5 Research-Backed Foods to Help Heal a Sunburn – Verywell Health

Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT, has studied nutrition for almost two decades. She was named an emerging leader in women's health by the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content.
Verywell / Photo Illustration by Amelia Manley / Getty Images
Wish you could make your sunburns go away faster this summer? Topical solutions like aloe vera and hydrocortisone cream aren’t your only options.

Eating and drinking certain things may support the healing process, though your diet won’t make or break your sunburn recovery.
Here are five foods that offer unique benefits for sunburned skin.
Nick Fewings/Unsplash
Carrots are one of the best foods to eat if you have a sunburn thanks to the beta carotene in the vegetable.
Beta carotene is a carotenoid that’s naturally found in many foods that are (naturally) orange and yellow. Along with carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe also contain this key carotenoid. Non-orange foods like green leafy vegetables (like spinach) are also good sources of beta carotene.
Carotenoids build up in the outer layer of the skin to form a protective barrier against environmental influences, including ultraviolet (UV) radiation. That helps protect against skin aging by promoting skin elasticity and hydration while reducing the development of wrinkles and age spots.
Research has shown that getting adequate amounts of beta carotene in your diet may help protect your skin from the damage caused by UV light.  
Jill Wellington/Pexels
Fermented milk products, like kefir, are made by adding beneficial bacteria and/or yeast to dairy milk. The result is a beverage that contains live cultures with many health benefits.
Milk fermented with lactic acid bacteria has been shown to amplify DNA repair and improve skin immunity after a sunburn.
If your fermented milk drink also contains collagen hydrolysates, it may further promote healthy skin.
Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can help with inflammation and pain caused by a sunburn.
Fortified, 100% orange juice can provide 15% of your daily recommended value of vitamin D. The drink also gives you a boost of hydration, antioxidants, and polyphenols.
Research has shown that polyphenols may decrease the damaging effects of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on the skin.
Dietary vitamin D has been shown to rapidly relieve inflammation from sunburns.
Studies have also shown that getting plenty of citrus in your diet (including OJ) is linked to a lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer).
The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram
Enjoying a dish made with tomato paste is a delicious and satisfying way to support your skin health at any time, but might be especially helpful post-sunburn. 
Tomato paste contains lycopene, a carotenoid that can offer skin protection.
In one study, people who ate 55 grams of tomato paste with 10 grams of olive oil daily over 12 weeks had less UV exposure-induced skin reddening (erythema) than people who did not include tomato paste in their diets.
Other studies have found that tomato consumption may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
The Spruce / Michelle Becker
Pomegranates are a rich source of polyphenolics, which may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer benefits.
The fruit may also help you heal a sunburn. In one study, both pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract were more effective than placebo in increasing the minimal dose of UVB required to induce erythema, highlighting the protective effects of pomegranate against UVB-induced cell damage.
Short-term sunburn side effects include inflammation, itching, and peeling.
In the long term, getting a sunburn can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Frequent sun exposure can also lead to wrinkles and brown spots on certain skin tones.
Eating well can help you feel better after a sunburn, but it’s much better to try to keep from getting too much sun exposure in the first place.
You can prevent sunburns by:

Including certain foods and beverages in your diet after you get a sunburn may support skin healing in the short term and even help lower your risk of long-term consequences like skin cancer. That said, the best thing you can do for your skin and overall health is to prevent sunburns.
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Stahl W, Sies H. β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(5):1179S-84S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.034819
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Skin Cancer Foundation. Sunburn & your skin.
Saric S, Sivamani RK. Polyphenols and sunburn. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(9):1521. doi:10.3390/ijms17091521
Scott JF, Das LM, Ahsanuddin S, Qiu Y, et al. Oral vitamin D rapidly attenuates inflammation from sunburn: an interventional study. J Invest Dermatol. 2017;137(10):2078-2086. doi:10.1016/j.jid.2017.04.040
Wu S, Cho E, Feskanich D, et al. Citrus consumption and risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Carcinogenesis. 2015;36(10):1162-8. doi:10.1093/carcin/bgv109
Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, Birch-Machin MA, Watson RE, Rhodes LE. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2011;164(1):154-162. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10057.x
Cooperstone JL, Tober KL, Riedl KM, et al. Tomatoes protect against development of UV-induced keratinocyte carcinoma via metabolomic alterations. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):5106. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05568-7
Henning SM, Yang J, Lee RP, et al. Pomegranate juice and extract consumption increases the resistance to UVB-induced erythema and changes the skin microbiome in healthy women: a randomized controlled trial. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):14528. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-50926-2
Cao H, Brehm M, Hynan L, Goff HW. Wrinkles, brown spots, and cancer: Relationship between appearance- and health-based knowledge and sunscreen use. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019;18(2):558-562. doi:10.1111/jocd.12712

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