Beta-carotene and Mixed Carotenoids
Beta-carotene belongs to a large family of natural chemicals known as carotenoids. Other members of this family include
, and zeaxanthin. Widely found in plants, carotenoids are a major source of the red, orange, and yellow hues seen in many fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is important nutritionally because the body uses it to produce
Beta-carotene, alone or in combination with lutein and other carotenoids, may be able to reduce the effects of sunburn, but study results are mixed.
In a double-blind study, 20 young women took 30 mg daily of beta-carotene or placebo for 10 weeks before a 13-day stretch of controlled sun exposure at a sea-level vacation spot.
Those who'd taken the beta-carotene before and during the sun exposure experienced less skin redness than those taking placebo, even when both groups used sunscreen.
A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found beta-carotene (at 24 mg daily) and a mixture of beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene (at 8 mg each daily) equally protective against sun-induced skin redness.
Another small double-blind trial found that a mixture of lutein and the related carotenoid zeaxanthin provided benefits when taken orally, applied topically, or, even better, both taken orally and applied topically at the same time.
studies of mixed carotenoids found similar results. These trials, one of 20 and one of 22 people, found that after taking mixed carotenoids for 12 to 24 weeks, participants could tolerate more ultraviolet radiation before developing skin redness.
Vitamin E (500 IU per day) taken along with beta-carotene in one of the studies didn't significantly affect the results.
Another study found benefits with tomato paste (rich in lycopene).
However, since these studies weren't double-blind, the results are not very reliable.
Not every study has found beta-carotene or mixed carotenoids to be helpful. In a double-blind trial of 16 older women, high doses of beta-carotene taken for 23 days didn't provide any more protection than placebo against simulated sun exposure.
Another 10-week study found that high doses of beta-carotene provided greater protection against natural sunshine than placebo, but the benefits, though statistically significant, were too minor to matter.
Completely negative results were seen in a 4-week uncontrolled study of high doses of mixed carotenoids.
Other Natural Treatments
The substances collectively called
, found in pine bark and grape seed, have shown some promise for sunburn protection.
contains polyphenol flavonols similar to those in green tea. A special form of chocolate enriched in flavonol content might, like green tea extracts, modestly protect the skin from sun damage.
Very weak evidence hints at benefit with an extract of the shoots of the
plant (the common grape vine),
as well as with an extract of
Although research information is lacking, topical jojoba, poplar bud
are sometimes recommended for soothing sunburn pain and itch. However, one small study found that applying aloe vera gel after UVB exposure had no effect on skin redness.
In a preliminary, double-blind blind study,
applied topically was more effective than a placebo cream at reducing redness due to UVB exposure.