Sunscreen is an essential part of protecting your skin from the dangerous UV rays of the sun. But, there are some problems with sunscreen. You might forget to bring it along, forget to reapply it every two hours, use too low of an SPF or end up in a pool or lake without water-resistant sunscreen. All of these things make your sunscreen less effective (or not effective at all.) Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a supplement each morning and know that you are protected from the sun’s rays? While this isn’t yet the reality, scientists are testing several supplements for their ability to make you less susceptible to sunburn.
In one study, published in the July, 2014 issue of the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, scientists looked at citrus and rosemary extracts as a way to reduce the effects of the sun’s UV rays. The researchers tested each supplement alone and a combination of both supplements. A total of 10 participants took the combined supplements for 85 days. The amount of sun needed to cause sunburn increased by 56 percent, meaning that it took more sun exposure to cause sunburn, for example, if you normally "burn" after two hours in the sun, with the supplements, you would probably not burn until you have been in the sun for three hours.
Another study, published in June, 2014 in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, looked at the effects of taking blood orange extracts. This study saw significant results after only 15 days, with the effects of the sun reduced by 40 percent. The researchers noted that age-spots also decreased in color during the study.
Both of these studies were small. The study using citrus and rosemary extracts had only ten participants and the study looking at blood orange extract had only 20 participants. However, the results were very promising. Scientists from both studies believe it is the high levels of antioxidants in the supplements that help protect skin from DNA damage from the sun’s UV rays.
Despite the positive results, experts aren’t yet willing to tell anyone to forego the sunscreen and eat foods high in antioxidants. (The supplements used in these studies are not available in the United States.) Because the studies were small, the results need to be duplicated with larger groups. It is still important to use sensible sun protection: wearing sunscreen on a daily basis - year round, staying out of the sun during the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM as much as possible, seeking shade when you are outdoors during the day and wearing protective clothing, such as wide brimmed hats, sunglasses and lightweight clothes.
It is also important to understand that "antioxidant" is a general term but all antioxidants are not the same.Some antioxidants are good for certain diseases, for example, vitamins E and C have been shown to reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration but are not "superfoods" that can help fight other diseases. The best way to get antioxidants is through a diet high in a variety fresh fruits and vegetables to give you different antioxidants. Although eating a healthy diet is important, it still doesn’t guarantee you won’t develop any chronic diseases.
"The Supplements That Could Slash Your Risk of Sun Damage," 2014, Caroline Praderio, Prevention Magazine
"The Truth About Antioxidants," 2013, Aug. 6, Alexandra Sifferlin, Time Magazine
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.