If only you didn't have to worry about premature aging, skin cancer, and other negative effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Here's the good news: Certain vitamins and phytochemicals—antioxidants—can help save your hide by neutralizing damaging free radicals created by UV rays.
To get the most out of antioxidants, take them in pill, gelcap, or liquid form, and apply topical products before and after sun exposure, says Julia Tatum Hunter, MD, a Beverly Hills, California-based dermatologist. Follow the manufacturer's suggested daily dose for supplements. "If you've spent a lot of time in the sun, it's safe to double up, but for only a day or two," she says. Also, Hunter recommends taking a variety because each antioxidant functions a bit differently.
Flavonoids give this plant its dazzling crimson color and also pack it with more antioxidant power than blueberries or red wine. In one study, pomegranate peel, juice, and seed oil applied to the skin stimulated the production of collagen (the skin's support system) and promoted the growth of skin cells, aiding in skin regeneration (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2006, vol. 103, no. 3). Pomegranate extract also helps prevent skin cancer and inhibit the inflammatory process that leads to sunburn (International Journal of Cancer, 2005, vol. 113, no. 3).
Topical pick: Pomega5 100% Pure Pomegranate Seed Oil. If you're pregnant, talk to your doctor before using.
Tea leaves are rich in polyphenols that help prevent sunburn, sun-related skin aging, and skin cancer by suppressing inflammation and preventing DNA damage (Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine, 2007, vol. 23, no. 1). Drink about 4 cups daily for skin-protective benefits, or consider taking a supplement as well as applying topical formulas.
Topical pick: Aubrey Organics Green Tea & Ginkgo Moisturizer.
As if its seed—the coffee bean—weren't enough of a good thing, the fruit surrounding the bean contains effective skin-protecting antioxidants. Studies show that the active compounds in coffeeberry permeate the skin and prevent sunburn and related skin damage (International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 2000, vol. 199, no. 1). The berry's active agents also may help prevent skin cancer (Folia Biologica, 2003, vol. 49, no. 5) and signs of aging. Coffeeberry products are just now appearing because formulators have finally found a way to process the highly perishable fruit while keeping nutrients intact.
Supplement pick: Better World Radical Rainforest Defense.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)
The potent anti-inflammatory agent ALA protects cells from free radical damage, improves collagen production, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (British Journal of Dermatology, 2003, vol. 149, no. 4; Connective Tissue Research, 2005, vol. 46, nos. 4—5). Taken internally, it also augments the protection of antioxidant vitamins C and E.
Topical pick:Alba Botanica Sea Plus Renewal Cream.
Anna Soref is a freelance health and beauty writer whose fair skin requires lots of TLC.