the answer is Lycopene!
As a dermatologist I always talk about the importance of the right clinical strength skincare, with the correct concentrations of active ingredients. Topical treatments and products can have some of the best results when we are treating the six key skin concerns (learn more here) however we rarely focus on what we can do regarding our diet, or supplements we can take orally to further benefit our skin.
In the clinic and over social media we always have people asking about other ways they can look after their skin. Now, I'm definitely on the record talking all things vitamin B3 both topically and orally (learn more here), and below I'll elaborate on another of my favourite antioxidants below - Lycopene.
All About Lycopene
- What is Lycopene?
Lycopene is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red/orange foods, with tomatoes being the best source - its known as a carotenoid.
Lycopene has been recognised as the most effective free radical absorber. Free radicals damage our skin cells and collagen so the lycopene helps prevent this damage and repair it. The biggest cause of free radical damage to the skin is the sun and environmental damage which causes premature ageing and also can lead to increasing your risk of skin cancer.
Therefore lycopene is one of the best food sources to prevent and minimise sun damage and ageing of the skin.
It is an effective antioxidant. It has been shown to prevent and protect against oxidative damage caused by UV rays. In studies people who ingested a table spoon of tomato paste a day did not get as much damage to the skin cells when exposed to sunlight compared with subjects who were not taking the tomato paste (lycopene).
Now in its common extracts - lycopene is not readily absorbed into the blood (or bioavailable). It is the Lacto – lycopene form that is the best form and will actually reach the skin. I'll explain a little later how to make sure your body can absorb it.
- How does it work in the body in terms of its youth-enhancing properties?
It is one of the most potent antioxidants. Therefore it stops damage to the cells caused by the most potent free radical producer - the sun. It is more beneficial as a preventative by stopping the damage to the skin acting as a powerful antioxidant. We call it a “photoprotective” effect. That is a preventative role against UV damage.
Although the benefits of Lycopene are real, it is Important to understand it does not replace sunscreen!
Studies are further analysing to see if it has an effect against cancer and there is promising evidence to suggest it does. Prevention is always better than cure , something I like to refer as Prehab rather than rehab. SO load up on those tomatoes….
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- Can you please explain how it helps to keep our skin looking younger/firmer?
It stops skin cells dying and being damaged by the UV rays from the sun. It has a preventative “photoprotective” effect.
- Is it effective in topical form? How does it work this way?
At this point it has not been shown to be effective in topical forms.
- How should I apply it for best results?
Eat plenty of tomatoes, the best source. The tomatoes need to be cooked with the skins on!! It is the skin that contains the lycopene. The skin needs to be cooked / processed for the body to absorb the lycopene.
There are some supplements available, as mentioned earlier it should be the lacto-lycopene form.
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- What type of tomatoes have the best source of lycopene?
The redder the better: as lycopene creates the redness the deeper and richer the red colour the more lycopene. Go small! They say good things come in small packages (yep im 5 foot 3…….) .
The smaller ones have a greater surface area of skin and therefore will contain a higher concentration of lycopene.As you know its all about the concentrations whether its ingredients in your skincare or ingredients in your diet!
A holistic approach to skincare:
I remind my patients and customers all the time that the skin is body's largest organ, so it is vital that we look after it from the inside and outside at the same time. It also shows us how the basic principles of skincare and health apply to everyone - they are universal. Like your skincare, this means the same rule apply regardless of sex, age or race. find our more about universal skincare here.
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