Benefits of Carotenoids for the Skin

carotenoids found in tomatoes

Have you heard of carotenoids? These powerful phytochemicals are the pigmented constituents found in plants that give flowers, fruits, and leaves their yellow, orange and red colours.

Since the 1930s, scientists have identified about 800 carotenoids and about 40 are found in the human body, including the outermost layer of the epidermis, the dermis and subcutaneous fat. The most common carotenoids are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and astaxanthin. You can read more about astaxanthin here

The content of carotenoids in the skin is influenced by numerous factors, including the intake of fruits and vegetables, their bioavailability from various foods, supplementation, exposure to UV radiation, air pollution, alcohol consumption, smoking and stress.

How do Carotenoids Help My Skin?

Carotenoids are some of the best-known antioxidants for the skin and they also have important functions as anti-inflammatory agents. 

Healthy Aging and Skin Repair

Antioxidants are essential for healthy skin because they help to prevent free radical damage to cells. Free radical damage causes premature aging and the onset of various types of skin cancersCarotenoids, along with vitamin E, vitamin C, and Co enzyme Q10 are important dermal antioxidants. 

Due to their antioxidant activity, carotenoids support and encourage collagen and elastin production in the skin. This helps to increase the skin's density, thickness, elasticity, and firmness. Collagen and elastin decrease as we age, so getting enough carotenoids in the diet and topically is critical for aging well. 

Carotenoids can improve the signs of photoaging, skin discolouration, elasticity, hydration, texture, and can reduce transepidermal water loss.

Astaxanthin in particular stimulates fibroblasts to produce collagen and elastin, inhibits the activity of the enzymes that breakdown collagen and elastin, and shows anti-inflammatory and UV-filtering effects. It has been shown to reduce melanin in the skin, which results in the decrease in the appearance of freckles and melasma. 

Anti-acne activity: the anti-inflammatory activity of carotenoids helps to dampen the inflammation and irritation associated with acne. Carotenoids also help to normalize and balance oil secretions from the sebaceous glands. They are valuable agents in skin repair and they stimulate epidermal regeneration, helping to smooth and soften skin. 

Where Can I Find Carotenoids?

There are two ways to get your daily dose of carotenoids: through diet and through topical application. The combination of both is the ideal approach to well-aging skincare. 

Carotenoids are fat-soluble, so your body needs fat to absorb them (think tomatoes and olive oil, broccoli and butter, or spinach and avocado). Common sources of carotenoids in food are avocado, egg yolks, kale, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, papaya, and tomatoes. 


While we advocate getting as many of your nutrients and antioxidants as you can from food rather than supplementation; one study showed that astaxanthin combined with collagen hydrolysate significantly improved barrier integrity, reduced transepidermal water loss, and increased the expression of procollagen type I mRNA. 

Topical application is key to healthy skin. Studies show that high concentrations of antioxidants in human skin offer the best protection for healthy skin at any age.  

At Sarka Botanicals, we blend carotenoid-rich, whole plants such as calendula, dandelion, and extracts like astaxanthin with cold-pressed oils and functional ingredients. Calendula alone contains over 19 different types of carotenoids. This may explain why it has such a long history of use in skin care. Studies show that carotenoids blended with co-enzyme Q10 are especially effective at reducing inflammation and slowing premature skin aging due to sun exposure.