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Dermatology. 1999;198(1):52-5.

Effect of topical antioxidants on UV-induced erythema formation when administered after exposure.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of California, School of Medicine, San Francisco, Calif. 94143, USA.



Photoprotective effects of topically applied antioxidants when applied before ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure are well known. Their protective effect when applied after UVR exposure is, however, less established.


In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled human study the short-term photoprotective effects of different antioxidants and of their combinations were evaluated when applied after UVR exposure.


Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine), vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) were topically administered alone or in combination following UVR exposure as single applications (immediately or 30 min after irradiation, respectively) or as multiple applications (three times: 30 min, 1 h and 2 h after irradiation). The erythemal reaction was evaluated visually and noninvasively with bioengineering methods (skin color and skin blood flow).


No significant protective effect of melatonin or the vitamins when applied alone or in combination were obtained when antioxidants were applied after UVR exposure. No improved photoprotective effect was obtained when multiple applications were done.


UVR-induced skin damage is a rapid event, and antioxidants possibly prevent such damage only when present in relevant concentration at the site of action beginning and during oxidative stress.

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