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Summer often brings sunburn. Certain simple foods, however, have the power to protect your skin from the inside out if you just start eating them now.

Sun Protection for Your Skin From the Inside Out

Summer often brings sunburn. Besides just causing pain, blistering, and peeling skin, sunburn can set off lasting changes in the skin that lead to permanent discoloration, especially on darker skin, freckles, age spots, and various forms of skin cancer. Certain simple foods, however, have the power to protect your skin from the inside out if you just start eating them now.

Skin Tone and Sunburn

Sunburn is caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. The severity of sunburn is inversely proportional to the amount of the skin pigment melanin in the skin. Fair skins contain relatively little melanin. Dark skins contain a lot of melanin.

Melanin is a giant molecule formed by linking together smaller molecules of the amino acid tyrosine. It is made in specialized skin cells known as melanocytes, where it is packaged into tiny spheres known as melanosomes, which are absorbed by the outer layers of the skin.

Melanin absorbs sunlight, and sunlight stimulates the production of melanin. When the skin is exposed to so much ultraviolet radiation that melanin cannot absorb it all, however, excess radiation goes into the DNA of outer layers of skin cells known as keratinocytes. When the DNA is these cells is disrupted, they become “sunburn cells,” programmed to die. Inflammatory processes clear these cells away for the renewal of healthy skin. The process of clearing the skin causes pain, redness, and inflammation. The destruction of skin cell DNA continues for up to 24 hours after exposure to sunlight and then diminishes.

A Strong Immune System Results in More Severe Sunburn

The immune systems of older persons are usually less active and cause a less severe inflammatory reaction to sunburn. The immune systems of children and teens are usually more active and cause a more severe inflammatory reaction to sunburn. If you have very little melanin in your skin, you burn more easily but sunburn is less likely to cause permanent discoloration of your skin by increasing melanin production (because there are fewer melanocytes to produce it). If you have a lot of melanin in your skin, you are less likely to burn but more likely to have lasting skin discoloration if you do.

Prevention Is Better than Cure

The most effective approach to healing sunburn is prevention. Stay out of the sun, wear protective clothing, or use sunblock with an SPF rating of 15 or more. The SPF number gives you a rough idea of how long you can stay out in the sun without burning. For instance, if you ordinarily burn in 10 minutes when you do not use sunscreen, you would be protected for 150 minutes by using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15. People who have fair skin, work or play outdoors most of the day, live at high altitudes, or perspire heavily should use a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 15. Swimming or perspiring heavily reduces the SPF effect of any sunscreen. But it also helps to change your diet.

Orange Vegetables Prevent Sunburn

If there is any one change in diet that can make a huge difference in how easily your skin burns in the sun, it's this:
Eat orange vegetables (such as carrots or sweet potatoes) daily. Include hearts of palm or palm oil in the diet when other nutritional concerns permit.

It also helps to avoid celeriac and Chinese herbal teas made with dong quai or psoralea. Celeriac and certain Chinese herbs, as well as St. John's wort, can increase sensitivity to the sun. Beta-carotene reduces it.

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