Research shows that lycopene increases your skin's defense system against UV-radiation and sunburn. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that gives many fruits and vegetables their red color. Although its most popular source is tomatoes and tomato products (tomato paste), this pigment is also found in other fruits, such as watermelons, apricots, and grapefruit.
As you consume more lycopene-rich foods or regularly take a supplement, this antioxidant accumulates in the skin. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition reported 35% less reddening of the skin in participants who consumed consistent doses of lycopene from tomato paste. Not only does the antixoidant quench damaging free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS), but it also protects the mitchondrial DNA in skin cells. This is thought to help slow down skin aging.
Although lycopene has shown sun-protective effects, it should not replace sunscreen. "Then why bother," you may ask. The lycopene in your diet will still make a difference. All short bursts of sun-exposure (walking the dog, going to and from your car or similar scenarios) add up to your cumulative UV-radiation exposure.
Therefore, don't wait until beach day to get your dose of lycopene. These research studies show that lycopene is more effective when an individual obtains the daily requirement for about three months. It's never too early to start getting your daily requirement.
For optimal absorption of lycopene, tomatoes need to be cooked to liberate the carotenoids. The lycopene found in supplements, however, is also easily absorbed by the body for use. Since lycopene has also been found to be effective for several types of cancer (including prostate, stomach, and lung cancer), EnergyFirst features a Prostate Health supplement with a healthy dose of lycopene within.