Mountain and stream

Eating at abnormal hours can be damaging to your skin….

Denise Clark ND, RND

As the days get longer and we experience more sunny days its time to protect our skin from the damaging effects of intense sun exposure in Colorado. A recently published study found that our eating habits could affect aging and the prevention of skin cancer.

A study in mice from the O’Donnell Brain Institute and UC Irvine shows that eating at abnormal times disrupts the biological clock of the skin, including the daytime potency of an enzyme that protects against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

The finding indicates that people who eat late at night may be more vulnerable to sunburn and longer-term effects such as skin aging and skin cancer. The study showed that mice given food only during the day — an abnormal eating time for the otherwise nocturnal animals — sustained more skin damage when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light during the day than during the night. This outcome occurred, at least in part, because an enzyme that repairs UV-damaged skin — xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA) — shifted its daily cycle to be less active in the day.

Mice that fed only during their usual evening times did not show altered XPA cycles and were less susceptible to daytime UV rays. Although more research is needed, it is likely that if you have a normal eating schedule, then you will be better protected from UV during the daytime.

Time-Restricted Feeding Shifts the Skin Circadian Clock and Alters UVB-Induced DNA Damage;   Hong Wang, Elyse van Spyk, Qiang Liu, Mikhail Geyfman,                                     Michael L. Salmans, Vivek Kumar,   Alexander Ihler, Ning Li, Joseph S. Takahashi,Bogi Andersen;    Cell Reports; Volume 20, Issue 5,      pp1061–1072, 1 August 2017.


Other ways to protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancer:

  • Wear sunscreen that is labeled “broad-spectrum” to protect you against UVB and UVA rays;
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors;
  • Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen;
  • Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.
  • The Environmental Working Group points out that sunscreens with mineral-based filters may be less toxic to humans than those with chemical-based filters, e.g., oxybenzone, since they may have the potential to cause hormone disruption.
  • Diets high in Vitamin C and essential fatty acids have also been shown in studies to be linked to protection of skin from sun damage.