Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which consists of different types of rays classified according to their wavelengths. It is the product of a nuclear reaction at the sun’s core, and the radiation travels to earth via the sun’s rays. UVA rays have the longest wavelengths, followed by UVB, and UVC rays which have the shortest wavelengths1. While UVA and UVB rays travel through the atmosphere, all UVC and a number of UVB rays are absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer1. Therefore, majority of the UV rays your skin comes in contact with are UVA with a little UVB. About 95 percent of the UV rays that reach the ground are UVA rays. UVA rays have a longer wavelength that can infiltrate into the middle layer of your skin (the dermis). UVB rays have a short wavelength that gets through to the outer layer of your skin (the epidermis).
UV exposure is the maximum in regions on or close to the equator, where UV rays have less distance to travel before approaching the ground1. To keep your skin healthy, it’s essential to shield yourself from the UV radiation, especially if you have increased factor of UV exposure such as being outdoor for a lengthy duration, between 10am to 4pm, and living on the equator.
As a defense against UV rays, the body tans when subjected to moderate levels of radiation. This helps to block UV penetration and prevent further damage to the vulnerable skin tissues deeper down. The level of body tanning and sun-induced skin redness make good parameters in determining the effectiveness of sunscreen. In this article, we will discuss about the supplements that provides protection against harmful UV radiation, that can be consumed as an add-on to the conventional way - application of sunblock creams, lotions or sprays.
Tomato extract contains a powerful antioxidant, namely the lycopene, which gives tomatoes their bright red color and helps protect them from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It is found in various research to have the sunblock effect of deterring UV radiation from causing damage to your skin.
About 85% of lycopene in the western diet is obtained only from tomatoes and the best place to find it is in tomato paste. Tomato paste containing 16mg lycopene provides protection against short lived and potentially longer-term aspects of photodamage as observed in a 12-week randomised controlled trial2. In another 12-week study, daily intake of 8–16 mg of lycopene, either from food or supplements, helped reduce the intensity of skin redness following exposure to UV rays by 40–50%3.
Goji Berry Extract
Goji berries are also known as Lycium barbarum. The goji berry is native to Asia, and people in Asia have been using this brightly colored fruit for more than 2,000 years as a medicinal herb and food supplement. Goji berry extract contains functional nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, protein, fibre and antioxidants. The magical compound in goji berry that research is beginning to show protective effect from UV damage and sunburn is betaine.
Betaine is a natural amino acid, that has been proven to demonstrate preventive effects on ultraviolet B (UVB) irradiation-induced skin damage in mice4. UVB is a common kind of free radical that can cause extrinsic aging, such as skin aging. Betaine has been proved to reduce photodamage caused by UVB irradiation. Betaine can be used to suppress the formation of UVB-induced wrinkle and collagen damage by inhibiting the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), protein kinase (MEK), and matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9)4.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea is full of Vitamin B2 and Vitamin E, both essential for skin health maintenance. Polyphenol antioxidants found in green tea can protect your cells from UV-induced damage.
In adult human subjects that ingested 7.5 mg of pure (commercially available) green tea brewed in 540 mL of boiling water, there was a significant decrease in UVR-induced DNA damage5,6. In vitro studies using cultured human skin fibroblasts pretreated with green tea polyphenol showed a decrease in hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS), one of the common photoaging mechanisms7.
Bird Nest Extract
Bird nest extract is rich in protein, minerals and sialic acid (also known as N-acetylneuramic acid). Sialic acid does not exhibit photoprotective effect, however, it helps with the skin fairness.
According to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, sialic acid is believed to be one of the key ingredients in bird’s nest that contributed to skin lightening effects8.
Sun avoidance, regular use of sunscreen, and protective clothing are the recommended methods of preventing UV-induced damage but compliance is a major challenge9. Only 4.4% of adults were meeting the recommended guidelines of applying sunscreen up to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplication every 2 hours10. Therefore, it is crucial to have the additional photoprotection through oral consumption of the correct supplements as mentioned.
- S. Food and Drug Administration. [Internet]. 2020 [cited 9 March 2021]. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/tanning/ultraviolet-uv-radiation
- M Rizwan, I Rodriguez-Blanco, A Harbottle, M A Birch-Machin, R E B Watson, L E Rhodes. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2011 Jan;164(1):154-62.
- Stahl W, Heinrich U, Aust O, Tronnier H, Sies H. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2006 Feb;5(2):238-42.
- Ma ZF, Zhang H, Teh SS, Wang CW, Zhang Y, Hayford F, Wang L, Ma T, Dong Z, Zhang Y, Zhu Y. Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019; 2019: 2437397.
- Malhomme de la Roche H, Seagrove S, Mehta A, Divekar P, Campbell S, Curnow A. Using natural dietary sources of antioxidants to protect against ultraviolet and visible radiation-induced DNA damage: an investigation of human green tea ingestion. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2010 Nov 3; 101(2):169-73.
- Morley N, Clifford T, Salter L, Campbell S, Gould D, Curnow A. The green tea polyphenol (-)-epigallocatechin gallate and green tea can protect human cellular DNA from ultraviolet and visible radiation-induced damage. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2005 Feb; 21(1):15-22.
- Silverberg JI, Jagdeo J, Patel M, Siegel D, Brody N. Green tea extract protects human skin fibroblasts from reactive oxygen species induced necrosis. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Oct; 10(10):1096-101.
- Chan GKL, Wong ZCK, Lam KYC, Cheng LKW, Zhang LM, Lin H, et al. Edible bird’s nest, an Asian health food supplement, possesses skin lightening activities: identification of N-acetylneuraminic acid as active ingredient. Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications. 2015;5:262-274.
- OyetakinWhite P, Tribout H, Baron E. Protective Mechanisms of Green Tea Polyphenols in Skin. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2012; 2012: 560682.
- Buller DB, Andersen PA, Walkosz BJ, Scott MD, Maloy JA, Dignan MB, Cutter GR. Compliance with sunscreen advice in a survey of adults engaged in outdoor winter recreation at high-elevation ski areas. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Jan; 66(1):63-70.