Sunny Days Are Here Again. Can What You Eat Help Protect Your Skin?

That sounds odd, right? But it really isn’t. Why? Because more and more research shows that ingredients in our food can protect us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVR)[i].

Why should you care about this? First, if you care about your appearance—and most of us do—exposure to UVR is a major contributor to age-related changes in your skin’s appearance (think: wrinkles, brown spots). Exposure to UVR causes oxidative stress, which leads to a whole host of biochemical and physical disturbances in your skin (including DNA damage) that causes “photoaging,” a term dermatologists use to describe the sun’s premature aging of the skin. 

But there is another, more serious reason you should care about too much UVR exposure: skin cancer. Skin cancer is America’s most common cancer. The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. And since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a good time to reflect on how we can enjoy the summer sunshine while protecting our body’s largest organ.

Yes, you read that right. Your skin is the largest organ of your body, representing 1/6 of your total body weight. Its primary role is to act as a chemical and physical barrier to protect you against harmful environmental agents, including UVR. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation[ii]:

  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70
  • Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk

To protect yourself against sunburn, you should always wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. But you can also boost your “internal” sunscreen protection by the foods that you eat, especially those found in the Mediterranean Diet. A recent study of almost 100,000 French women found that adherence to a Mediterranean Diet was associated with a lower skin cancer risk particularly melanoma and basal cell carcinoma[iii]. The Olive, Grape and Tomato extracts present in Olivino contain polyphenols and carotenoids which function as natural pigments and can absorb UVR. When consumed, these pigments accumulate in the skin acting as a natural sunscreen.

Take your Olivino daily—especially during the spring and summer months. Also follow the CDC recommendations to protect yourself from UVR:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays
  • Avoid indoor tanning
  • Examine your skin once a month. Tell your health care professional about skin changes

[i] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33445474/

[ii] https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts/

[iii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31380561/

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May is skin cancer awareness month

Dr. Clare Hasler-Lewis

Dr. Hasler-Lewis holds a Master's Degree in Nutrition Science and a dual Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology and Human Nutrition. Following graduate school, she did post-doctoral research at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. During her 24 years at both the University of Illinois and the University of California, Davis, she lectured around the world on diet and health issues, and co-authored dozens of research papers on this topic. Diet and health are her passions.