Food to Protect Your Skin This Summer

As summer fast approaches, sun protection becomes a priority.  Most of us are used to reaching for the best sunscreens, wide brimmed hats and protective sun gear. While chronic UV exposure is the most predictive factor for skin diseases, we know the immune system plays an important role in determining how extensive this damage may be. Guarding against inflammation, oxidative stress and DNA damage can also protect your skin and lower the risk of sun induced skin disease. Food can determine your risk for all these factors and the following foods can play a key role in protecting your skin against the sun’s harmful rays.

Olive oil

High in vitamin E and polyphenols, daily ingestion of unheated olive oil can protect your skin. Vitamin E has been shown in numerous studies to protect against oxidative stress and reduce photo-damage from UVB radiation. A number of studies have come out recently pointing to the sun protective benefits of topical olive oil use. Add one tablespoon of a cold pressed olive oil to your salads or sprinkle on your already cooked or roasted veggies. This popular oil should be a part of your daily summer diet and summer skin care.


Well-known now for containing omega-3 fats, walnuts have been found to protect your skin. Walnuts help the cells in your outer layer of skin fight UV radiation by preventing cell break down, or apoptosis.  Grab a handful of walnuts for a skin-protecting snack on-the-go or grind walnuts in your food processor or blender to add to your dips and sauces. 


Apples have the highest concentration of polyphenols compared to any other fruit, which means they are a summer powerhouse when it comes to skin care.  Polyphenols are plant-based compounds that help regulate inflammation, oxidative stress and the immune system.  An apple a day this summer can protect your skin and your immune system.


Another source of polyphenols, tea and coffee also act as antioxidants that can boost skin health.  A recent study found that daily coffee consumption protected a group of Japanese patients from photo-aging and hyper pigmented sun spots, due to the high polyphenol content.  Another reason to keep your daily cup of coffee, even in the summer heat.

Red Wine

While many of us avoid wine due to calories or limiting sugar, red wine does have a high polyphenol content. No excuses needed here. Consider having 2-3 glasses of red wine per week for another alternative source of antioxidants.


Broccoli, like apples, are the vegetable with the highest count of polyphenols.  As a cruciferous vegetable, broccoli also fights inflammation, with recent studies showing broccoli sprouts are helpful in protecting against cancer.  The compound in broccoli, sulphorane, has been shown to activate the skin’s defense system when exposed to UV light.


Basil may be the most protective herb when it comes to sun protection.  Basil contains an antioxidant zeaxanthin that helps filter UV light from the retina, protecting your eyes.

When it comes to sun protection, expanding the conversation beyond the best sunscreens and outer gear to food and nutrition can protect your skin from the inside out. Enjoy the warm sunshine!