Munch Your Way To A Healthy Tan

24th June 2011

Mary Linehan

As so many of us prepare to jet off – ash clouds permitting – the most important holiday must-have has to be sun protection. The big cosmetics houses alone have spent billions over the years on research into sunscreens. And, with good reason. Tanning, it seems, will never go out of fashion and someone has to protect us from ourselves. Whilst some sun is good for us to help our bodies produce much needed vitamin D, what’s not good is baking in the sun.

Much has already been written about topical (and tropical!) sun protection and what works best to help protect skin from uv damage and the free radical activity that leads to wrinkles, sagging skin and potentially worse. Harnessing nature’s extracts and antioxidant vitamins, and using the latest scientific research into sunscreens, these creams help to protect skin from burning, cells from oxidisation and the body from inflammation and stress caused by excessive sun exposure.

Less well known, though, is the role of diet in sun protection. Scientific breakthroughs have led to a greater understanding of the role of antioxidants in DNA and protecting the skin from long-term uv damage, which, in turn, has led to a rethink on suncare. The theory now is that, potentially, we can protect our skin by ingesting the key potent antioxidant vitamins A, C, E and D.

Rick Hay, Nutritionist and Naturopath for Fushi Wellbeing, supports this theory. “Vitamins A, C, E and D are crucial to protect the skin from the aging effects of uv exposure. More and more clinical evidence is indicating that antioxidant-rich foods have a major role to play too. Ideally, you should be able to eat your way through a varied diet to get your essential sun protective antioxidants. The superfoods richest in antioxidants include berries, tomatoes (preferably cooked to boost lycopene) and dark green veggies. It is also important to top up on essential fatty acids which help the skin’s moisture levels and are anti-inflammatory. These are abundant in oily fish such as mackerel and sardines, or, if you are vegetarian, in flax seeds.”

According to Rick, though, it’s not that simple. Modern day farming methods plus how – and how long – it takes our food to make its way to the table mean that not every food has its full quota of the essential phytonutrients and vitamins we need, and he suggests that we should be supplementing our diets.

“In recent years,” he continues, “there has been more research into the role of supplements in protecting against sun damage. What you need to look for are those that have a strong high ORAC level, which measures the strength of antioxidants, such as acai and goji or any of the superfood supplements.”

You should start at least two weeks before you go, to build up protection – so even if you’re planning on a last minute booking you can still have time to be prepared.

And, adds Rick, “the higher the quality of supplement, the better the benefits over a longer term – and the benefits go far beyond that of sun protection into realm of anti-aging.”

Two to try:

Fushi’s Total Sun Complex: £25.48

Its formula contains powerful antioxidant vitamins C and E, beta carotene, citrus bioflavonoids, lypocene, selenium and the phytonutrients which have been found to increase the power of external sunscreens by as much as 25%. Evening primrose oil keeps the skin moisturised and also reduces inflammation.

Imedeen Tan Maximizer: £40.80

Packed full of plant extracts and the anti-oxidant vitamins A, C, E and lycopene, Imedeen Tan Maximizer protects from sun damage and inflammation, and also stimulates melanin production so your tan lasts longer.

It is important to remember, however, that supplements act to complement the protection you get from a good sunscreen, and that your skin does need the moisturising and hydration properties that you get from sun creams, especially if you are beside the seaside.

Find Your Local