Beta Carotene is used in natural skin care products for its antioxidant properties.

Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene is used in natural skin care products for its antioxidant properties. Beta-Carotene is an orange pigment that gives certain fruits and vegetables their vivid color.

For example, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are some of the best sources of natural Beta-Carotene. Other natural food sources of Beta-Carotene are papayas, mangoes, cantaloupe, yams, apricots, tomatoes, spinach, kale and collard greens. Spinach and other greens don’t have an orange color like most Beta-Carotene fruits and vegetables because they also have a high concentration of chlorophyll.

Beta Carotene belongs to a class of compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids are known for their antioxidant properties. A certain portion of Beta-Carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A, a vitamin important for tissue growth and repair and for healthy vision. The portion of Beta-Carotene that isn’t converted to vitamin A functions as an antioxidant, a compound that helps to protect cells against oxidative damage. Studies show that oral Beta-Carotenes slow down the progression of macular degeneration, a common cause of adult blindness and may protect brain cells from oxidative stress that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Beta Carotene is used in the field of dermatology to treat skin diseases made worse by exposure to ultraviolet light, such as solar urticaria, erythropoetic protoporphyria, and lupus, and to treat phototoxic drug reactions. Beta Carotene is also an ingredient in some skin care products and cosmetics including skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, foundation, sun products, bath products, hair care products and anti-aging treatments. In anti-aging products, Beta-Carotene provides protection against sun damage and helps to even out skin tone and improve skin texture. Research suggests that Beta-Carotene as an oral supplement protects against oxidative damage due to exposure to sunlight but doesn’t appear to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Another way Beta-Carotene can improve the appearance of skin is by lightening areas of increased skin pigmentation. One study showed that topical Beta Carotene is an effective treatment for melasma, a skin condition marked by blotchy areas of increased brown or dark-brown pigmentation. Melasma is most common on areas of skin that receive the most sun exposure, usually the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin and is more common in women. Hormonal changes play a role since melasma is more frequent in women who are pregnant or taking oral contraceptives.

Because of Beta Carotene’s distinct orange color, it’s used in some cosmetic and skin products as a coloring agent. In sun tanning products, the orange pigment gives a sun-kissed glow to the skin without tanning. It has the added benefit of offering additional sun protection when combined with other sunscreen ingredients. Beta-Carotene is also used to add color to some cosmetics like eye shadow, lipstick and blush. Manufacturers of “natural” cosmetics often use Beta-Carotene to replace synthetic coloring agents. This orange coloration can pose a challenge to cosmetic makers that want the benefits of Beta-Carotene but don’t want their skin care products to have an orange hue.

Is it safe? Topical Beta Carotene appears to be safe in the quantities found in skin care products and cosmetics. There are some concerns about taking Beta-Carotene as an oral supplement after one study showed that smokers who took it had a higher risk of developing lung cancer, although no increased risk was seen among non-smokers or former smokers. Taking high doses orally can also cause skin yellowing that reverses once the supplement is stopped.

In summary, Beta Carotene is an antioxidant in fruits and vegetables that helps to protect skin against the damaging effects of the sun. Topically, it helps to even out skin tone and improve skin texture. It appears to be safe in the amounts found in cosmetic and skin care products.

Beta carotene is a derivation of the Latin name for carrot, as this compound was first derived from the carrot roots. It is an organic compound which is chemically classified as a hydrocarbon and specifically as a terpenoid. It is a strongly colored pigment that imparts the yellow and orange fruits and vegetables their rich hues. Once ingested, it gets converted into vitamin A (retinol) which performs several biological functions within the body. Vitamin A also acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from the damaging effects of harmful free radicals

Beta carotene and several other carotenes are also known as “provitamin A” because they act as precursors to the production of vitamin A in the body. Other carotenes like lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin cannot be converted into vitamin A. About 50% of vitamin A in a vegetarian diet is provided by beta carotene and other carotenoids. Beta-carotene is also produced synthetically or from palm oil, algae and fungi. Vitamin A is involved in the formation of glycoproteins. It is essential for vision and is subsequently converted to retinoic acid which is used for processes such as growth and cell differentiation.

Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments found in plants which are responsible for imparting vibrant colors to fruits and vegetables. They are abundant in nature. It is estimated that there are 500 different carotenoids, including beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, cryptoxanthins and zeaxanthins, distributed throughout the plant and algae world.

Skin Benefits of Beta Carotene:

As stated earlier, beta carotene is converted into vitamin A which is vital for the maintenance of healthy skin. Your body converts as much vitamin A from beta carotene as it needs; high doses of this vitamin can be toxic. The benefits of this pigment for skin are as follows.

Imparts a Healthy Glow:

Beta carotene prevents premature skin ageing by acting as an antioxidant, a substance that reduces oxygen damage caused by UV light, pollutions and other environmental hazards like smoking. Consumption of adequate levels of beta carotene imparts a natural glow to your skin, thus making it more attractive and beautiful. Excess intake however, should be avoided as it can cause the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, your nose and even the white portion of your eyes turn pumpkin yellow in color.

Reduces Sun Sensitivity:

High doses of beta carotene make your skin less sensitive to the sun. Thus, it is particularly beneficial for people with erythropoietic protoporphyra, a rare genetic condition causing painful sun sensitivity as well as liver problems. Moreover, it can boost the effectiveness of sunscreen. Consumption of about 90 to 180 mg of beta carotene can reduce sunburn and provide an SPF of 4. Therefore, foods containing beta carotene or supplements can be coupled with sunscreen to enhance its effectiveness.

Treatment of Oral Leukoplakia:

Oral leukoplakia is a condition characterized by white lesions in the mouth or tongue which is caused by years of smoking or drinking alcohol. Consumption of beta carotene reduces the symptoms and risk of developing this condition. However, it is advisable to consult your physician before taking beta carotene supplements for treatment of leukoplakia.

Treatment of Scleroderma:

Scleroderma is a connective tissue disorder characterized by hardened skin. It occurs due to low levels of beta carotene in your blood. Beta carotene supplements are thought to be helpful for people with scleroderma. However, research is still going on in this regard and so you should consult your physician before using these supplements.

Treatment of Skin Conditions:

Beta carotene is effective in the treatment of skin conditions like dry skin, eczema and psoriasis. Vitamin A, being a powerful antioxidant, is involved in the growth and repair of body tissues and hence, protects the skin against damage. When applied externally, it helps in treating ulcers, impetigo, boils, carbuncles and open ulcers, and removes age spots. It also speeds up the healing of skin lesions, cuts and wounds.

Sources of Beta Carotene

Beta carotene is mostly abundant in fruits and vegetables which are green, yellow or orange in color. Some of the fruits, vegetables, herbs or nuts which have the highest content of beta carotene are given in the list below.