Sun Protection


by NIKKI POPE, May 24, 2018


The sun emits harmful ultraviolet rays in the form of Short Wave Ultraviolet (UVB) and the Long Wave Ultraviolet (UVA) rays (1). The intensity of Long Wave Ultraviolet (UVA) ranges from 320-400 nm, depending on the time of day, seasons, and weather conditions. UVA rays have the capability of penetrating glass and even the thickest of clouds, so an effective sunscreen is absolutely vital. UVA rays attack the thickest layer of the skin (dermis) causing freckles, premature wrinkles, irregular pigmentation, skin dryness, leathery skin texture, and loose of skin elasticity (1).

On the other hand, the intensity of Short Wave Ultraviolet (UVB) ranges between 290-320 nm also depending on the time, seasons, and weather conditions. These rays attack the superficial layers of the skin causing sunburns and skin reddening (1). More worryingly, high exposure to UVB rays leads to the development of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that UV radiation has been responsible for 90% of all skin cancer cases! So, how do you deal with ultraviolet (UV) radiation?

Ask anyone out there, and he/she will not lack an answer to this. I mean, the market is literally overflowing with sunscreens and products dubbed as the ultimate UV protection. Sorry to pop your bubble but a majority of these products contain chemicals that are poisonous to the skin, and will do you more harm than good. However, the use of herbal products and extracts have risen drastically over the last decade, as people become aware of the untapped potential in that sector. One of the key ingredients in this holistic approach is the pomegranate.

What is Pomegranate?

The pomegranate is a deciduous plant in the family Lythraceae that grows between 5 and 8 meters tall. It originates from northern Africa, and then it spreading across the globe. Its fruits are a round shape with a striking crimson color. They also contain many seeds that have immense benefits to the body, particularly the skin. Today, the roots, bark, flowers, seeds, oil, peel, and juice have been used for various medicinal and beauty purposes. In terms of tackling ultraviolet radiation, pomegranate is, without doubt, a super shrub.

How is it a Sunscreen?

The secret weapon of this ingredient is its high content in terms of antioxidant (polyphenols).  These antioxidant properties may help protect against UV radiation by removing the damaging oxidizing agents and the free radical radicals that come due to over exposure to UV rays (2). Besides, it increases the production of glutathione (a powerful antioxidant produced by the body) thereby making the skin stronger to deal with the adverse effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Pomegranates contain ellagic acid that may protect the skin from cell damage resulting from the sun's UVA and UVB rays (2). For instance, it protects against UV-induced damage to keratinocytes (predominant cell type in the epidermis).

Based on studies, the pomegranate deals with UVA-induced skin damage by moderating phosphorylation in cellular pathways. This is because if not modulated, there will be a release of oxidative species that bring about horrifying effects on the skin such as photo-aging. Moreover, it could protect against hyperpigmentation (serious dark spots on the skin) caused when the skin becomes overexposed to UV rays.

Pomegranate could also help in stimulating collagen production, keratinocyte proliferation, and inhibiting the enzyme that degrades collagen (matrix metalloproteinases) (3). Collagen is the main structure found in the skin that gives it its shape and elasticity. When it degrades, the skin loses its elasticity and firmness causing sagging and wrinkling. Pomegranates may promote the thickening of the epidermal layer making it less penetrable by the UVA and UVB rays.

Pomegranates act as an anti-aging agent by helping regenerate the skin cells damaged by the UV light. It also helps slow down the aging process by making fibroblasts (help in the formation of elastin and collagen) stronger and more active (4). UV rays attack fibroblast reducing their lifespan. This results in low production of elastin and collagen which increases the skin aging process.

The pomegranate may also protect against skin cancer, caused by UVB rays (5). Studies have proven that the molecules found in pomegranates (anthocyanins and hydrolysable tannins) have the capability of preventing skin cancer and tumor development. Pomegranates also have anti-inflammatory properties that may heal and soothe the skin when it is inflamed. Sunburns caused by UVB rays cause skin inflammation, redness, and promotes the development of skin cancer as they attack the superficial layers of the skin. Whether taken in as a fruit or through its topical extracts, you gain protection from the deadly ultraviolet radiation.

The benefits of pomegranate are extensive and far reaching. Its distinctive ruby-red jewel-like seeds have been used for pharmaceutical purposes for generations. But most importantly for this topic, it may offer benefits against one thing that most people fear, Ultraviolet radiation. UV adverse effects such as photo-aging, skin aging, skin cancer, sunburns, and hyperpigmentation give countless people headaches. Pomegranate may also eradicate all these detrimental effects and what's more, you will not have to break the bank due to consumer friendly prices of the fruit and its extracts.