What time you eat could affect your skin's ability to protect itself.

By Elisabeth Sherman
August 16, 2017
Sofie Delauw / Getty Images 

Snacks on the beach or by the pool—whether they are hot dogs, chips, or potato salad—are crucial to the summer experience. It’s hard to imagine catching some rays without a snack in hand. If you’re a dedicated sunbather, however, there’s one type of snacking you definitely shouldn’t be doing: A study released yesterday has found evidence that you might want to think twice before eating a midnight snack if you plan on sunbathing the next day. 

According to ScienceDaily, what time you eat may affect your skin’s ability to protect you from the sun. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and UC Irvine studying mice found that eating at irregular times during the day may disrupt and even lessen the potency of the enzyme in your skin that protects against ultraviolet rays in the sun.

Although the researchers say that more tests on humans should be conducted before jumping to any conclusions, early results do show that eating late at night probably leaves people more vulnerable to sunburns, and even long term effects like skin cancer, than those who hold out for breakfast.

In the case of the mice, researchers gave them food during the day—an irregular time for mice, which are nocturnal—and found that they sustained skin damage caused by shifts in the enzyme in their skin that repairs UV damage. The mice that only ate during the night were less susceptible to damage from UV light.

"It is likely that if you have a normal eating schedule, then you will be better protected from UV [light] during the daytime," Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, Chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute explained to ScienceDaily. "If you have an abnormal eating schedule, that could cause a harmful shift in your skin clock, like it did in the mouse."

This is one of the first studies to examine how eating affects people’s skin. While the exact effects of eating late at night on the health of human skin have yet to be determined, at least make sure to wear an extra coat of sunscreen on the beach if you're prone to rummaging around the refrigerator for a late-night snack.