Get a Summer Glow Without Sun Tanning

When surveyed, people who sunbathed or tanned regularly cited increased attractiveness as their main motivation for doing so.1,2 Indeed, research has shown that men and women with a red and/or yellow tint to their skin are perceived as healthier, and, as a result, more attractive than their paler counterparts.3,4

Melanin, the pigment produced in the skin that causes it to darken when exposed to sunlight, imparts a yellow tint to the skin, leading to a boost in perceived attractiveness.3 However, research suggests that increasing the amount of melanin in the skin is not the optimal method for increasing perceived health in humans. A study that tasked participants with toggling skin tone and tint in images of Caucasian men and women to make them look as healthy as possible showed that participants were more likely to increase only red or yellow tint, without darkening or lightening the skin tone to achieve a healthy appearance.3

This is good news for those of us who want a golden glow without suffering the damaging effects of frequent ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or tanning beds, such as increased melanoma risk and premature aging
of the skin.5,6 As opposed to tanning, which creates the superficial appearance of health while detracting from actual health, alternative methods of imparting the skin with a golden hue will also promote health throughout the body.

Research suggests that, when consumed in high amounts, beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid, will impart the desirable orange-yellow tint to the skin of humans.7 A 2016 study supplemented Caucasian male participants with either a daily beta-carotene pill or a placebo for 12 weeks.7 The researchers photographed each participant before and after the supplementation period, then tasked female participants with rating side-by- side comparisons of each male participant’s before and after photos. The female raters showed a preference for the men with yellow-tinted, high-carotenoid skin tones over the men who had received the placebo. Further research suggests that the attractiveness-boosting effects of increased red and yellow tint holds true not only for people with light skin tones, but for ndividuals with dark skin tones as well.8 Before you run out and buy a beta- carotene supplement, the researchers

in charge of the supplementation study tracked certain health measures in the men taking the supplement, including markers of oxidative stress and innate immune function, and found that the supplement did not significantly improve the health of the participants. Separate research suggests that beta-carotene supplements can actually increase the risk of all-cause mortality.9,10

On the other hand, dietary beta- carotene found in carrots, pumpkin, spinach, and sweet potato is recommended for its antioxidant properties that protect the body against chronic illness from free radical damage.11 In addition to these health benefits, incorporating more of these beta-carotene-rich foods into your diet has been shown to impart a yellow- orange hue to the skin in the same way supplements do, but without the adverse health effects. In addition to carrots and sweet potatoes, be sure to vary your diet by consuming other carotenoid-rich foods such as tomatoes, red peppers, kale, turnips, and cantaloupe, to reap the benefits of the entire spectrum of carotenoids.

Interestingly, researchers studying the carotenoid lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, observed photoprotective effects of this carotenoid in the skin of participants who consumed 40g of tomato paste daily for 10 weeks.13,14 However, the authors note that these effects are far inferior to sunscreen, which should always be used as the first-line defense against ultraviolet rays.


  1. Neenan A, Lea CS, Lesesky EB. Reasons for tanning bed use: a survey of community college students in North Carolina. N C Med J. 2012 Mar–Apr;73(2):89– 92.
  2. Rafei, R. Rutgers Today site. Indoor tanning: when women reflect on reasons they tan, tanning bed use decreases. Available at: https://news.rutgers. edu/feature/indoor-tanning-when-women- reflect-reasons-they-tan-tanning-bed-use- decreases/20160322#.XL3gBi3Mx25. Accessed April 22, 2019.
  3. Stephen ID, Law Smith MJ, Stirrat MR, Perrett DI. Facial skin coloration affects perceived health of human faces. Int J Primatol. 2009;30(6):845–857.
  4. Foo YZ, Simmons LW, Rhodes G. Predictors of facial attractiveness and health in humans. Sci Rep. 2017;7:39731. Published 2017 Feb 3.
  5. American Academy of Dermatology. Vitamin D. Available at: prevention-and-care/vitamin-d-and-uv-exposure. Accessed April 22, 2019.
  6. American Academy of Dermatology. What Causes Our Skin to Age? Available at: public/skin-hair-nails/anti-aging-skin-care/causes- of-aging-skin. Accessed April 22, 2019.
  7. Foo YZ, Rhodes G, Simmons LW. The carotenoid beta- carotene enhances facial color, attractiveness and perceived health, but not actual health, in humans. Behav Ecol. 2017;28(2):570–578
    8. Stephen ID, Coetzee V, Perrett DI. Carotenoid and melanin pigment coloration affect perceived human  health. Evol Hum Behav. 2011;32(3):216–227.

9. Penn State Hershey Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Beta-carotene. Available at: http:// aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000286. Accessed April 22, 2019.

10. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, et al. Mortality
in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2007;297:842–857.

11. Oregon State University. Carotenoids. Available at: phytochemicals/carotenoids#food-sources. Accessed 22 Apr 2019.

12. Al Nasser Y, Albugeaey M. Carotenemia. [Updated 2018 Nov 23]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan.

13. Stahl W, Heinrich U, Wiseman S. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. 2001 May;131(5):1449–1451.

14. Stahl W, Sies H. β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(5):1179S–1184S. NHR

Fast Facts About Skin Cancer

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.
  • Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays in as little as 15


  • Even if it’s cool and cloudy, you still need to protect your skin. UV rays, not the

temperature, do the damage.

  • Anyone can get skin cancer, but some things put you at higher risk, such as having lighter

natural skin color; skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun; blue or green eyes; blond or red hair; certain types and/or a large number of moles; and a family or personal history of skin cancer.

  • A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole. Not all skin cancers look the same.
  • A simple way to remember the signs of melanoma, a common type of skin cancer, is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es:
    A=asymmetrical—Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?

B=border—Is the border irregular or jagged?
C=color—Is the color uneven?
D=diameter—Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
E=evolving—Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months? Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

SOURCE: United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site. Skin cancer. Page last reviewed 15 Feb 2019. N

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