Polyphenols are antioxidant molecules found in many foods such as green tea, chocolate, grape seeds, and wine. Polyphenols have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic properties. Growing evidence suggests that polyphenols may be used for the prevention of sunburns as polyphenols decrease the damaging effects of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on the skin. This review was conducted to examine the evidence for use of topically and orally ingested polyphenols in prevention of sunburns. The PubMed database was searched for studies that examined polyphenols and its effects on sunburns. Of the 27 studies found, 15 met the inclusion criteria. Seven studies were conducted on human subjects and eight on animals (mice and rats). Eleven studies evaluated the effects of topical polyphenols, two studies examined ingested polyphenols, and two studies examined both topical and ingested polyphenols. Polyphenol sources included the following plant origins: green tea, white tea, cocoa, Romanian propolis (RP), Calluna vulgaris (Cv), grape seeds, honeybush, and Lepidium meyenii (maca). Eight studies examined green tea. Overall, based on the studies, there is evidence that polyphenols in both oral and topical form may provide protection from UV damage and sunburn, and thus are beneficial to skin health. However, current studies are limited and further research is necessary to evaluate the efficacy, mechanism of action, and potential side effects of various forms and concentrations of polyphenols.
Keywords: UVA; UVB; antioxidant; flavonoids; polyphenols; skin damage; sunburns.