Carotenoid supplementation reduces erythema in human skin after simulated solar radiation exposure

Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000 Feb;223(2):170-4. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1373.2000.22323.x.


Excessive exposure to solar radiation, especially ultraviolet A (UVA: 320-400 nm) and ultraviolet B (UVB: 290-320 nm) radiation, may induce UV-carcinogenesis and erythema in the skin. Although the protective effects of carotenoids against skin lesions are still unclear, beta-carotene has been proposed as an oral sun protectant. The purpose of this study was to determine the magnitude of the protective effects of oral alpha- and beta-carotene supplementation for 24 weeks on UVA- and UVB-induced erythema in humans. While being exposed to UVA and UVB radiation, 22 subjects (11 men and 11 women) were supplemented with natural carotenoids for 24 weeks. Each day for the first 8 weeks, subjects were given 30 mg of natural carotenoids containing 29.4 mg of beta-carotene, 0.36 mg of alpha-carotene, and traces of other carotenoids in vegetable oil. The natural carotenoid dose was progressively raised by 30-mg increments, at every 8 weeks, from 30 mg to 90 mg. Small areas (1 cm2) of the skin were exposed to increasing doses of UV light (16-42 mJ/cm2) to determine the minimal erythema dose (MED). MED was defined as a uniform pink color with well-defined borders. MED readings were obtained by visual inspection 24 hr postirradiation. Blood samples taken during supplementation were used to determine alpha- and beta-carotene serum levels and for a lipid peroxidation analysis. During natural carotenoid supplementation, the MED of solar simulator radiation increased significantly (P<0.05). After 24 weeks of supplementation, serum beta-carotene levels were increased from 0.22 microg/ml (95% CI; 0.16-0.27) to 1.72 microg/ml (95% CI;1.61-1.83). Similarly, alpha-carotene serum levels increased from 0.07 microg/ml (95% CI;0.048-0.092) to 0.36 microg/ml (95% CI; 0.32-0.40). Serum lipid peroxidation was significantly (P<0.05) inhibited in a dose-dependent manner during natural carotenoid supplementation. The present data suggest that supplementation with natural carotenoids may partially protect human skin from UVA- and UVB-induced erythema, although the magnitude of the protective effect is modest.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Carotenoids / blood
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Erythema / etiology
  • Erythema / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Male
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • beta Carotene / blood
  • beta Carotene / pharmacology


  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene