Food that protects your skin from sun

Playing in the sun

Most of my kids are dark skinned enough that they rarely burn, and usually I’m not outside long enough to worry about burning.  But when we go camping, or go to the water park like we did yesterday, I do break out the sunscreen for some additional skin protection.  But to be honest, the more I read about sunscreen, the less thrilled with it I become. (See the articles I linked to at the bottom of this post).  Of course it’s wise to keep sun exposure moderate, and to wear a cover-up when you need to be out more than an hour or so.  I wore a t-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit much of the day yesterday. But did you know there are also foods you can eat to increase your body’s ability to fight skin damage? Here are some highlights from a bunch of different articles that I read recently.

  • Foods such as salmon and supplements such as fish oil load you up with Vitamin D and omega-three fatty acids that help your skin fight sun damage. A specific type of omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA) may help prevent sunburn and decrease DNA damage in the skin.  It is also good to consume mineral rich foods from both plant and animal sources. Bone broths and organ meats like liver are particularly balanced in trace minerals.
  • The polyphenols in green tea may help stop sunburn.  You can drink it or put it directly on your skin.
  • Eating tomatoes and watermelon every day will give you lycopene which has been shown to protect against sun damage. A suggested serving is 3 tablespoons of tomato paste per day, which will give you about 16 mg of lycopene.
  • Work on adding healthy saturated fat to your diet, such as coconut oil and butter. These foods nourish and help regenerate skin cells and protect against sun damage.  Rubbing coconut oil into your skin both before and after sun exposure can speed healing and decrease skin damage. Not only does coconut oil block about 20% of the sun’s rays, it also releases powerful antioxidants into the skin.
  • Carrots, red peppers, mangos, melons, apricots, and sweet potatoes all contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that may help prevent sunburn.  This hypothesis was tested by folks eating five servings a day for 10 weeks-  a higher dose than most folks could manage, I suspect. But it makes sense to add even some of these foods to your diet.
  • Citrus fruit contains vitamin C, which repairs damage done to cells by UV rays. Vitamin C works best with Vitamin E, and even a single dose before you go out in the sun can offer some protection.
  • Good news! Grapes, blueberries and red wine contain proanthocyanidins and resveratrol which have been shown to protect from sun damage.
  • And the best news of all is that chocolate contains flavenoids–  antioxidants that help protect the skin!

It’s also good to keep in mind that avoiding foods that cause inflammation (vegetable oils, sugar, and processed foods) will give all the above healthy foods the very best chance at helping you be healthier.


Additional reading about sunscreen & sun exposure

A study about sunscreen and melanoma

How a common sunscreen ingredient reacts to sun

A dermatologist who’s not afraid of the sun

Why you might want to steer clear of sunscreens containing oxybenzone


  1. I am a mother of a 15 year old that has had cancer twice in her short life with the last being a skin cancer. Speaking from experience the emotional and physical damage this disease does to a person is not worth not spending the $5 or $6 for a bottle of sunscreen and USING it every day whether you are outside for a minute or an hour. Keep sunscreen in your purse, on the ledge going out the doors of your house, in children’s backpacks to apply at school——-use it.

    Mary, a coverup is a great idea but if you can see through the clothing UV rays get through it – wear sunscreen
    UV rays can pass through clouds – wear sunscreen if going to be outside and cloudy
    Drivers UV rays harm skin through glass – wear sunscreen especially on left side

  2. I agree that most sunscreens do more harm than the sun does itself, so it’s
    Important to know which ones are safest. There is a wonderful non-profit group that tests sunscreens (and actually many other beauty and household products) and rates them on a scale of 1-10 for safety. It is called Environmental Working Group and the database is called Skin Deep. I use it to find the safest sunscreens, toothpaste, shampoo…the list goes on. I usually stick to a 1-2 rating to be safe, and I feel good knowing I am educated about what I am using, I suggest people look up their products (for free) to see just how safe they are. It’s crazy that you could get cancer from uising the sunscreen that’s supposed to protect you from cancer! 😉

  3. It seems like these sorts of articles have been flying around the internet a lot this year. It’s true there are a lot of chemicals in the products people use on their bodies that are not good for you (toxic in various ways). I’d second the lady above who suggests looking at the EWG’s database to find a safer sunscreen option. And be sure to wear hats to protect the face (and other clothing that can provide protection). But also keep this in mind– the official position of the American Cancer Society, based on DECADES of scientific research:

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  5. We can’t stand it! We bought a pack of the spray on kind at Target this summer with the kids going to the water park. It turned their clothes orange. So frustrating. So basically what you found is if you eat healthy food it really helps your body. So much that God set up for us, huh?