How to Prevent Sunburn

Sunburn is a visible reaction of the skin's exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the invisible rays that are part of sunlight. Ultraviolet rays can also cause invisible damage to the skin. Excessive and/or multiple sunburns cause premature aging of the skin and lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US and exposure to the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer.

During the summer, people spend more time outdoors. People who have fair skin, moles, or freckles, or who have a family history of skin cancer, are more likely to develop skin cancer in later years. UV rays are strongest during summer months when the sun is directly overhead (normally between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.).

Foods That Prevent Sunburn

New research suggests that certain types of foods and antioxidants may successfully help the body to fight against sunburn. Beta-carotene -- an antioxidant found in leafy vegetables, carrots, red peppers and yellow fruits such as mangos, melons and apricots -- has proven effective. Studies show that beta-carotene works best when a person eats at least five servings of foods that contain the antioxidant per day for a period of at least 10 weeks. Although the effects of beta-carotene aren't strong enough for it to be a complete replacement for sunscreen, this nutrient can help provide constant protection to every area of the skin.

Researchers have found that tomatoes  or at least lycopene, a red pigment found in tomatoes  may also protect the skin from sunburn. Like beta-carotene, the effects of lycopene become more effective after getting a daily requirement for around three months.

Green tea, often touted for its various health benefits, consists of polyphenols -- a type of antioxidant -- which could also protect the skin from UV rays. To reap these benefits, the polyphenols can be consumed as a drink, or they can be applied directly to skin.

Although the effects of these foods are not strong enough to replace sunscreens, the combination of these nutrients with your daily sunscreen regimen will help give you the best possible coverage. And eating all those vitamins and antioxidants could benefit your health in other ways, too.

Clothes That Prevent Sunburn

Like sunscreen, sun-protective clothing is a product used to prevent sunburn. Unlike normal summer clothing -- which typically includes light-colored fabrics and loosely fitting cotton -- the fabrics used for blocking sun are tightly woven, which makes them more difficult for harmful rays to penetrate. Certain companies treat the fabric with chemicals that help absorb ultraviolet (UV) light. Sun-protective clothing is generally marked with a UV protection factor (UPF), which lets you know the strength of its protection. For example, if you wanted to protect yourself from 1/40th of the sun's rays, you'd pick a shirt with a UPF rating of 40. Higher UPF labels mean more protection for your skin.

Although sun-protective clothing is a useful tool in the fight against sunburn, it can lose some of its effectiveness if it gets stretched or is repeatedly washed -- another reason to go with a higher UPF in the first place. Another option is to make your own sun blocking clothes. Certain laundry ingredients contain UV-absorbing chemicals and claim to give even regular fabrics a significant UPF rating.