A healthy diet came up top, with 77 percent swearing by eating tomatoes and 75 percent relying heavily on oily fish as part of their diet to boost their skin.

London - Forget expensive skin creams. Tomatoes may provide the best defence to keeping skin looking young and safe from sun damage, say scientists.

Tests show that eating tomato paste could help protect against sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure.

The age-defying ingredient is lycopene, the pigment that makes tomatoes red, with the highest levels found in processed or cooked tomatoes. Researchers from Newcastle University studied the skin of 20 women, aged between 21 and 47, over 12 weeks.

Every day half ate five tablespoons (55g) of tomato paste with 10g of olive oil, while the others ate only olive oil.

The volunteers were exposed to UV rays found in sunlight at the beginning and end of the trial. Those eating tomato paste had 33 percent more protection against sunburn, in the form of less skin redness.

Skin samples showed they had an increase in procollagen levels, a molecule which keeps skin firm, and less damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin, believed to be linked to ageing.

Lead researcher Mark Birch-Machin said: “Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun but may be a useful addition to sun protection.” - Daily Mail