We all age, but it is important not to speed up this process! One of the causes of premature skin aging is the sun. In fact, the sun, while being beneficial for mood, bone health and the immune system, can cause damage to the skin, inducing the formation of wrinkles, the dark skin spots, loss of hydration and elasticity. There are several weapons at our disposal to combat photoaging, among these, nutrition plays a central role, as evidenced by two scientific studies, one very recent, available in the journal Nutrients (Geng et al, Nutrients, 2021), the second dating back to a few years ago and appeared in the journal Food and Nutrition Research (Nobile et al, FNR, 2016).
How the sun can damage the skin
UV rays can induce skin photoaging through various mechanisms. In recent years, researchers have been able to thoroughly analyze the mechanism by which the sun ages the skin. What has emerged is that UV rays increase the inflammatory state of the tissues and the levels of free radicals, which in turn induce damage to the DNA. Not only that, the UV rays activate enzymes capable of degrading collagen and reduce the subcutaneous adipose tissue, resulting in the formation of wrinkles. It has also been observed that UV rays are able to shorten telomeres, which are the end of chromosomes that protect them during cell division, determining the life span of the cell itself. Shorter telomeres mean shorter cell life and therefore, speaking of skin tissues, photoaging.
The skin must be protected
To protect the skin from the damage of UV rays it is necessary to use protective creams in case of prolonged exposure to the sun, avoid the sun in the central hours, when the irradiation is higher, but also to eat foods rich in antioxidants.
The role of carotenoids
It has been observed that lycopene is able to attenuate photoaging. In fact, 55 grams a day of tomato sauce cooked in extra virgin olive oil reduced the enzymes responsible for the degradation of collagen and damage to DNA in twelve weeks. Astaxanthin, found in krill oil, counteracts the loss of moisture and skin elasticity. The beta carotene of carrots, melon, apricots, tomatoes and peppers protects the skin by counteracting the formation of erythema induced by UV rays.
Antioxidants against UV damage
Other antioxidants that have been shown to be powerful remedies against photoaging are dihydromyricetin, a flavonoid found, for example, in grapes, and ellagic acid, found in berries. Resveratrol, which you can find in grapes, peanuts and blackberries, increases skin hydration and elasticity and reduces the depth of wrinkles. Green tea catechins are beneficial for the skin, counteracting the formation of erythema, improving the elasticity of the tissues and increasing their brightness, since they improve microcirculation.
Cocoa and more…
And don't forget cocoa. In fact, cocoa is not only delicious but also reduces the formation of wrinkles, just like garlic. Vitamin C from citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi fruits and peppers promotes collagen formation and protects against free radical damage. Vitamin E, contained in extra virgin olive oil, almonds, hazelnuts but also in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, reduces sunburn and it shows a more powerful action if combined with vitamin C.
Rosemary and grapefruit
Finally, rosemary and grapefruit also act for the well-being of the skin. In fact, it has been observed that extracts of these foods have allowed, after two weeks, to reduce inflammation and redness of the skin when exposed to sunlight. Not only that, these extracts have also improved the hydration and elasticity of the tissues and counteracted the oxidation of lipids, which would lead to cell damage.