Beneficial long-term effects of combined oral/topical antioxidant treatment with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin on human skin: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2007;20(4):199-210. doi: 10.1159/000101807. Epub 2007 Apr 19.


Background: The skin is exposed to numerous environmental assaults that can lead to premature aging. Of these agents, perhaps none is more ubiquitous than the ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths of sunlight. The primary immediate defense against environmental skin damage is the antioxidant capacity of the skin. However, this defense system can be compromised by moderate exposure to UV light. Therefore, bolstering the antioxidant defense system of the skin is a potentially important strategy for reducing environmentally induced skin damage.

Aim of the study: This clinical trial was designed to study the efficacy of lutein and zeaxanthin, two potentially important antioxidants found naturally in the skin, upon five skin physiology parameters (surface lipids, hydration, photoprotective activity, skin elasticity and skin lipid peroxidation - malondialdehyde) of human subjects. These xanthophyllic carotenoids were administered either orally, topically, or in combination (both oral and topical routes).

Results: The results obtained indicate that the combined oral and topical administration of lutein and zeaxanthin provides the highest degree of antioxidant protection. However, oral and topical administration of these antioxidants individually also provides significant activity in the skin. In addition, oral administration of lutein may provide better protection than that afforded by topical application of this antioxidant when measured by changes in lipid peroxidation and photoprotective activity in the skin following UV light irradiation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lutein / administration & dosage
  • Lutein / pharmacokinetics
  • Lutein / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • Xanthophylls / administration & dosage
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacokinetics
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use*
  • Zeaxanthins


  • Antioxidants
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Lutein