Tomatoes: the new skincare powerhouse

Laura Mappas
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Image: Snapper Media

Move over antioxidant-rich potions and hydrating serums, the new skin-saving kid on the block is a big bowl of spaghetti bolognaise! Looking after your skin doesn't get much tastier than that.

The tomato diet
A new, mouthwatering study suggests that adding five tablespoons of tomato paste to your daily diet improves the skin's ability to protect against powerful UVA and UVB rays, which can lead to premature ageing and skin cancer.

While five tablespoons may sound like a lot of tomato paste, Professor Lesley Rhodes, a dermatologist from the University of Manchester in England, says it can easily be added to your evening meals. "These weren't huge amounts of tomato we were feeding the groups [that took part in the study]," she said. "It was the sort of quantity you would easily manage if you were eating a lot of tomato-based meals."

How it works
According to the study, the antioxidant lycopene is the magical ingredient. Skin-saving lycopene, which is found in higher concentrations in tomatoes that have been cooked, has already been linked to a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer. Now, researchers at the universities of Manchester and Newcastle are also praising it for its anti-ageing and skin-protecting potential.

Reversing the ageing process
The study showed that after a three-month period. the people who were eating the tomato-based meals had 33 percent more protection against sunburn — the equivalent of a very low factor sunscreen. They were also found to have much higher levels of procollagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm.

But while Professor Rhodes agreed the tomato-based diet "boosted the level of procollagen significantly", which suggested the diet has the potential to reverse the ageing process, the researchers were quick to warn that eating tomatoes does not give you the green light to ditch the sunscreen. Instead it should be viewed as a "helpful addition" to your SPF30+.

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