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Contained in many fruits and vegetables, beta-carotene can provide much of the dietary requirements for vitamin A. It can prevent conditions such as heart disease, eye problems, arthritis, and even skin problems. The substance is a pigment called a carotenoid and is usually red, yellow, or orange; yellow-orange and green vegetables are typically sources of beta carotene, while supplements are often available as well. While used for various health reasons, beta carotene on skin can help protect one against sunburn and ultraviolet (UV) light, as well as treat disorders related to pigmentation.
In studies, the effects of beta carotene on skin have been found to heal it after exposure to UV light. Redness from sunburn can be reduced, and scientists believe that the pigment can help repair tissue at the genetic level by reducing damage to Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA). For some people with certain skin disorders, it also helps to prevent sunburn as well. Researchers have found that many people sensitive to the sun can often remain outside for longer than otherwise possible through the help of beta carotene; large quantities, however, are generally required to have such an effect.
Beta carotene on skin can be combined with vitamin E, lycopene, and selenium; researchers have found that this mixture can offer even more protection against UV light. Whether one takes the carotenoid alone or with other supplements, studies have found that sunscreens are generally much more effective in protecting the skin from sun damage. Researchers often recommend using suntan lotion in addition to applying beta carotene to skin. Sometimes the substance is taken orally, but to protect the skin, one usually has to take it for several weeks.
Pigmentations disorders are often alleviated, such as melasma, a condition which typically results in dark discolorations on the face. Beta carotene on skin can fade the abnormal pigmentation, according to studies, while some individuals return to normal coloration. It can also lower the risk of some types of skin cancer in men, although research hasn’t proven that such problems are prevented. Other skin ailments, such as psoriasis and vitiligo, a pigmentation disorder, are sometimes treated with beta carotene.
In addition to use on the skin, the pigment can also be used to treat other health problems. It is sometimes used for macular degeneration in the eye, arthritis, and promote better health in the elderly. Pregnant women often benefit from taking it as well. Beta carotene is generally safe, but high doses can cause yellow or orange skin discolorations.