Can a Midnight Snack Increase Your Risk of Sunburn?

It might seem like that late-night snack you occasionally indulge in is pretty harmless, but new research has discovered a link between abnormal eating patterns and your skin’s decreased ability to protect itself from the sun’s UV rays. Take a look at why researchers believe this may be the case and what you can do to boost your skin’s photoprotection.

Eating Habits and Skin Photoprotection

Most people are familiar with the idea of a biological clock. Well, as it turns out, your skin has a biological clock of its own and takes cues depending on the time of day to produce more or less of a special enzyme that helps to keep it protected from UV light. Researchers from the O’Donnell Brain Institute and UC Irvine found that eating at abnormal times can cause the skin to shift its production of this enzyme, which could make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

When mice, which are usually nocturnal animals, were fed during the day instead, the team found that the incidence of sunburn and other signs of sun damage increased, compared to a control group of mice that were fed at night. These findings were consistent with previous studies, which found that disrupted enzyme cycles are related to abnormal eating patterns. An estimated 10 percent of gene expression in the skin is affected by abnormal eating patterns (Cell Reports).

So what does all of this mean for your skin? In a nutshell, regularly eating meals at night when your body is programmed to sleep could throw off its biological clock, including the one in your skin that provides some photoprotection. Thus, if you find that your skin suddenly seems more sensitive to the sun or is burning more easily, it may have something to do with changes in your eating patterns.

How to Optimize Your Skin’s UV Protection

Although there are mechanisms that your skin can use to help reduce sun damage, the most effective way to keep your skin protected from the sun’s UV rays is to wear sunscreen on a daily basis. Even if you have sensitive skin, you should still be wearing sunscreen. Some people find that using physical sunscreens that contain ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide are gentler on the skin than chemical sunscreens that typically contain oxybenzone and/or avobenzone.

You can also use a topical vitamin C serum each morning to offer added protection against harmful free radicals like those created by UV radiation. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and Phloretin CF are excellent antioxidant serums to try, as they have been properly formulated, packaged, and stored to maximize the effectiveness of vitamin C. Since this ingredient can be unstable in its pure form or in certain formulations, it can be well worth spending a little more on a higher quality product than going the cheaper route and ending up with an ineffective product. You can read more about how to choose the right vitamin C serum in this blog.

According to researchers, maintaining a normal eating schedule can also play a role in the photoprotection of your skin by promoting the regular release of protective enzymes during the day. In addition to eating at the right times, it is also important to eat the right foods to give your skin a boost. Just as applying topical antioxidants can help to provide extra UV protection, eating plenty of antioxidant-rich foods is a great way to keep your entire body protected from free radicals.

Some of the best antioxidant-rich foods to pile on your plate include:

  • Bluberries
  • Pomegranates
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Prunes
  • Plums

Share Your Thoughts

Do you have a personal experience to back up the latest research that says eating late-night snacks could make your skin more susceptible to a sunburn? Or, do you have tips and tricks of your own to keep your skin protected from the sun? Share your thoughts, comments, or questions with us in the comments below, or head over to our Facebook Page!

Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

September 13, 2017 Beauty, Skincare