Dr. Perricone's Pick: No Sun Tanner
Dr. Perricone Discusses

Foods to Repair the Signs of Sun Damage


It's no news that chronic overexposure to sunlight is one of the greatest factors contributing to the visible signs of skin aging. One of the most destructive aspects of sunlight are the ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are invisible forms of radiation, that can penetrate and alter the structure of skin cells over time. Like chronological aging, sun-induced skin aging is a cumulative process dependent upon the individual's skin pigment and degree of sun exposure. The cosmetic effects of photo-aging can be seen in the loss of skin elasticity, thinner, more translucent-looking skin, wrinkles, broken capillaries on the face, freckles, sun spots, discoloration, redness, and "crêpe-y" skin. The good news is that you can prevent and even help to repair sun damage by choosing the right foods.

Carotenoids for Cellular Repair

The carotenoid family of antioxidants offers special and targeted properties for cellular growth and repair. Carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments that give a red-orange-yellow color to fruits, vegetables, and even wild salmon. Because they are fat-soluble, carotenoids can enter both the cell plasma membrane and the mitochondria, where they protect these parts of the cell from oxidative stress, free-radical damage (including UV exposure) and pro-inflammatory chemicals. Carotenoids neutralize sunlight-induced free radicals, which damage the cell and are the primary force behind the "subclinical", or invisible, inflammation that accelerates the internal aging process and manifests externally as wrinkles.

It's not just the carotenoids found in plant foods that can protect and repair cells. Astaxanthin is a type of carotenoid found in wild salmon and other pink or red hued seafood. Often referred to as "red gold from the sea", Astaxanthin is 10 times more potent than beta-carotene and 100 times stronger than vitamin E. When taken as a dietary supplement, studies have shown that astaxanthin offers powerful protection against photo-aging, mitigating the damaging and aging effects of excessive exposure to sunlight on skin. Studies have also shown that supplemental astaxanthin supports more even skin tone, and can significantly reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improves skin's elasticity. Both astaxanthin and Omega-3's offer cumulative benefits that will help provide internal protection to the skin against the sun's damaging rays. They will also increase smoothness, suppleness and radiance in the skin. Enjoy them in food form or take supplements - I recommend both dietary sources and supplements for optimum health and beauty.

In addition to the beauty benefits, the overall health benefits of eating a carotenoid-rich diet are compelling:

  • Carotenoids may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease because of their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Carotenoids may reduce the risk of cancer, especially cancers of the lung, bladder, breast esophagus and stomach.
  • The lutein and zeaxanthin abundant in spinach, kale and collard greens exert protective antioxidant effects in the retina, and accordingly, they appear to help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

Add these carotenoid-rich sea food and vegetables to your plate to maintain youthful, glowing skin year-round:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Kale
  • Shrimp
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Crab
  • Spinach
  • Crawfish
  • Collards
  • Red Caviar
  • Turnip Greens
  • Beet Greens
  • Lobster
  • Cabbage
  • Winter Squash
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon

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Related Links:

Why is Salmon Pink?
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Choosing Safer Seafood