The Solar-Powered, Super-Duper, Sun-Protecting Tomato

Published in: Beauty Tips, Skin Care

The sun-protecting tomato

Here comes the sun, little darling, but it’s all right, thanks to the solar-powered, super-duper, sun-protecting tomato. :)



Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she made the tomato. She packed it with powerful sun-protecting compounds called antioxidant carotenoids to protect the fruit from the sun’s damaging rays. One of the compounds, lycopene, gives tomatoes their telltale red color, and it’s also a Super Bowl champion when it comes to sun protecting. A 1989 study published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics found lycopene to be the most efficient quencher of singlet oxygen among the biologically occurring carotenoids.

What does that mean?

A lot, if you spend much time in the sun. Our glowing giver of light, heat and energy in the sky is also a major source of wrinkles, painful sunburns and the kinds of DNA damage that can lead to skin cancer. Some estimates of the extent to which skin damage is the result of solar radiation run as high as 90%, and you don’t have to spend all day at the beach to feel the heat. Those quick, everyday exposures — standing at the bus stop, grabbing lunch at that awesome takeout place, taking the dog cat for a walk — also add up over the years and put your skin’s health and your appearance at risk.

When UV light penetrates the skin, it doesn’t just cause sunburns. It also causes the formation of UV-induced free radicals, destroys tissues, oxidizes lipids and hacks genes. Skin cells don’t turn over as quickly, wounds take longer to heal, and skin becomes less elastic, thinner, rougher and blotchy.

Clothes and topical sunscreens help, but sunscreens aren’t perfect (many break down in a matter of minutes), and who wants to wear long sleeves and pants in the middle of summer? Sunscreens can also bring about a false sense of security. A better bet is to buttress the skin’s own natural defenses by augmenting topical skin protection from the inside out.

Some of the most potent carotenoids include lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, phytoene, phytofluene, astaxanthin and zeaxanthin. Numerous studies have shown how effective these antioxidants are in protecting against sun damage. By filling our cellular stockpiles of these free-radical quenching compounds that also, in some cases, reduce collagen breakdown, we can do ourselves a big favor when it comes to our skin.

IMPORTANT: After I published this post, reader Jenny asked that I emphasize that “sunscreen is ALWAYS a good idea, and should be everyone’s primary sun protection method (aside from shade, of course).” I completely agree, Jenny. A little clarification can’t hurt when we’re talking about something as important as this.

A 2009 study by the Dermatology Consulting Institute in High Point, North Carolina (“Enjoying Your Day in the Sun: Defending Skin From the Inside Out,” Global Cosmetic Industry, May 2011), showed that people orally supplementing with 10 mg of lycopene per day for 10 weeks had one third the number of sunburn cells after exposure to doses of UVA and UVB radiation than a group taking a placebo (one average 4-oz. red tomato contains about 3.5 mg of lycopene). And all signs suggest that natural sources of carotenoid compounds like lycopene deliver more potent protection than synthetic versions of the same ingredients do.

Yet another reason to load up that yummy salad with tomatoes. :)

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen

P.S. Watermelon is another excellent source of lycopene, which with all of the watermelon I’ve been eating lately must mean I’m at like SPF 300 right now, haha!

P.P.S. Totally unrelated, but anyone seen the last Harry Potter movie yet??

31 Comments

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  1. Denise says:

    Thanks for the reminder! I’m craving cream of tomato right now, yum. And I’ve seen Harry Potter! I had a bucketful of mixed emotioms.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Denise. Me too! We saw it last night, and I was really touched by the scenes from the earlier movies showing them as kids. What an amazing project to be a part of.

  2. Nikkiteen says:

    I like the potter movie but thought they could have added 5 more minutes to it for a longer final battle scene. just 5 more minutes.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Nikkiteen. That was quite an epic battle, wasn’t it? Do you think J.K. will ever write another Potter book? If I had to bet, I’d say she does. I hope so.

  3. Kinsey says:

    Yes I saw Harry potter on friday! Have you seen it? It was absolutely amazing (not as good as the book though.. Obviously! :P) veeeeeeery emotional and spectacular. <3

  4. Swathi says:

    OMG thanks for the info !

    Yes I have watched the harry potter last movie and as I am 22 now , practically my childhood was alongside HP … I cried like a baby AGAIN ( as I also cried while reading the last book ) ..

    Still whenever I read HP books , I look back to my memories … Those were the days !!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Swathi. One of my favorite things about the entire Potter universe has been watching the characters and the actors who played them grow up. Just such a rare thing how it all worked out, the quality of the books, the number of them written, how good the movies have been. It was like lightning didn’t just strike twice. It struck 7-8 times!

      • Swathi says:

        I know !! In the theater even before the movie started I had tears , it was like , oh man I will not be able to see them again. I will miss the movies loads. and when I saw pics of the red carpet and the actors breakin down, I was even more teary eyed.

