The skin is the largest organ of your body. As such, it is affected by the stuff we put into our bodies and onto our skin. Previously, we’ve discussed how some sunblocks contain ingredients that breakdown in UV light (the spectrum that causes sunburns and skin cancers) and actually promote the skin burning. However, not much is discussed about the foods that we eat or the medications we take and how they affect the skin.
The skin reacts to light primarally in two ways. The first is called a photoallergic reaction where ingredients in a medication that has been injested react with the UV rays of sunlight and create a response in the body’s immune system – causing an allergic reation that appears in the skin as a rash, sunburn or hives. This reaction usually begins after about 12-24 hours after exposure to sunlight.
The second reaction is called a phototoxic reaction. In this situation, sunlight excites molecules in the drug itself which directly causes the skin to burn. This reaction begins almost immediately when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
The body’s main protection to UV radiation from the sun is a pigment produced in the skin called melanin. Melanin effectively blocks up to 99.9% of UV sunlight and dissipates it as heat. This is way better than any sunscreen – and has no side effects when exposed to sunlight as some sunscreens do (see a previous post here).
This interests me in exploring ways to increase the body’s ability to produce more melanin, a process called melongenesis. The skin produces melinin out of an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine can be found in high protein foods like fish, chicken, milk, cheese, yogurt. Also, whole grains of wheat and oat, fruits of avacado and bananna are good dietary sources of tyrosine. Finally, almonds, lima beans, sesame and pumpkin seeds contain tyrosine as well. I’m wondering if boosting dietary tyrosine, especially during summer (sunbathing months) can help protect our skin with its natural production of melanin.
Here are some links: