Antioxidant photoprotective agents

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2005.

Why protect oneself from ultraviolet radiation?

The harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources are well established. Sunburn is often the first sign of excessive exposure to these damaging rays, whilst long term consequences may include photoaging and skin cancer. Some people need to be particularly careful because they are photosensitive.

Currently the main method of protection against UV radiation is the use of topical sunscreens. However, there are several limiting factors with regards to the protection they provide. They need to be applied regularly (every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or strenuous activity) and getting uniform coverage over the entire body is often difficult to achieve.

In recent years, there has been much interest in the use of oral and topical antioxidants as photoprotective agents. These antioxidants work against the harmful effects of UV radiation via a number of ways that may include:

  • Scavenging free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are harmful to the body
  • Decreasing the number of UV-induced sunburn cells forming
  • Preserving Langerhans cells

What are the antioxidant photoprotective agents?

Antioxidant photoprotective agents that are available in oral and/or topical preparations include:

Oral preparations are commonly available as nutritional/dietary supplements from health food suppliers.

Contribute to Dermnet

Did you find this page useful? We want to continue to deliver accurate dermatological information to health professionals and their patients — for free. Funding goes towards creating articles for DermNet, supporting researchers, and improving dermatological knowledge around the world.

Donate now with credit card or Paypal


Related information



  • Edlich RF, Winters KL, Lim HW et al. Photoprotection by sunscreens with topical antioxidants and systemic antioxidants to reduce sun exposure. Journal of Long-Term effects of Medical Implants 2004;14(4):317-340

On DermNet NZ:

Other websites:

Books about skin diseases:

See the DermNet NZ bookstore