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Lycopene and Lutein Fight Harmful Sun Rays and Keep Skin Looking Younger

Industry by Chris Zecha on May 26, 2017

Lycopene and Lutein Fight Harmful Sun Rays and Keep Skin Looking Younger

More new research shows that supplements containing the antioxidants lycopene (found in tomatoes) and lutein (found in green leafy vegetables such as kale) could help protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV sun exposure AND thus keep skin looking younger.

Photodamage is known to occur in skin with exposure to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Such damage includes inflammation, oxidative stress and breakdown of the extracellular matrix.

Sun exposure is considered to be one of the most important risk factors for both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers. Phytonutrients such as lycopene and lutein have shown promise as photoprotectants in numerous clinical, animal and cell culture studies over the years.

This most recent study focusing on the benefits of lutein and lycopene was funded by Lycored. The study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology. It found that when assuming the role of genes as indicators of oxidative stress, photo-dermatoses and photo-aging, lycopene and lutein provide protection against solar radiation-induced health damage.

This research also supports the increasing evidence of, as well as furthers the assertion of photo-protection by oral supplementation with carotenoids. Both lutein and lycopene are carotenoids, the yellow, orange, and red pigments synthesized by plants.

The new findings build upon a growing body of research explaining the role in which antioxidants play in human skin health and overall protection against solar radiation.

The study at a glance:

The placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized crossover-design study funded by Lycored (Secaucus, NJ), maker of the TNC complex, and conducted at the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (Düsseldorf, Germany) aimed to assess the ability of the two carotenoid antioxidants to decrease the expression of several UVA1- and UVA/B-inducible genes known to participate in the progression of skin damage.

Sixty-five healthy subjects were assigned to four treatment groups and began the trial with either active treatment followed by placebo or vice versa. Each treatment phase lasted 12 weeks and was followed by a two-week washout period. Subjects’ skin was irradiated before and after each phase of the study, and biopsies of untreated and irradiated skin, as well as blood samples, were taken for use in subsequent analysis.

Results showed that supplementation with TNC completely inhibited upregulation of the genes heme-oxygenase 1 (HO1), intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM1), and matrix metallopeptidase 1 (MMP1), regardless of its place in the treatment sequence. Meanwhile, lutein provided complete protection only if taken in the first period; its effects diminished significantly when it came in the second sequence relative to TNC. Writing in the study, the authors conclude, “Assuming the role of these genes as indicators of oxidative stress, photodermatoses, and photoageing, these results might indicate that TNC and lutein could protect against solar radiation-induced health damage.”

The study, a finalist in the university research category at the third annual NutraIngredients Awards, demonstrates “the vital skin co-protection benefits of natural lycopene from lycopene-rich tomatoes and lutein from marigold flowers,” notes Golan Raz, Lycored’s vice president of health and nutrition, in a press release. “As a leader in the research and development of carotenoid-based products, we are elated to have our most recent study on skin health in the running for best university research.”

This research is worth noting for the supplement industry since a focus on skin care dominates the market, with vitamins, collagens, and enzymes as the primary ingredients used in skincare products. These products are used for the controlling signs of aging, skin brightening, sun protection, increasing skin firmness, and cellulite reduction.


Ingestible products such as vitamins and supplements that enhance beauty are gaining the attraction of aging population, and this market is expected to reach sales of USD 6 billion by 2022, according to Research and Markets (

Not only is the aging baby boomer population maintaining a strong interest in supplements that support skin health and beauty, but the idea of obtaining “beauty-from-within” is also a trend among millennial generation.


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