The main antioxidants that protect skin against free radical attack are vitamins A, C, D, and E; carotenoids like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin; enzymes like superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase; and others, like flavonoids, lipoic acid, uric acid, selenium, and coenzyme Q10.
Carotenoids are vital components of the antioxidative system of skin and are the most potent single oxygen radical scavengers found in the body. Beta Carotene and Lycopene represent 70% of the carotenoids in skin, with lycopene exhibiting the highest antioxidant activity. The role of other skin antioxidants may be to help protect and conserve carotenoids.
Carotenoids are excellent markers for the antioxidant status of skin and can be measured in vivo using Raman spectroscopy. This method has been used to investigate the interaction of carotenoids and free radicals in human skin. Illness, UV, IR, smoking, lack of sleep, and alcohol consumption have all been shown to reduce Carotenoid skin concentration.
Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated the skin benefits of topical, oral supplemented carotenoids, or combined oral and topical regimens on improving the appearance of skin. An increase in skin carotenoids can be measured in as little as 1 day following oral carotenoid supplementation. Subjects with high skin carotenoid concentrations have been shown to look significantly younger for their age compared with a control group.
In a double blind placebo controlled study, topically applied lutein and zeaxanthin (50ppm/3ppm- applied 2x daily) was shown to reduce lipid peroxide by 64% after 12 weeks. Skin hydration increased by 200%, elasticity by 43%, and skin surface lipids by 200%. The MED of skin also increased from 1 to 2.6.
In a different study, the carotenoid level of skin increased 35% after 4 weeks of application. Astaxanthin is claimed to have 100-200X better antioxidant activity than Beta Carotene or Lutein and 550X better activity than Vitamin E. It has also been shown to lighten skin and reduce UV-induced skin aging when both orally and topically applied.
Carotenoids are very sensitive to UV/ oxidation and need to be protected when stored as a raw material or when topically applied. I recommend using starch-encapsulated carotenoids which can provide excellent storage stability, better formulation stability, and easier incorporation into water-based formulations. You should also use additional materials like Ronacare® AP (Bis-Ethylhexyl Hydroxydimethoxy Benzylmalonate-EMD) to improve UV stability on skin.
- FloraGLO™ (Carthamus tinctorus Seed Oil, Tagetes erteca Flower Extract) by Kemin is a lutein 20% topical liquid in corn oil.
- InnoBio sells a cold-water-dispersible powder containing 5% Lutein.
- PromaCare™ ATT (Astaxanthin) by Uniproma Personal Care Division is an oil soluble carotenoid powder containing astaxanthin derived from haematococcus pluvialis algae.
- Astareal sells algae-derived astaxanthin. AstaREAL® L10 contains 2% astaxanthin and a water-dispersible form is available that contains 1.5% astaxanthin.
- AIP-Lycopene by All Ingredients Plus contains 15% lycopene.
- Redivivo 10% CWS/S-TG by DSM Nutritional Products is a cold-water-dispersible form that contains 10% lycopene.
- InnoBio sells a cold-water-dispersible powder containing 5% or 20% zeaxanthin.
- Palombo P., Fabrizi G., Ruocco V., Ruocco E., Flühr J., Roberts R., and Morganti P., Beneficial long-term effects of combined oral/topical antioxidant treatment with carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin on human skin: A double-blinded, placebo-controlled study in humans. J Skin Pharmacol. and Physiol. 20: 199-210. 2007.
- Darvin M.E., Sterry W., Lademann J., and Vergou T., The Role of Carotenoids in Human Skin. Molecules 2011, 16, 10491-10506.
- Yamashita E., Cosmetic benefit of dietary supplements including Astaxanthin and Tocotrienol on human skin. Food Style; 21, 6: 112-117, 2002.
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