Benefits of Lycopene for Skin and Health

Benefits of Lycopene for Skin and Health

Lifestyle modification of the masses towards healthy foods has led to increased dietary intake of lycopene that directly coincides with the presence of lycopene in the skin. A recent study by Peytaev IM and colleagues1 examined the age-dependent presence of lycopene on the skin surface and the serum.

The study compared the lycopene levels in the skin and serum of 60 young (<25 years of age) individuals and 60 middle-aged (>50 years of age) individuals. The researchers found that the serum lycopene levels were generally low, mean value 223.5 nM and 290.6 nM for the young and middle-aged group, respectively. However, the lycopene level in corneocytes from the skin surface was greater in young volunteers than in middle-aged volunteers. In the substudy involving 15 middle-aged volunteers, a significant increment of the lycopene concentration in the serum and skin were observed after supplementation of 7 mg/day lycopene for a period of 2-weeks and 4-weeks1.

Skin lycopene is more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation and is degraded faster than beta-carotene, suggesting its photoprotective role2. The protective role of skin lycopene is not only limited to ultraviolet radiation-induced skin erythema, premature skin aging (skin inelasticity, coarse wrinkles, skin pigmentation) but may also extend in the prevention and management of skin cancer3,4.

The most probable mechanism against skin photodamage is attributed to the antioxidant property of lycopene and its singlet oxygen-quenching ability3. The antioxidant (free radical scavenging) activity of lycopene exceeds that of gamma-carotene, astaxanthin, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein; it is also 100 times more powerful than alpha-tocopherol5.

Lycopene is not only found in the skin but is irregularly distributed in other tissues of the body, such as testes, adrenals, prostate, liver, breast, pancreas, kidney, lungs, colon, ovary and stomach6. Therefore, the spectrum of biological activity in the body rendered by lycopene is vast.

A meta-analysis of 26 studies with 563,299 participants indicated an association of a lower risk of prostate cancer with higher lycopene supplementation and circulating concentrations7. Other potential anticancer effects of lycopene are observed in lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer8-13.

In vivo and in vitro studies have also supported the cardiovascular protective role of lycopene through antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, antiplatelet, cardioprotective, antiatherosclerotic, antiobesity and lipid-lowering mechanisms14.

Lycopene also reported to have protective roles in gingivitis and bleeding, osteoporosis, mental disorders, and asthma15-18. Furthermore, lycopene may offer beneficial effects on male infertility, Down’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease19,20. Overall, the risk of mortality is reduced in patients with metabolic syndrome with greater dietary intake of lycopene21.

Lycopene is a carotenoid naturally found in tomatoes and tomato products, carrots, watermelons, papaya, apricots, pumpkin, pink grapefruits, pink guavas, rosehips and sweet potatoes6,22. Thus, increased intake of these lycopene-rich foods may have beneficial effects not only for the skin but on the overall health.



