Background: Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) generates reactive oxygen species in skin that can play a role in skin damage, but reports about the photoprotective properties of oral antioxidant supplements are conflicting.
Objective: We examined the ability of 2 lipid-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E and beta-carotene, to reduce markers of oxidative stress and erythema in human skin exposed to UVR.
Design: Sixteen healthy subjects took either alpha-tocopherol (n = 8; 400 IU/d) or beta-carotene (n = 8; 15 mg/d) for 8 wk. Biopsy samples before and after supplementation were taken from unexposed skin and skin 6 h after 120 mJ/cm(2) UVR. The effects of supplements on markers of oxidative stress in skin and the minimal erythema dose to UVR were assessed.
Results: Supplementary vitamin E was bioavailable, the plasma concentration increased from 14.0 +/- 0.66 (x +/- SEM) to 18.2 +/- 0.64 mug/mL (P < 0.01), and the skin concentration increased from 0.55 +/- 0.09 to 1.6 +/- 0.19 ng/mg protein (P < 0.01). Supplementary beta-carotene increased plasma concentrations from 1 +/- 0.3 to 2.25 +/- 0.3 mug/mL (P < 0.05), but skin concentrations were undetectable. Before vitamin E supplementation, UVR increased the skin malondialdehyde concentration from 0.42 +/- 0.07 to 1.24 +/- 0.16 nmol/mg protein (P < 0.01), whereas oxidized or total glutathione increased from 9.98 +/- 0.4% to 12.0 +/- 1.0% (P < 0.05). Vitamin E supplementation significantly decreased the skin malondialdehyde concentration, but neither vitamin E nor beta-carotene significantly influenced other measures of oxidation in basal or UVR-exposed skin.
Conclusions: Vitamin E or beta-carotene supplementation had no effect on skin sensitivity to UVR. Although vitamin E supplements significantly reduced the skin malondialdehyde concentration, neither supplement affected other measures of UVR-induced oxidative stress in human skin, which suggested no photoprotection of supplementation.