Your best bet for protecting your skin from the sun is sunscreen, plain and simple. Short of covering yourself head to toe in clothing, there is no other single method that can be as effective. However, there are ways to protect your skin even further, and one of them is by taking vitamins.
Sun damage, which is caused by ultraviolet rays, creates free radicals in our bodies. These free radicals are basically atoms with unpaired electrons -- formed when oxygen reacts with some specific molecules. They bounce around freely inside us, looking for something to bond to, and when they find it, they may set off a chain reaction that can be difficult to control, usually causing cell damage [Source: Rice]. That's where vitamins come into play. Vitamins A, C and E happen to be great antioxidants. That means they can neutralize those free radicals and prevent them from doing any harm [source: Melgares]. So, while sunscreen protects you from the outside in, vitamins protect you from the inside out. What's more, taking vitamins A, C and E can help repair damage that's already been done.
You're probably wondering now if vitamins can actually help you prevent sunburns. It is possible. In some cases, vitamins C and E have been credited with preventing sunburns. They can also make the effects of the sun much less severe. The key is combining them. Separately, vitamins C and E aren't nearly as effective as they are when taken together [source: Reinagel]. Try eating green foods for a good source of vitamin C, and snack on almonds to boost your vitamin E intake [source: WebMD]. Not only will eating these foods help protect you from the sun, but they'll also help your skin look better. In the end, you should be an all-around healthier person for making sure you get the right amount of vitamins in your diet.
Remember, vitamins can't take the place of sunscreen, but they can help you protect yourself more. For the best protection, be sure to use both.
Read on to learn more about how vitamins can help protect your skin.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Melgares, Pat. "Eating Right Helps Protect Skin From Sun, Too." Kansas State University. June 5, 2002. (accessed 08/05/2009)http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/news/sty/2002/protect_skin060502.htm
- Reinagel, Monica M.S., LD/N. "Protect Your Skin without Blocking Vitamin D Production." The Nutrition Data Blog. July 13, 2009. (accessed 08/05/2009)http://blog.nutritiondata.com/ndblog/2009/07/protect-your-skin-without-blocking-vitamin-d-production.html
- Rice University. "Antioxidants and Free Radicals." SportsMedWeb. June 1996. (accessed 8/11/09)http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/antiox.html
- WebMD. "Supplements for Healthy Skin." May 20, 2009. (accessed 8/11/09)http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-lifestyle-guide/skin-care-guide