Look to Lutein and Zeaxanthin for Healthy Skin
Skin and eyes are some of the first places that aging rears its head. You can diminish the signs of aging, especially sun-induced wrinkles, by supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin, according to a study published in the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. It found that supplementation of these two antioxidants, known as carotenoids, provides a four-fold increase in protection from UV radiation-induced skin damage, and a six-fold increase in protection was found when used in combination with a topical application of the nutrients.
Most commonly known for its eye health benefits, lutein is a nutrient found in various foods including green leafy vegetables and egg yolk. As a dietary supplement, it has proven itself a superstar by reducing the risk of age related macular degeneration (ADM). Earlier studies on lutein supplementation showed that it bolsters the skin’s natural antioxidant production and helps protect against sun damage. However, this is the first study to determine the impact of lutein and zeaxanthin together on human skin.
And what is that impact? Lutein and zeaxanthin promote healthier skin by increasing hydration, elasticity, lipid or fat content and sun protection activity. It almost sounds like a wrinkle cream commercial, doesn’t it? But this one has some science behind it.
In the new study, University of Naples researchers recruited 120 healthy female subjects with an average age of 35 years and a variety of skin types. The one thing that they all had in common was that their skin exhibited signs of premature aging. Subjects were assigned to receive one of four different interventions, a combination of: an oral lutein/zeaxanthin supplement and a lutein/zeaxanthin oil-free liquid topical application; an oral supplement plus a topical placebo; an oral placebo plus a lutein/zeaxanthin topical application; or an oral placebo plus topical placebo. The oral supplement provided a daily dose of 10 mg lutein and 0.6 mg zeaxanthin, and the topical application was 5% lutein in an oil-free liquid, giving a daily dose of 100 parts per million of lutein and 12 parts per million of zeaxanthin.
After 12 weeks of treatment, the researchers found that skin lipids — the stuff that keeps the wrinkles at bay and helps make skin supple — increased by 63% for the combined oral and topical intervention, by 46% for the oral lutein only, and 23% for the topical lutein only. Photo-protection was increased in all the lutein/zeaxanthin groups, compared to placebo. “The topical [lutein/zeaxanthin application] provides a two-fold increase in this activity in just two weeks, the oral [lutein/zeaxanthin supplement] more than a four-fold increase and the combined [intervention] a six-fold increase in photoprotective activity compared to the placebo,” wrote the authors.
How could these antioxidants protect us from harmful ultraviolet rays? The researchers point out that neither carotenoid absorbs UV light that is emitted from the sun. Thereby improving their efficacy in protecting against UV-induced free radicals. It should also be noted that carotenoids squash the oxygen that is responsible for the production of free radicals, which ultimately leads to aging.
Source: Palombo, P. et al. “Beneficial Long-Term Effects of Combined Oral/Topical Antioxidant Treatment with the Carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin on Human Skin: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 20: 199-210, 2007.