Do you know why flamingos, wild salmon and shellfish are pink/orange in colour? And do you know why tomatoes are red and carrots are orange? It's all due to carotenoids, including beta-carotene, and beta-carotene in particular can actually help us humans protect the skin from sunburn.
Why Are Flamingos Pink?
What flamingos and wild salmon have in common is that they both feed on small shellfish and algae, and depending on where in the world the animals live, they vary in color as the diet changes. This is because flamingos and wild salmon get their color from small shellfish and red algae. Shellfish and algae contain large amounts of beta-carotene, which both wild salmon and flamingos absorb. This causes the salmon's flesh to turn pink/orange, while the flamingo's plumage turns pink/orange.
What is beta carotene?
Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, and more specifically a carotene, which is a group of yellow and red pigments. They are found i.a. in algae, fruit and vegetables such as carrots, and gives them their colour. Beta-carotene is what is called 'a precursor to vitamin A', which means that it can be converted into vitamin A in the body.
How does beta-carotene work?
Beta-carotene contributes to the maintenance of normal skin and protects the skin from the sun's rays. This is due to two things:
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which protects the body, and in this case the skin, against oxidative stress caused by the sun's UV rays . The UV rays form free radicals in the skin, which destroy the skin's cells through oxidative stress. The oxidative stress ages the skin and causes wrinkles, and therefore it is important to try to reduce the damage from the UV rays.
Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant and at the same time contributes to the formation of collagen. That's why it's a really good idea to take beta-carotene together with vitamin C before you go sunbathing.
In addition, the beta-carotene can color the subcutaneous tissue slightly golden if you consume the beta-carotene over a longer period. When the skin turns tan, the color forms around the pigment cells of the epidermis and gives the cell nuclei in the skin a protective layer. That we get a tan is therefore a natural protection mechanism. When the beta-carotene therefore colors the subcutaneous tissue slightly golden, the epidermis is helped to form the brown color more quickly, instead of turning red when exposed to the sun, and thus it becomes more difficult to get sunburned. Beta-carotene has also been shown to be effective against sun eczema.
How much and for how long?
Can you just eat the beta-carotene and get a tan? Unfortunately no. You need to get out in the sun before you get a nice tan. To get an effect, it is recommended that you consume approx. 3 mg of beta-carotene daily 4-5 weeks before the sun season starts, and continues during and after the sun season. Two good beta-carotene supplements are Berthelsen BetaFactor® and Beauty Bear® TAN , both of which contain both beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Although beta-carotene helps to protect and maintain your skin when you are in the sun, it is still recommended that you use sunscreen with an appropriate SPF.
- Oxidative Stress: A chain reaction of electron transfers between atoms or molecules
- Beta-carotene: is a carotenoid, and more specifically a carotene, which is a group of yellow and red pigments.
- Antioxidant: Atoms or molecules that can give up electrons or bind to free radicals without becoming reactive themselves.
- Ultraviolet light: (also ultraviolet radiation, UV or uv-radiation) is electromagnetic radiation that has a shorter wavelength than visible light and a longer wavelength than X-ray radiation. Ultraviolet light covers the wavelength range 10 nm to 380 nm.
- Collagen: is an insoluble protein in connective tissue, later, skin and bones. Young skin can contain up to 80% collagen.