When browsing for your sunscreen or tanning oil this summer, you may come across products containing beta carotene, claiming to help you achieve a darker tan in a shorter amount of time. But does beta carotene help you tan?
Yes beta carotene can help with tanning as evidence suggests. Not only is beta carotene an antioxidant but when you take beta carotene the body converts it into vitamin A which is also vital for our skin’s health.
Before we look at whether beta carotene really is helpful for tanning in more detail, let’s explore what it is and what it does in our body.
What is Beta Carotene?
Beta carotene is not in itself a nutrient. It is in fact a pigment that has a reddish orange color and is where vegetables get their color from. One way in which it is useful to us, however, is that when we consume it, our body converts the pigment into vitamin A, which is important for our health.
Vitamin A is an essential vitamin for everyone and is vital to support the health of your eyes. It also stimulates white blood cell production and activity and regulates cell growth and division.
Beta carotene is also an antioxidant, which help our bodies to fight free-radicals, or unwanted waste substances produced by the body in response to environmental changes. People who consume high-antioxidant foods are less likely to suffer cell-damage when putting the body through “oxidative stress activities”.
Environmental pollution and radiation are two of these activities, so consuming antioxidants can help to protect your skin and your body from sun (or ultraviolet radiation) exposure. Studies have shown that antioxidants can help to prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
We can find beta carotene in many of the vegetables we eat, most notably in carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. Building beta carotene-rich foods into your diet will therefore not only help you to boost your antioxidant levels, but also make sure you are getting your required daily dose of vitamin A.
When tanning products (whether sunscreen or tanning oil) claim to contain beta carotene, it means that the pigment has been added to the product. Let’s talk about whether these products can help you tan.
Can Beta Carotene Help You Tan?
In Tanning Oils and Sunscreens
Using a sunscreen or tanning oil that contains beta carotene will help you tan when your skin absorbs the beta carotene. You will immediately see a golden glow on your skin when you apply these products, because of the pigment. This isn’t actually a tan but looks amazing whilst you’re sunbathing.
When absorbed, the beta carotene in the tanning oil or sunscreen will help to bring the darker pigments of skin to the surface, and many claim to achieve a darker, longer-lasting tan when using these products.
Whilst more research is needed to confirm whether beta carotene in tanning products actually leads to melanin production, the other tan-enhancing properties of beta carotene are enough to support claims made by tanning companies that oils containing beta carotene can help you tan.
Another benefit of using a beta carotene-enhanced tanning oil is that it contains fatty acids that will help your skin to retain elasticity and appear younger. The fatty acids are deeply moisturizing and can therefore help to keep skin hydrated and reduce the risk of peeling.
Whilst beta carotene can help to protect your skin from the sun, it should not be used as a replacement for SPF protection. Use beta carotene oil alongside an SPF sunscreen (either as two separate products or as one blended together) to protect your skin properly from the sun’s rays.
As Part of Your Diet or As a Supplement
Building foods high in beta carotene into your diet, or taking a supplement, can give your skin a slightly darker tinge on its own, because excess is stored in the skin, but what is more important is what it will do to protect your skin cells.
Because antioxidants like beta carotene help our bodies to fight off free radicals, it is essential to include them in your diet if you are planning to spend time in the sun. It will make your skin cells more able to protect themselves and less sensitive to sun damage.
So, is it better to take a supplement or try to eat hundreds of carrots? Beta carotene tan dosage is much easier to control if you take a supplement, which will have been designed to give you the right amount. Beta carotene is also very sensitive to degeneration through light, so supplements avoid this problem.
On the other hand, however, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables has a vast and diverse range of other health benefits, including getting other essential vitamins and nutrients that the body needs.
Don’t go overboard on the carrots, however, as consuming too much beta carotene can have the effect of turning your skin orange.
Whilst preparing your body for better tanning from the inside out may not be something you have thought about before, consuming beta carotene in the form of a supplement or from fruit and vegetables can not only protect your skin from the sun but can also aid in getting a deeper tan.
Does Beta Carotene Make Your Skin Darker?
If you eat large quantities of foods that contain beta carotene, like carrots, it can help change your skin tone. The right amount will cause a slight tint in your skin that will look healthy, but too much will turn your skin an unpleasant yellow/orange.
Beta carotene in tanning products helps to bring darker pigments in your skin to the surface, so your skin will get darker when used with suntanning.
What Vitamin Makes You Tan Better?
Beta carotene, intrinsically linked to vitamin A, can help you tan better by boosting cell renewal and possibly stimulating melanin production (more studies are needed).
Vitamin E can also help you tan because it helps to protect from free radicals and can help to retain moisture in the skin, which is essential to fight off the drying effects of UV rays.
Does Beta-Carotene Increase Melanin?
There are currently no proven studies to show that consuming any nutrient or vitamin will increase the levels of melanin in the skin. The research that has been done points towards consuming vitamin A (stemming from beta carotene), but more studies need to be conducted.