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Wrinkles are the most dreaded sign of aging skin, but they are not inevitable. The skin damage that leads to their development is caused by two factors: UV radiation from the sun, and diminished cellular production of the proteins collagen and elastin.
The sun emits many different frequencies of radiation that can ionize molecules and contribute to the development of free radicals. This causes DNA damage and cell death that can eventually lead to diseased or unhealthy skin. The face and hands are typically not covered by clothing, so the sun’s rays often affect them the most.
Compounding the danger of sun exposure, nutrient and water deficiency can lead to decreased collagen and elastin production. These two proteins help connect cells to each other. When they are deficient, skin tissue becomes loose and inelastic, and wrinkles develop.
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Prevent Wrinkles and Skin Damage Naturally
Preventing skin damage before it leads to wrinkles is always the best strategy, and counteracting UV radiation is the first step. Surprisingly, using sunscreen, lotion, or moisturizer may actually be a harmful method of doing so. Moisturizers and sunscreens treat symptoms; they do not cure problems. A much healthier option is to increase your intake of vitamins and foods that prevent wrinkles.
Top Foods That Prevent Wrinkles
Many foods contain powerful skin-protective nutrients. Incorporating a variety of these into the diet is the most beneficial. The following have been shown to contain wrinkle-reducing compounds:
- Chaga mushrooms
- Goji berries
- Sweet potatoes
- Yellow bell peppers
- Mustard greens
- Rice bran
Antioxidants Are Nature’s Sunscreen
To guard the skin from UV radiation, antioxidants are required to neutralize the free radicals that it can create. Antioxidants are found abundantly in foods such as chaga mushrooms, blueberries and goji berries.
DARK CHOCOLATE AS A SUNSCREEN?
Rich in polyphenol antioxidants, chocolate can help combat high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and more. But believe it or not, eating chocolate (high-quality dark chocolate, that is) can protect your skin from UV light, as well. One study looked at the difference between eating a high-flavanol dark chocolate and a low-flavanol dark chocolate (treated with high temperatures that reduce flavanol content) for 12 weeks. People who ate the chocolate with a lot of flavanols had a significantly higher threshold of burning compared to people who ate the low-flavanol chocolate. For more information, check out “Nutritional Sunscreen: 5 Foods That Protect Skin From Sun Damage.”
A 2008 study from Duke University Medical Center demonstrated that a topical antioxidant solution was effective as well. The main ingredients in the solution used in the study were vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid. Ferulic acid is found in rice, wheat, and oats, and can also be found as a liquid extract. When applied to the skin, the solution provides significant photoprotection and acts as a natural sunscreen.
Naturally Reduce the Appearance of Existing Wrinkles
Once antioxidants are abundant enough to protect cells from free-radical damage, the second step is to rebuild the collagen and elastin fibers that hold skin cells together. The most important vitamin for this is vitamin A. According to a 2007 study at the University of Michigan, topical vitamin A (retinol) significantly increases collagen production—even in cells that are already damaged by the sun.
The most important minerals for collagen production are copper, iron, and manganese. Another study found that vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin C cause a systemic increase of these metals in the body. In this study, this increase led to enhanced wound repair and collagen production.
Where to Naturally Find What You Need
All of these nutrients can be found in some very common foods. For example:
- Vitamin B5 is best found in mushrooms and cheese, and has many benefits in addition to skin repair.
- Vitamin A is found abundantly in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, and squash.
- Vitamin C comes from yellow bell peppers, kale, and broccoli.
- Vitamin E can be found in spinach, mustard greens, and kale.
- Ferulic acid is present in large quantities in tomatoes and rice bran.
It is best to incorporate all of these nutrients into the diet by eating a variety of the featured foods that prevent wrinkles, and by adding pure supplements as needed. Be cautious of using lotions and creams that may also have harsh ingredients that lead to allergies and side effects.
The skin is the outward manifestation of overall health. A few common foods can greatly benefit both.
For related reading, please visit this post: “Vitamins for Skin Health.”
Share Your Experiences
We want to know how you care for your skin naturally. Have you tried eating more foods that prevent wrinkles? Were you happy with the results? What barriers do you encounter when trying to keep your skin healthy?
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 J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2007 March; 40(2): 92–100.
This article was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated.