Lycopene is a natural plant chemical that belongs to a group of chemicals called carotenoids. These natural plant chemicals are pigments that give color to the many fruits and vegetables we consume every day. Specifically, carotenoids provide yellow, orange and red colors to foods like corn, pumpkins, and tomatoes. Of the carotenoids, alpha- and beta- carotene and lycopene are probably the two best known with lycopene being responsible for the red color in tomatoes.
A number of studies have reported that lycopene has antioxidant properties that might be beneficial for the health and appearance of our skin. The antioxidant properties of carotenoids like lycopene can help fight against free radicals in our skin that are produced in response to various stressors like over-exposure to sunlight or environmental pollutants.
One of the most common ways to consume lycopene is in tomato paste. A new research study published in the British Journal of Dermatology explored the possible skin protection benefits of consuming tomato paste rich in lycopene . For this study, the investigators asked 20 healthy women to consume 55 grams of tomato paste containing 16 milligrams of lycopene every day for 12 weeks. Sensitivity of their skin to ultraviolet radiation (simulated sunlight) and changes in chemicals important to the healthy structure of the skin were measured before and at the end of the study. The investigators reported that eating tomato paste rich in lycopene daily for 12 weeks reduced the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, thus demonstrating a protective effect of the lycopene-rich tomato paste. Furthermore, consuming the lycopene-rich tomato paste reduced the level of an enzyme responsible for the destruction of the skin’s support structure and increased the production of collagen, which is important for healthy-looking skin.
This new study continues to show the importance of diet and nutrition for the healthy appearance of our skin. These particular research results showed that lycopene and lycopene-containing foods could play an important role in protecting our skin from the sun. Previous studies have shown that lycopene and other carotenoids can support a normal, healthy skin color as well. However, it is important to remember that dietary and nutritional changes are usually slow to occur, so combining good nutrition with appropriate topical lotions and creams is the best approach to supporting healthy, younger-looking skin.
Remember that our true beauty starts inside!
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Aaron Tabor, MD
Diet, Anti-Aging, and Nutritional Cosmetic Expert
Author of Dr. Tabor’s Diet and FIGHT NOW: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer.
Learn more about Dr. Tabor’s diet and anti-aging research at www.DrTabor.com.
 Rizwan M et al., Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology 2011; 164(1):154-162.