The findings support the ingredient's use in emerging applications such as cosmeceutical supplements, a category given a major marketing push recently by a L'Oreal/Nestle joint venture.
Beta-carotene - found in carrots, fruits and green leafy vegetables - is a powerful antioxidant. DSM researchers have found that it can counter a specific type of reactive oxygen species, singlet oxygen (1O2), induced by the UV radiation from sunlight.
UVA exposure causes premature ageing by an increase of oxidative stress in skin.
In a study using human skin cells, the researchers found that beta-carotene suppressed UVA-induction of the matrix metalloprotease enzymes MMP-1, MMP-3, and MMP-10, which are key to degradation of the extracellular matrix during premature skin aging.
The action involved 1O2 quenching in the cells by beta-carotene but not the provitamin A function of the carotenoid, they report in Free Radical Biology and Medicine (37; 654-670). In addition, the scientists showed that UVA rapidly destroys beta-carotene in the cells, indicating that the carotenoid has to be replenished after sun light exposure.
Beta-carotene supplementation has also been reported to alleviate the symptoms of photosensitization and has a mild sun screen effect.
DSM said that the beta-carotene had to be taken orally as a supplement in order to exert its photo protective effects in skin. The company, along with BASF, controls three quarters of the total carotenoids market, estimated to be worth €291.4 million by Frost & Sullivan last year.
The report also revealed that Europe's health food industry had 'under-utilised' the nutraceutical properties of carotenoids and consumers are still unaware of their health benefits.