Before you head out to frolic in the sun, consider this: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is not your friend. Exposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays may do harm, including promoting inflammation, damaging DNA, speeding aging of the skin and increasing the risk of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. Yes, sunscreens help, but you may be surprised to learn that consuming certain nutrients may also lessen the chance of sunburns, minimize skin aging and reduce the risk of cancer. Help support healthy skin all summer long with these five skin-saving supplements.
One of your best allies, vitamin C may reduce inflammation and can help protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays. Plus, it’s a crucial part of collagen synthesis, and studies show supplementing with vitamin C may minimize wrinkles, improve elasticity and fight visible signs of aging. Studies have suggested that it’s especially effective at reducing damage to the skin when used in conjunction with vitamin E by regenerating and recycling “used” vitamin E. Topically, vitamin C also may help minimize age spots and other forms of skin hyperpigmentation. TRY: MegaFood Daily C-Protect. $25, megafood.com
It’s the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant found in human skin, and studies show it may aid in protecting against sun damage, reducing inflammation and slowing the breakdown of collagen. Because vitamin E and C work synergistically, a combination of both may be more effective at potentially preventing DNA damage and reducing the risk of skin cancer, and studies show vitamin E and C taken together may increase the amount of UV radiation required to cause a sunburn. Naturally occurring vitamin E exists in eight different forms – four tocopherols and four tocotrienols – and studies suggest a mixture of these forms may be superior to alpha-tocopherol alone in helping to prevent sunburn and reduce skin cancer risk. TRY: NOW Foods E-200. $12, nowfoods.com
It’s rich in antioxidant polyphenols, which may help protect skin from sun-related aging, repair DNA damage and reduce the risk of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. A combination of green tea supplements and topical products may be even more effective, potentially protecting skin from the sun’s UV rays and also improving texture and elasticity. Some studies suggest topical application of green tea extract may not only help prevent sun damage but also help repair existing damage. TRY: Zhou Nutrition Green Tea Extract. $18, zhounutrition.com and 100% Pure Green Tea EGCG Serum. $56, 100percentpure.com
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The most abundant protein in the skin, collagen is responsible for structural support and promotes elasticity. But UV exposure may cause collagen in the skin to break down faster and inhibit the production of new collagen, leaving you more susceptible to fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. Supplementing with collagen may protect against that damage; in one study, subjects who took collagen daily showed significantly less sun damage to their skin. Other studies have found that taking collagen supplements boosted levels of collagen in the skin, improving elasticity and moisture, reducing dryness and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. TRY: NeoCell Super Collagen + C. $16, neocell.com
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This broad family of pigments that have antioxidant properties are responsible for the orange, red and yellow colors in fruits and vegetables, and they may play a role in protecting against sunburn, UV damage and skin cancer. Astaxanthin consistently showed the strongest antioxidant activity in studies compared with other carotenoids tested, and research suggests it may be effective in protecting against UV damage. It may also help improve skin texture, hydration and elasticity while minimizing age spots, freckles and other forms of hyperpigmentation. Beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin also may aid in minimizing sun damage and reducing skin cancer risk, and a combination of carotenoids may offer better protection against sunburns than single carotenoids. TRY: Jarrow Formulas CarotenAll. $28, jarrowonline.com