Skin lycopene is destroyed preferentially over beta-carotene during ultraviolet irradiation in humans

J Nutr. 1995 Jul;125(7):1854-9. doi: 10.1093/jn/125.7.1854.


This placebo-controlled study examined in healthy women the effects of ingestion of a single large dose of beta-carotene (120 mg) on the concentrations of beta-carotene and lycopene in plasma and skin, and the effects of UV light exposure on the concentrations of beta-carotene and lycopene in the skin. Ingestion of beta-carotene increased plasma beta-carotene concentration by 127%, from 0.26 +/- 0.06 (mean +/- SEM) to 0.59 +/- 0.07 mumol/L after 1 d, and the level remained elevated at 0.54 +/- 0.11 mumol/L after 5 d. beta-Carotene in skin, analyzed after 6 d, increased by 23%, from 1.41 +/- 0.74 to 1.74 +/- 0.72 nmol/g. beta-Carotene ingestion had no effect on the lycopene concentrations of plasma (0.37 +/- 0.11 mumol/L) or skin (1.60 +/- 0.62 nmol/g). A single exposure of a small area of one volar forearm to a dose of solar-simulated light (three times the individually determined minimal erythema dose) resulted in 31 to 46% reductions in skin lycopene concentration compared with an adjacent non-exposed area. The same UV dose did not result in significant changes in skin beta-carotene concentration. We conclude that a single 120-mg dose of beta-carotene increases plasma and skin beta-carotene concentrations and has no effect on plasma and skin lycopene concentrations. The amounts of lycopene in plasma and skin are comparable to or even greater than those of beta-carotene. When skin is subjected to UV light stress, more skin lycopene is destroyed compared with beta-carotene, suggesting a role of lycopene in mitigating oxidative damage in tissues.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / analysis*
  • Carotenoids / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lycopene
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • beta Carotene


  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • Lycopene