The link between carotenoids and radiant skin
Updated: Aug 16
We've all heard the advertisements. "This product fights the 7 visible signs of skin aging!"
When researchers (and marketing professionals and physicians) talk about the visible signs of skin aging, they're talking about certain characteristics of the skin.
Our skin definitely changes as we age, in several ways. Most of us know about fine lines and wrinkles, but there are a number of other changes, from a tendency to dry skin to brown spots and pigmentation.
Loss of radiance is one of those signs of skin aging.
Youthful skin is radiant, glowing skin. And studies have shown that when it comes to promoting radiant skin, certain foods may actually help. Specifically, foods that are rich in carotenoids.
Carotenoids are a type of nutrient that are found in many fruits and vegetables. These yellow, orange, and red nutrients are powerful substances, and have been shown to have many health benefits. From a dermatology standpoint, researchers have found that consuming more of them, even just for 6 weeks, can improve your skin’s appearance.
Carotenoids are a powerful class of nutrients, found in a number of red, yellow, and orange vegetables.
In one study, researchers found that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption over 6 weeks led to skin-color changes that were seen as healthy and attractive. Some of this may have been due to the pigments in the vegetables themselves [such as the red lycopene in red peppers]. Researchers also speculate that polyphenols, another class of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, may have acted to open up arteries and thereby increased blood flow to the face.
There are a number of different types of carotenoids. Beta-carotene is one, and good sources of this nutrient include sweet potatoes, carrots, and red peppers. Lycopene is another well-known carotenoid, and is found in tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit.
These nutrients have other powerful skin benefits. Both beta-carotene and lycopene act as powerful antioxidants. This means that they function to help limit the effects of sun damage on our skin, including the DNA damage that results from exposure to UV radiation.
The lycopene in tomatoes has been shown in studies to help limit the effects of sun damage on the skin.
These nutrients are known to have multiple health benefits overall. In fact, studies have found that consuming more of these nutrients via fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of certain cancers.
What about supplements? They don't seem to provide the same benefit as these nutrients supplied via fruits and vegetables. For example, multiple studies have found that supplements of antioxidants do NOT protect against the development of skin cancer.
This is just one more reason why I recommend a diet high in fruits and vegetables. This includes fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids, such as carrot sticks (an easy skin-saving snack), roasted carrots, or one of my favorite skin-saving sauces, Romesco sauce (made of red peppers and almonds).
Dr. Rajani Katta is the author of Glow: The Dermatologist's Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet. To receive future updates on preventive dermatology and the role of diet, sign up here.