The Science of Superfoods for Beauty

By the DERMAdoctor, dermatologist Audrey Kunin, M.D.

Posted on | By Audrey Kunin, MD

The skin is the largest organ of the body, so what you eat can definitely affect your appearance. I want you to think of your refrigerator as a cosmetics counter. Whereas makeup is used to hide and perfect flaws, the right foods can help eliminate them altogether. Skin concerns like sun protection, wrinkles, blemishes, dryness and irritation can all be responsive to thoughtful food choices. 

Natural Sun Screen: Lycopene


Let’s begin with sun protection. The harmful effects of the sun show up not only as wrinkles and blotchy skin discoloration but potentially precancerous changes and skin cancer as well. 

Lycopene is an antioxidant found in brightly colored orange and red produce. Lycopene is a member of the antioxidant family known as carotenoids, which firm the skin by helping build collagen. It acts as a natural sunscreen to help protect your skin from free radical damage. 

Once the sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin, a chemical reaction occurs. Oxygen molecules that reside within the tissue are naturally bonded together in pairs. As a result of the reaction, they are broken apart, becoming free oxygen species (also known as free radicals). They work to destroy vulnerable cellular DNA and trigger skin-aging changes.

Consuming lycopene-rich foods protects DNA from these reactive free oxygen species. Let me that stress eating lycopene-rich foods helps maximize sun protection but should never be a substitute for your favorite broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with SPF 30.

Food source: Pink grapefruit is extremely rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Just half a grapefruit a week, which contains 17 mg of lycopene, is all you need for added sun protection.

Article written by Audrey Kunin, MD