The sun’s UV rays are essential to the proper functioning of the human body. They are able to synthesise vitamin D, allowing for the absorption and binding of calcium to the bones. However, excess exposure is harmful to the skin as it produces oxidative stress, which damages epidermal cells and speeds up the ageing process. In order to protect your skin from the sun's rays, it is essential to increase your antioxidant intake. Beta-carotene, lycopene, astaxanthin and polyphenol supplements appear vital for the protection of skin cells and so allow us to enjoy the benefits of sun exposure without damaging our skin.
When subject to ultraviolet sun rays, the skin releases free radicals in variable quantities, based on exposure and skin type. Although the skin has natural antioxidant mechanisms that help neutralise these free radicals, our defences are occasionally overwhelmed by oxidative stress, which then affects the skin. Free radicals directly or indirectly affect our skin cell DNA: the skin becomes dry, loses its suppleness, wrinkles appear and dark spots form.
Although sun protection is essential, it does not protect the skin from ALL the sun's rays. The UV rays that succeed in reaching the epidermis activate free radicals, damaging the skin and speeding up its ageing process. However, it is possible to prevent free radicals from accumulating with a good supply of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that slow down or prevent cell oxidation by fighting against free radicals. They also do this to compensate for insufficient sun protection. In fact, antioxidants are able to neutralise damage caused by free radicals triggered by sun exposure. They thus have a soothing effect, diminishing stress induced by UV rays, and add to the level of protection offered by sunscreens, boosting their effectiveness.
There are many antioxidants that increase and reinforce the effectiveness of sunscreens. Among these are carotenoids, which are essential and should be given priority. The photoprotective action of antioxidants has been widely studied, and their effectiveness in protecting the skin and eyes, which are significantly affected by ultraviolet rays, has been extensively demonstrated (Annual Review of Nutrition).
Whether they stem from food or dietary supplements, the protective effects of carotenoids have generally been proven effective by scientific studies. This large family of yellow-orange pigments produced by plants, algae and certain bacteria reduce UV-induced damage to skin cells and increase the skin’s tolerance to the sun. Three carotenoids are particularly effective in blocking the harmful effects of UV light: astaxanthin, beta-carotene and lycopene.
Astaxanthin is the red pigment contained in Haematococcus pluvialis algae. This pigment protects the algae from UV rays and the stress inherent in their natural habitat. It is an antioxidant specific to skin and vision subject to UV light. Its extremely high antioxidant capacity helps to limit the impact of UV rays on the dermis, delay the appearance of sunburn and inhibit signs of skin ageing. As it is not widely found in food (only in certain fish, seafood and shellfish), Astaxanthin in the form of a dietary supplement is an essential ally for your skin.
Found in large quantities in certain fruit and vegetables (apricots, melons, carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, parsley, spinach and green cabbage), beta-carotene is a well-known photoprotective agent that fights against free radicals. It helps combat the decrease in cutaneous immunity caused by sun exposure, by increasing the skin’s tolerance to sunburn. Moreover, it helps the skin produce melanin, a natural tanning pigment that protects skin from the sun’s ultraviolet light and promotes an even tan. Beta-carotene thus prepares the skin for sun exposure by boosting its natural protective functions.
Lycopene is a pigment that adds colour to tomatoes, guava, papaya, watermelon and pink grapefruit. High levels are present in the human body. This pigment is extremely effective in fighting against free radicals, by slowing down cellular oxidation. Lycopene also limits the harmful effects of UV rays on our DNA, boosts the skin’s tolerance to sun exposure and helps reduce solar erythema in sensitive skin types.
Polyphenols are very powerful molecules that help the body defend itself against external stress factors: UV rays, pollution, etc. These antioxidants have the capacity to deactivate free radicals, so allowing the cell ageing process to be tackled. Polyphenols are found in most citrus and other fruits, green and root vegetables, and especially in green tea. Polyphenols from green tea are a natural anti-inflammatory agent that defends the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. They protect the skin from UV rays, and soothe and repair it when it has been damaged by sun exposure. The polyphenols in green tea help restore elasticity to the epidermis through cell renewal. Dietary supplements with a green tea base are ideal for a maximum intake of polyphenols.