Contrary to what the tanning industry might have people believe, the way to the most attractive glow is not via skin-damaging sun exposure, but may be had by consuming fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids.
In a study described in Evolution and Human Behaviour, Ian Stephen and colleagues at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found that individuals with a greater intake of carotenoids due to fruit and vegetable consumption have an increased yellow skin tone consistent with enhanced carotenoid absorption.* When viewing photographs of Caucasian faces, volunteers judged the golden color associated with carotenoids as appearing healthier than tones typical of tanning. A preference for a yellow tone was also observed in research involving an African population.
“Most people think the best way to improve skin color is to get a suntan, but our research shows that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is actually more effective,” Dr. Stephen stated.
Editor’s note: Carotenoids, which include alpha- and beta-carotene and other antioxidant compounds, give red, orange, and yellow fruit their color, and also occur in green vegetables.