  5. Biba says:

    I just love tomatoes! I could eat them every single day :D

  6. Claire says:

    Thanks Karen! I knew lycopene was good for me, but not why. Do you know whether topical lycopene is proven to work? I’ve just started using yes to tomatoes moisturizer and love it so far, and I know it has lycopene.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Claire,

      That’s a great moisturizer. I love everything I’ve tried from the Yes To line. I think topical lycopene probably does provide some UV protection when applied, but from what I’ve read only a little, like SPF 3, but it may provide other benefits science doesn’t quite understand yet. Some research points toward it perhaps working in some ways better when combined with topical vitamin E.

      I have a feeling, though, that future products containing topical lycopene will provide more sun-protecting benefits than current ones do, as scientists and manufacturers improve the formulations to make them more absorbable and stable for topical use.

  7. Stephanie says:

    I love tomatoes. I eat them like apples. Yum.

  8. Naj says:

    I just came back from swimming, and good thing I ate loads of watermelon last night! Also, I’m weird, cause I only like tomatoes if they’re in my burgers/sandwiches/pasta sauce. I’ll learn to eat more tomatoes from now on. Thanks for the info! :D

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Naj. Yum, watermelon… I’m so hooked on the stuff. I swear I’ve eaten 40 pounds of watermelon over the past month. And pasta sauce sounds like a great way to get your lycopene on.

  9. Chris25 says:

    I ate tomatoes last night. They were in my falafel. Yum.

  10. Christina says:

    Dang! I should’ve eaten some tomatoes and watermelons yesterday! I was a medical volunteer for SD Pride and kept packing on the sunscreen but I still managed to get mildly sunburned. For the record, I am loving the biology love you showed in this post! :D

    I saw the film and pretty much loved it!! And goodness, I can’t believe the Harry Potter franchise is, for the most part, over. For me, it all started when I was in the fifth grade!! It’s probably one of the few things that I’ve really carried over with me from elementary school to college. It’ll definitely live on with me for a while. I already started planning a Harry Potter nostalgia party with my friends when it hits us hard (Homemade butterbeer, anyone? :) ).

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Christina! That’s very cool that you volunteered. :) I would like to do more research-heavy posts like this. Biology was one of my two majors in school (English was the other), but it does take a long time to feel like I’m doing it reasonably well and actually answering some questions on the topic.

      I can’t believe the Potter series is over too… The realization hasn’t sunk in yet. Did you know that there’s a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando? I’ve never been but would like to go.

  11. Thanks for the info, Karen! I’d enjoy more posts like this :)
    Danielle N @ Beauty Lite recently posted … Easy to Find Sulfate-Free Shampoos

  12. BettyS says:

    Great blog post! I love growing my own tomatoes; they beat the flavorless store bought ones by miles. My son eats the little grape tomatoes like they’re candy.

  13. Nina says:

    watermelon and tomatoes — two of my fave things to nom! <3

  14. Sonya says:

    I’m spending a lot of time in the sun this summer, and I’ve been worried about the state of my skin because of it. It makes me feel a teeny bit better that I’ve been unknowingly giving myself an extra boost of protection with tomatoes, as I eat them everyday!
    Sonya recently posted … Make Up For Ever Smoky Lash Mascara Review + Swatches

  15. Mary says:

    I love tomatoes, and aside from obviously eating them, I love the way they smell when they’re fresh!
    Mary recently posted … KleanColor Chunky Holo Bluebell Swatches & Review

  16. Elle says:

    You have me craving watermelon like NO OTHER right now, K-Dawg. Thanks for the reminder. I just spent the day at the beach so I am glad I’m a tomato (and sunscreen!) fiend.

  17. Erin says:

    I did not know how great this was so thanks for the awareness! Ive had two counts of Basal Skin cancer removed on two separate occasions (thanks to a un educated summer of tanning beds a few years ago) and now will make sure to add more to my diet(along with my daily SPF 1billion). I bought some black diamond watermelon today and farm fresh roma tomatoes. Coupled with being heart healthy aware Ive completely changed my eating habits and diet. A few more good things added to my list wont hurt. :)

  18. NeenaJ says:

    Great post! I’m trying not to read the Harry Potter comments though, because I haven’t seen it yet!

    But, wanted to mention that a lot of studies have shown that processed tomato (homogenization and heating) improves lycopene availability, Raw tomato is still awesome for you, but if you want to make the most out of the lycopene, incorporate some tomato paste, puree or sauce into your diet.

  19. Kim says:

    Just in time for garden tomato season (out here in the Northeast). :) I swear, I could eat those sandwiches all day, every day.

    We’ll be seeing Harry this week. I know I’ll be a blubbering mess. I haven’t been a huge fan of the movies (loved the books) but whenever I see pics of those 3 together throughout the years, I feel like bawling. They really have grown up before our eyes. It’s quite emotional that it’s coming to an end. Like you, I hope JK continues the story somehow. :)

  20. Liz says:

    I watched the last Potter movie and was unbearably sad for a few days because I’ve sort of grown up with the series, and it’s so odd to think that there won’t be another movie or book or something coming up.

    Also, great post! Now you have me craving watermelons!

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