By Tamara Sofi, MS, Nutritionist 

Remember when grape seed extract was all the rage in skin care? Now the buzz has turned to lycopene, which is making its way into leading magazines, scientific journals, and cutting edge product lines.

Why hydration and collagen support are not enough

According to Web MD, “Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily — taking longer to heal.”1 It is simply not enough to focus on skin hydration and collagen support in skin care.

Turning the tables on sun damage

Lycopene, a fat-soluble antioxidant found in watermelons and tomatoes, is able to hinder the effects of reactive oxygen species.2 Lycopene accumulates and metabolizes in the skin, providing a first line of defense against damaging UV light.3-5 However, as with many other nutrients, lycopene enjoys company.

Research on the combination of lycopene, phytoene, and phytofluene found
in tomatoes has shown protective action across a broader range of UV light, including UV-A and UV-B wavelengths. In a simulated solar UV light study conducted on adults taking either pure synthetic lycopene or taking the carotenoid “trio” of tomato-derived lycopene, phytoene and phytofluene, researchers found the “trio” more effective (see graph below) at lowering oxidative stress and protecting against photo-damage (reducing redness associated with sunburn) than synthetic lycopene alone.7                 

Higher levels of Lycopene = lower levels of rough, unwanted skin

In a Berlin university study using advanced optical in vivo technology the structures of the furrows and wrinkles as well as the concentration of lycopene were analyzed quantitatively on the forehead skin of adults 40-50 years of age. No correlation between age and skin roughness was found. However, a significant correlation was reported between skin roughness and lycopene concentration (R=0.843), suggesting higher levels of lycopene in the skin lead to lower levels of skin roughness.8

In a separate double blind, placebo controlled study volunteers consuming an antioxidant supplement containing skin grade tomato extract (the carotenoid “trio”) were evaluated for density, thickness, and smoothness of skin. Skin density and thickness were determined by ultrasound measurement, while roughness, scaling, smoothness and wrinkling were determined by Surface Evaluation of Living Skin (Visioscan). Statistically significant improvements were found in subjects who received the skin-grade tomato extract over 12 weeks as opposed to a placebo.9

 What else can natural tomato-derived phytonutrients do?

If skin were not enough, lycopene and its co-nutrients show benefits in other areas to include bone health, cardiovascular health, reduction in oxidized cholesterol (where a recent international research prize was awarded), eye health, and prostate health.10-11 Looking to look (and feel) even better? Look up lycopene!


  2. Christenson LJ, Borrowman TA, Vachon CM, Tollefson MM, Otley CC, Weaver AL, Roenigk RK (2005) Incidence of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas in a population younger than 40 years. JAMA 294:681–690
  3. Stahl, W. et al., Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans.J Nutr. 131:1449-1451.

  4. Stahl, W. et al., 2006. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 5:238-242.

  5. Stahl, W. et al., 2003. Antioxidant activity of carotenoids. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. 24:345-351.

  6. Lopes, et al., 2010. Natural lycopene protects melanin-producing cells from UV-induced DNA damage. J Pharm Sci. 99:1346-1357.
  7. Aust, O. et al., 2005. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 75:54-60.

  8. Maxim Darwin et al, Charite-University of Medicine in Berlin; Cutaneous Concentration of Lycopene Correlates Significantly with the Roughness of the Skin, European journal of pharmaceutics and biopharmaceutics, 2008.
  9. Heinrich, U et al., 2006. Antioxidant supplements improve parameters related to skin structure in humans. Skin Pharmacol. Physiol. 19:224-31.
  10. Lycopene consumption decreases oxidative stress and bone resorption markers in postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis Int. 2011 Apr;22 (4):1091-101 doi: 10.1007/s00198-010-1308-0.
  11. LycoRed as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy in lowering serum lipids and oxidative stress markers: a randomized controlled clinical trial. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2006 Jun;32(3):299-304. 


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.