Natural Sun Protection

I can’t believe it’s still sunny out, isn’t it just stunning? The Irish sun brings with it so many gifts, best of which is an increased feeling of wellness, but unfortunately, just like anything else, it’s all in the dose.

Ireland has a high rate of skin cancer relative to the rest of the world. This is due to a multitude of factors but one of which is the relatively high UV index in Ireland – which is the strength of sunburn-producing ultraviolet (UV) radiation at a particular place and time. Thus, the Irish sun is often stronger than the temperature might lead you to believe.

Another influential factor is the paler pigment of the skin of most Irish people. Which often leads to a faster rate of sunburn compared to someone with a darker pigment.

Protecting ourselves with sun cream is an effective way of blocking harmful UV rays, but sometimes we either forget or are just not in the habit of applying daily, or maybe by the time you are reading this it’s too late and you have got a bit of a pinkish gleam to your skin already!

So, what I want to provide you with is some food that can either help protect you from the harmful rays and act as a natural protector while also giving you some other food options that will help repair your skin following a bout of glorious Irish sunshine.

I want to start with micronutrients as a whole, which are found in high amounts in fruit and vegetables. Micronutrients have been shown to act as UV absorbers, antioxidants and control the signalling pathway following a bout of UV exposure [1]. These micronutrients can reduce exposure via a variety of ways depending on their structure, some directly absorb, while some scatter the light as it hits the skin.

A good addition to the diet here can be carrots and tomatoes, which have high contents of b-Carotene and lycopene respectively. These compounds have been shown to prevent UV induced sunburn [2].

The next micronutrient I recommend is vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and thus neutralises dangerous free radicals caused by excess UV exposure [3][4]. Hence, if you have been out in the sun long enough to get a bit toasty, it might be a good idea to increase your vitamin C intake to reduce the ill effects to your system!

The last nutrient I wanted to talk about is Omega 3 fatty acids, these compounds have been shown to reduce UV related sunburn, and thus has been shown to help prevent the formation of skin related cancers [2]. Usually found in high concentrations in oily fish, so an extra intake of salmon or mackerel might be on the cards following a day in the sun. Finally, vitamin E has been long held as a great addition for skin health, and with good reason. Vitamin E has been shown to have a protective effect against UV radiation and this effect has been shown to be even stronger with our aforementioned intake of b-Carotene and lycopene [5].

Sun protection smoothie!

So with all this talk of compounds and nutrients how about we put this into motion in the form of a tasty smoothie!

This would be a great addition to your morning routine especially if you are planning an active day out in the sun.


2 kiwis (a kiwi has more vitamin c than an orange!)
1 carrot (high in b-Carotene)

1 tbs of almond butter of 6 almonds if you have a strong blender (great source of vitamin E)
1 cup of milk or milk substitute of choice
2 tbs of flax seed (Great source of neutral tasting omega 3)
1/2 thumb of ginger (helps blood flow to the skin which can help deliver protection and improve the healing process)
3 ice cubes

Blitz and enjoy a 250mls glass in the morning

[1] Sies, H. & Stahl, W. (2004), “Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight”, Annual review of nutrition, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 173-200.

[2] Rhodes, L.E., Shahbakhti, H., Azurdia, R.M., Ralf M W Moison, Marie-Jose S T Steenwinkel, Homburg, M.I., Dean, M.P., McArdle, F., Gerard M J Beijersbergen van Henegouwen, Epe, B. & Vink, A.A. (2003), “Effect of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, on UVR-related cancer risk in humans. An assessment of early genotoxic markers”, Carcinogenesis, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 919-925.

[3] Stahl, W. & Sies, H. (2007), “Carotenoids and Flavonoids Contribute to Nutritional Protection against Skin Damage from Sunlight”, Molecular Biotechnology, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 26-30.

[4] Pullar, J.M., Carr, A.C., Vissers, M.C.M., Anitra Carr, Margreet Vissers & Juliet Pullar (2017), “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health”, Nutrients, vol. 9, no. 8, pp. 866.

[5] Stahl, W., Heinrich, U., Jungmann, H., Sies, H. & Tronnier, H. (2000), “Carotenoids and carotenoids plus vitamin E protect against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans”, The American journal of clinical nutrition, vol. 71, no. 3, pp. 795-

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