Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is considered the most dangerous environmental insult to which the skin, the largest organ of the human body, is continuously exposed 1 Lippens S, Hoste E, Vandenabeele P, et al. Cell death in the skin. Apoptosis. 2009; 14:549- 569. . UV rays can cause inflammation, erythema, premature ageing and the onset of cancers of the skin 2 Boelsma, E, Hendriks HF, Roza L. Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001; 73:853-864. 3 Iddamalgoda A, Le QT, Ito K, et al. Mast cell tryptase and photoaging: possible involve- ment in the degradation of extra cellular matrix and basement membrane proteins. Arch Der- matol Res. 2008; 300:S69-S76. 4 Mudgil AV, Segal N, Andriani F, et al. Ultraviolet B irradiation induces expansion of in- traepithelial tumor cells in a tissue model of early cancer progression. J Invest Dermatol. 2003; 121:191-197. As far as cancer is concerned, cumulative exposure to sunlight represents the most important risk factor for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas as well as for melanoma 5 Gloster HM Jr, Brodland DG. The epidemiology of skin cancer. Dermatol Surg. 1996; 22:217-226. 6 Miller AJ, Mihm MC Jr. Melanoma. N Engl J Med. 2006; 355:51-65. . Various options are available for protection against UV rays: avoid direct and reflected sunlight, wear protective clothing and use topical sunscreen. The role of diet in photoprotection is a relatively new concept 7 Evans JA, Johnson EJ. The role of phytonutrients in skin health. Nutrients. 2010; 2:903-28. . Compared to topical sunscreens, which have localised effects and require several applications, dietary methods allow continuous photo protection of the entire body surface. This approach has led to the marketing of many dietary products whose main constituents are antioxidants, since oxidative stress is the main factor responsible for damage caused by light exposure. UV rays are divided into three bands according to wavelength:

  • UVA: wavelength between 320 and 400 nm
  • UVB: wavelength between 290 and 400 nm
  • UVC: wavelength between 100 and 290 nm

UVA rays pass entirely through the atmosphere and 95% reach the Earth’s surface; UVB rays are almost entirely absorbed by atmos – pheric ozone and only 5% reach the Earth’s surface; UVC rays are completely absorbed by atmospheric ozone. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin and, unlike UVB rays that cause sunburn and erythema, create damage that is not immediately identifiable. Once considered relatively harmless, UVA rays are now known for their significant contribution to skin ageing, immuno – suppression and carcinogenesis 8 Battie C, Verschoore M. Cutaneous solar ultraviolet exposure and clinical aspects of pho- todamage. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2012; 78 Suppl 1:S9-S14. 9 Halliday GM. Inflammation, gene mutation and photoimmunosuppression in response to UVR-induced oxidative damage contributes to photocarcinogenesis. Mutat Res. 2005; 571:107-20. 10 Archier E, Devaux S, Castela E, et al. Carcinogenic risks of psoralen UV-A therapy and narrowband UV-B therapy in chronic plaque psoriasis: a systematic literature review. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012; 26 Suppl 3:22-31. . UVA rays damage the skin through the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROSs) and reactive nitrogen species (RNSs) that alter the DNA, proteins and lipids of the various skin structures causing cytotoxicity, mutations and changes in cell signals 11 Burke KE. Photoaging: the role of oxidative stress. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2010; 145:445-59. . It has been shown that when lycopene is incorporated into micro – emulsions and applied directly onto the skin, it penetrates the strata corneum enhancing the antioxidant activity of that skin area up to 10 times 12
Lopes LB, VanDeWall H, Li HT, et al. Topical delivery of lycopene using microemulsions: enhanced skin penetration and tissue antioxidant activity. J Pharm Sci. 2010; 99:1346-57.
. Human studies have shown that intake of lycopene or tomato-based products increases plasma levels of this carotenoid and reduces skin sensitivity to UV light 13 Stahl W, Heinrich U, Wiseman S, et al. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. 2001; 131:1449-51. 14Stahl W, Heinrich U, Aust O, et al. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2006; 5:238-42. . These observations were recently confirmed by a controlled study in which a tomato paste enriched with lycopene was administered for 12 weeks to a group of women with prototype I/II 15 Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, et al. Tomato paste rich in lycopene pro- tects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Der- matol. 2011; 164:154-62. . The sun protection obtained by supplementing the diet with lycopene is obviously less than that achieved by the application of sun creams but is nevertheless useful in enhancing the skin’s defences against the immediate and long-term damage caused by UV light 16 Stahl W, Sies H. ╬▓-carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 96:1179S-84S. . On the subject of skin damage and photoageing in particular, a significant correlation has been observed between skin roughness and skin concentration of lycopene, an expression of local anti – oxidant activity 17 Darvin M, Patzelt A, Gehse S, et al. Cutaneous concentration of lycopene correlates signif- icantly with the roughness of the skin. Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2008; 69:943-7. .

References   [ + ]

1. Lippens S, Hoste E, Vandenabeele P, et al. Cell death in the skin. Apoptosis. 2009; 14:549- 569.
2. Boelsma, E, Hendriks HF, Roza L. Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001; 73:853-864.
3. Iddamalgoda A, Le QT, Ito K, et al. Mast cell tryptase and photoaging: possible involve- ment in the degradation of extra cellular matrix and basement membrane proteins. Arch Der- matol Res. 2008; 300:S69-S76.
4. Mudgil AV, Segal N, Andriani F, et al. Ultraviolet B irradiation induces expansion of in- traepithelial tumor cells in a tissue model of early cancer progression. J Invest Dermatol. 2003; 121:191-197.
5. Gloster HM Jr, Brodland DG. The epidemiology of skin cancer. Dermatol Surg. 1996; 22:217-226.
6. Miller AJ, Mihm MC Jr. Melanoma. N Engl J Med. 2006; 355:51-65.
7. Evans JA, Johnson EJ. The role of phytonutrients in skin health. Nutrients. 2010; 2:903-28.
8. Battie C, Verschoore M. Cutaneous solar ultraviolet exposure and clinical aspects of pho- todamage. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2012; 78 Suppl 1:S9-S14.
9. Halliday GM. Inflammation, gene mutation and photoimmunosuppression in response to UVR-induced oxidative damage contributes to photocarcinogenesis. Mutat Res. 2005; 571:107-20.
10. Archier E, Devaux S, Castela E, et al. Carcinogenic risks of psoralen UV-A therapy and narrowband UV-B therapy in chronic plaque psoriasis: a systematic literature review. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012; 26 Suppl 3:22-31.
11. Burke KE. Photoaging: the role of oxidative stress. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2010; 145:445-59.
12.
Lopes LB, VanDeWall H, Li HT, et al. Topical delivery of lycopene using microemulsions: enhanced skin penetration and tissue antioxidant activity. J Pharm Sci. 2010; 99:1346-57.
13. Stahl W, Heinrich U, Wiseman S, et al. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. 2001; 131:1449-51.
14. Stahl W, Heinrich U, Aust O, et al. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2006; 5:238-42.
15. Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, et al. Tomato paste rich in lycopene pro- tects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Der- matol. 2011; 164:154-62.
16. Stahl W, Sies H. ╬▓-carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 96:1179S-84S.
17. Darvin M, Patzelt A, Gehse S, et al. Cutaneous concentration of lycopene correlates signif- icantly with the roughness of the skin. Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2008; 69:943-7.