from aging, damage and mutations. Anyway diet plays an important role on skin condition and health.
You should always keep in mind that none of these “internal natural sunscreens” does not grant immunity against burning, they just give an additional protection. If you burn red in 10 minutes, don’t think that these foods alone give you the ability to stay 2 hours in the sun without burning.
And obviously is not worth to spend a whole day in under the sun, because of excessive UV radiation will surely cause harm to you. 20 minutes in sun is enough for most people’s vitamin D needs, especially if you are caucasian. After that you should begin to protect yourself with clothing and a hat.
Watch and read
Video: The Truth About Sunlight, Cancer and Vitamin D
Balancing risks and benefits of UV radiation
Avoid sunscreens with potentially harmful ingredients, group warns
Sunscreen use and malignant melanoma
Melanoma and use of sunscreens
Phenotypic markers, sunlight-related factors and sunscreen use in patients with cutaneous melanoma.