A red pigment abundant in tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, and even chicken, the antioxidant helps protect skin from sun damage when consumed orally or applied topically. Many red fruits and vegetables (like tomatoes, watermelons, and papayas) contain this skin protecting and repairing antioxidant. Lycopene (from the neo-Latin Lycopersicum, the tomato species) is a bright red carotenoid hydrocarbon found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, such as red carrots, watermelons, grapefruits, and papayas. It is not present in strawberries or cherries. Although lycopene is chemically a carotene, it has no vitamin A activity.
In plants, algae, and other photosynthetic organisms, lycopene is an intermediate in the biosynthesis of many carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which is responsible for yellow, orange, or red pigmentation, photosynthesis, and photoprotection. Like all carotenoids, lycopene is a tetraterpene. It is insoluble in water. Eleven conjugated double bonds give lycopene its deep red color. Owing to the strong color, lycopene is useful as a food coloring (registered as E160d) and is approved for use in the US, Australia and New Zealand (registered as 160d) and the European Union.
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