  1. Petyaev IM, Pristensky DV, Morgunova EY, Zigangirova NA, Tsibezov VV, Chalyk NE, Klochkov VA, Blinova VV, Bogdanova TM, Iljin AA, Sulkovskaya LS, Chernyshova MP, Lozbiakova MV, Kyle NH, Bashmakov YK. Lycopene presence in facial skin corneocytes and sebum and its association with circulating lycopene isomer profile: Effects of age and dietary supplementation. Food Science and Nutrition. 2019;7(4):1157-1165.
  2. Ribaya-Mercado JD, Garmyn M, Gilchrest BA, Russell RM. Skin Lycopene Is Destroyed Preferentially over β-Carotene during Ultraviolet Irradiation in Humans. The Journal of Nutrition. 1995;125(7):1854–1859.
  3. Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, Birch-Machin MA, Watson REB, Rhodes LE. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology. 2010;164(1):154–162.
  4. Ascenso A, Pedrosa T, Pinho S, Pinho F, de Oliveira JM, Cabral Marques H, Oliveira H, Simões S, Santos C. The Effect of Lycopene Preexposure on UV-B-Irradiated Human Keratinocytes. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2016;2016:8214631.
  5. Di Mascio P, Kaiser S, Sies H. Lycopene as the most efficient biological carotenoid singlet oxygen quencher. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 1989;274(2):532–538.
  6. Rao AV, Agarwal S. Role of lycopene as antioxidant carotenoid in the prevention of chronic diseases: A review. Nutrition Research. 1999;19(2):305–323.
  7. Chen P, Zhang W, Wang X, Zhao K, Negi DS, Zhuo L, Qi M, Wang X, Zhang X. Lycopene and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015;94(33):e1260.
  8. Holick CN, Michaud DS, Stolzenberg-Solomon R, Mayne ST, Pietinen P, Taylor PR, Virtamo J, Albanes D. Dietary carotenoids, serum beta-carotene, and retinol and risk of lung cancer in the alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cohort study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2002; 156(6):536-47.
  9. Voskuil DW, Vrieling A, Korse CM, Beijnen JH, Bonfrer JM, van Doorn J, Kaas R, Oldenburg HS, Russell NS, Rutgers EJ, Verhoef S, van Leeuwen FE, van’t Veer LJ, Rookus MA. Effects of lycopene on the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system in premenopausal breast cancer survivors and women at high familial breast cancer risk. Nutrition and Cancer. 2008; 60(3):342-53.
  10. Vrieling A, Voskuil DW, Bonfrer JM, Korse CM, van Doorn J, Cats A, Depla AC, Timmer R, Witteman BJ, van Leeuwen FE, Van’t Veer LJ, Rookus MA, Kampman E. Lycopene supplementation elevates circulating insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1 and -2 concentrations in persons at greater risk of colorectal cancer. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007; 86(5):1456-62.
  11. Yuan JM, Ross RK, Gao YT, Qu YH, Chu XD, Yu MC. Prediagnostic levels of serum micronutrients in relation to risk of gastric cancer in Shanghai, China. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 2004; 13(11 Pt 1):1772-80
  12. Nkondjock A, Ghadirian P, Johnson KC, Krewski D, Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group. Dietary intake of lycopene is associated with reduced pancreatic cancer risk. The Journal of Nutrition. 2005; 135(3):592-7.
  13. Cramer DW, Kuper H, Harlow BL, Titus-Ernstoff L. Carotenoids, antioxidants and ovarian cancer risk in pre- and postmenopausal women. International Journal of Cancer. 2001; 94(1):128-34.
  14. Mozos I, Stoian D, Caraba A, Malainer C, Horbańczuk JO, Atanasov AG. Lycopene and Vascular Health. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2018;9:521.
  15. Chandra RV, Prabhuji ML, Roopa DA, Ravirajan S, Kishore HC. Efficacy of lycopene in the treatment of gingivitis: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Oral Health and Preventive Dentistry. 2007;5(4):327-36.
  16. Sahni S, Hannan MT, Blumberg J, Cupples LA, Kiel DP, Tucker KL. Protective effect of total carotenoid and lycopene intake on the risk of hip fracture: a 17-year follow-up from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2009;24(6):1086-94.
  17. Li Y, Zhang J. Serum concentrations of antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids are low in individuals with a history of attempted suicide. Nutritional Neuroscience. 2007;10(1-2):51-8.
  18. Wood LG, Garg ML, Powell H, Gibson PG. Lycopene-rich treatments modify noneosinophilic airway inflammation in asthma: proof of concept. Free Radical Research. 2008;42(1):94-102.
  19. Yamamoto Y, Aizawa K, Mieno M, Karamatsu M, Hirano Y, Furui K, Miyashita T, Yamazaki K, Inakuma T, Sato I, Suganuma H, Iwamoto T. The effects of tomato juice on male infertility. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017;26(1):65–71
  20. Lim S, Hwang S, Yu JH, Lim JW, Kim H. Lycopene inhibits regulator of calcineurin 1-mediated apoptosis by reducing oxidative stress and down-regulating Nucling in neuronal cells. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2017;61(5)
  21. Han GM, Meza JL, Soliman GA, Islam KM, Watanabe-Galloway S. Higher levels of serum lycopene are associated with reduced mortality in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Nutrition Research. 2016;36(5):402-7.
  22. Grabowska M, Wawrzyniak D, Rolle K, Chomczynski P, Oziewicz S, JurgaS, Barciszewski J. Let food be your medicine: nutraceutical properties of lycopene. Food and Function. 2019;10(6):3090-3102.