July 27, 2021
By Steph Eckelkamp
It’s safe to say, we are all excited to spend more time outdoors with friends and family. It’s also safe to say that spending too much time catching rays (especially without sunscreen) is not a great idea for your skin health.
Most people can safely tolerate around 15 minutes of unprotected afternoon sun per day; this amount will help you naturally generate vitamin D. But, beyond that? The sun’s UVB rays can cause sunburn and irritation, while longer UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the skin leading to serious sun damage. Together, they can increase your risk for skin cancer and contribute to oxidative damage that depletes your skin’s precious reserves of collagen and leads to premature skin aging.
So what’s a health-conscious sun lover to do? A broad spectrum SPF, protective clothing, and—surprisingly—a nutrient-dense diet. Turns out, certain foods can boost skin health and replenish hydration.
While nothing can take the place of a broad spectrum sunscreen, here are our favorite skin supporting foods to add to your daily routine.
The easiest way to counter the collagen-sapping effects of the sun’s UVA rays? Take a collagen supplement. We love Youtheory® Collagen tablets which supply 6,000 mg of highly-absorbable hydrolyzed collagen peptides per serving, plus vitamin C to enhance internal collagen production.
Another option is to DIY the perfect post-sun skin tonic. Combine water, a scoop of Youtheory® Collagen Powder, fresh lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt, and a smidge of maple syrup. This combination of skin supporting foods provides antioxidants from vitamin C, deep hydration (electrolytes, like sodium, improve delivery of water to your body’s cells), and amino acids to help boost your body’s own internal collagen production.
2. Matcha tea
Go ahead and splurge on that iced matcha latte! Green tea, including vibrant-hued matcha, is a potent source of beneficial polyphenol compounds. According to Keira Barr, MD, holistic dermatologist and author of The Skin Whisperer, these compounds have been found to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help keep skin healthy from the inside out.
Fun fact: Green tea is great for topical use, too. Thanks to its caffeine and tannin content, green tea may help soothe skin pain and shrink blood vessels, which can decrease redness and puffiness. Soak a washcloth in freshly steeped, cooled green tea, then apply the cloth to your face post-sun exposure.
3. Bell peppers
Chilled bell pepper slices are a refreshing summer treat. They also happen to be a surprisingly great source of skin-supporting vitamin C. In fact, one red bell pepper packs way more vitamin C than an orange, around 253% of your daily value.
“Vitamin C [helps] neutralize free radicals caused by UV light and increases the production of collagen and elastin,” Barr explains. What that actually means for your skin health? Potentially fewer fine lines and wrinkles as a result of sun exposure. Get snacking!
Like other orangey, yellow-hued veggies (including red, orange, and yellow bell peppers), cantaloupe is loaded with beta-carotene—a precursor to vitamin A that’s been shown to help counteract premature skin aging. And, according to Barr, beta-carotene also supports production of collagen and compounds called glycosaminoglycans. Both help improve skin integrity, retain moisture, and prevent dryness and skin flaking.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain vitamin E, which has a slew of benefits for your skin: It helps neutralize free radicals, reduce inflammation, and improve skin healing post-sun exposure, according to Barr. Even better? Research shows that vitamin E has a synergistic effect with vitamin C when it comes to skin health.
Nuts and seeds also contain a variety of other skin-supporting minerals. Zinc (found in cashews), copper (found in almonds), and selenium (found abundantly in Brazil nuts) reduce inflammation and DNA damage, and support skin regeneration, Barr explains.
6. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder may be our favorite skin supporting foods. They’re brimming with antioxidants called flavanols, which are great for cardiovascular health and also great for your skin. A good general rule: The darker the chocolate, the more skin-friendly flavanols it contains.
Sun-exposed skin is a big fan of healthy fats. And omega-3s from fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna, or plant-based foods such as flax and chia, are some of the very best, as they’re great for maintaining hydrated, smooth skin after sun exposure: One study found that daily consumption of ½ teaspoon omega-3-rich flaxseed oil over the course of 12 weeks helped boost skin hydration, improve skin texture, and reduce skin sensitivity.
Salmon also contains around 400 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce serving, which is about 100% of the daily value. In one study, participants who received a high dose of vitamin D after sun exposure experience reduced skin inflammation and redness.
In-season berries are worth the splurge for so many reasons, from boosting brain and heart health to supporting your skin. Their claim to fame? They’re one of the top sources of powerful polyphenol compounds, including anthocyanins, which are known to curb inflammation and help neutralize skin-damaging free radicals generated by sun exposure. They also contain vitamin C, which aids in the production of collagen.
One of the most refreshing summer treats—watermelon—is also a skin-supporting powerhouse. It contains both lycopene and vitamin C. Together, they can help neutralize pro-inflammatory free radicals caused by sun exposure and increase the production of collagen and elastin.
Beyond that, it’s also super hydrating, clocking in at 95% water, which makes it a great post-sun snack for helping restore overall hydration.
Finally, consider this supplement!
After all this talk about eating and drinking to revitalize and rehydrate sun-exposed skin, we’d be remiss not to mention one more thing: Hyaluronic acid (HA). One of the trendiest supplements of the moment, it can be a game-changer for skin hydration.
This naturally occurring compound in the skin, eyes, and joints helps provide moisture to these areas. But age and sun exposure can cause levels to decline. That’s where HA supplements come in. They help boost hydration from the inside out, combating the moisture-robbing effects of too much sun.
We’re big fans of Youtheory® Hyaluronic Plus, which combines 120 mg of hyaluronic acid with ceramides. These lipids (or fats) help to hold skin cells together and form a protective barrier that locks-in moisture. Youtheory’s formula also delivers some of the skin-supporting nutrients mentioned above, including vitamin C and zinc, plus the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect against dryness and oxidative stress.