Unless this is your first time on a beauty website, you already know you need to wear your freaking sunscreen. But if you’re particularly prone to sunburn or, like me, weird tan lines that last into February, you may be in need of extra protection.
In addition to using (and frequently reapplying) a photo-stable sunscreen, you can pump up your skin’s defenses by popping one of several supplements that fight UV damage.
Polypodium Leucotomos Extract
If you’re familiar with any sunblock vitamins, you probably recognize this one. Polypodium leucotomos (PLE) is an antioxidant extracted from a Central-American fern that's commonly marketed as Heliocare. Two studies showed that participants who took PLE orally had fewer sunburn cells after UV exposure and were less susceptible to the ominous sounding “UV induced cell-death.” Aim for one 240 mg capsule in the morning, though you can take another before prolonged sun exposure (like a day at the beach).
Responsible for the red pigment in tomatoes and peppers, lycopene is another potent antioxidant. In fact, you can get this nutrient easily by upping your intake of cooked tomatoes. But if you’re not down for a daily can of tomato paste, you can totally get lycopene in pill form. This study tracked patients eating tomato paste against a control group over 10 weeks.
While at four weeks there was no difference in the skin between two groups, at 10 weeks the lycopene eaters were 40 percent less likely to be sunburned. So lycopene may not help you if you pop a single pill before heading outside, but consistent use can offer considerable protection. The study also notes that olive oil increased the body’s ability to absorb lycopene--try taking the supplement after a meal containing fats.
Finally, there’s astaxanthin, a carotenoid cousin of lycopene. Naturally found in shrimp and salmon, this antioxidant also fights free radicals and inflammation to prevent sun damage. It’s unlikely you could eat enough seafood to get the full impact, so supplements are a good option. One study mentions a potential benefit against aging and skin sagging caused by UVA rays. And there’s that pesky cell-death again: this study notes that astaxanthin helps prevent UV-induced cell damage. While it works much like lycopene, they’re not exactly the same and can be taken together for even more protection. Shoot for 4 to 8 mg per day, again with some healthy fats for better absorption.
Oh, and one more vitamin you should look into if you’re serious about sunscreen: vitamin D. It’s worth talking to your doc about maintaining your D-levels if you’re not getting it via sun exposure.
Have you taken any of these supplements for the purposes of sun protection? If not, would you?