Unveiling Astaxanthin: Nature's Secret Weapon for Radiant Skin?

May 07, 2023


Astaxanthin, a naturally occurring carotenoid, has gained considerable attention in recent years due to its myriad health benefits and potential applications in skincare. Found predominantly in microalgae, yeast, salmon, and other marine life, astaxanthin exhibits potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and photoprotective properties, making it a promising candidate for treating a wide range of skin conditions and diseases. This blog post will explore the various uses of astaxanthin, delving into clinical trials that have investigated its effectiveness and safety, its role in dermatology and skin physiology, and its potential in photoprotection. We will also discuss different formulations, bioavailability, side effects, and other health benefits beyond skincare, including potential applications in cancer prevention and treatment.


Astaxanthin's Role in Dermatology and Skin Physiology

Astaxanthin's potential in dermatology lies in its powerful antioxidant properties, which are believed to be up to 6,000 times more potent than vitamin C (1). This remarkable ability to neutralize free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) is particularly important for skin health, as these molecules can cause oxidative stress, resulting in inflammation and cellular damage that contribute to aging and various skin disorders (2). By scavenging these harmful molecules, astaxanthin can help to reduce oxidative stress, promote skin repair, and maintain skin health (3).

Clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of astaxanthin in improving various skin parameters. In one study, participants who supplemented with 4 mg of astaxanthin daily for six weeks showed significant improvements in skin elasticity, texture, and moisture content (4). In another study, a combination of oral and topical astaxanthin resulted in significant reductions in the depth of facial wrinkles and improvements in skin elasticity in just eight weeks (5). Another trial conducted on women aged 35-60 found that daily supplementation with 6 mg of astaxanthin and 2 mL of topical astaxanthin application for 12 weeks led to improvements in overall skin condition, including increased moisture levels, reduced wrinkle depth, and improved skin elasticity (6).


Astaxanthin's Anti-Inflammatory and Photoprotective Effects

In addition to its antioxidant properties, astaxanthin has been shown to exhibit potent anti-inflammatory effects. Research indicates that it can suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibit the activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), a key regulator of inflammation (7). By modulating the inflammatory response, astaxanthin may help to alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne (8).

Astaxanthin's photoprotective effects are another key aspect of its potential in skincare. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a primary cause of skin aging and damage, leading to the formation of wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and an increased risk of skin cancer (9). Astaxanthin has been shown to protect skin cells against UV-induced oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA damage by boosting the expression of antioxidant enzymes and reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (10). These photoprotective properties may help to prevent sunburn and reduce the long-term effects of sun exposure on skin health.


Formulations, Bioavailability, and Side Effects

Astaxanthin is available in various formulations, including oral supplements, topical creams, and serums. Oral supplementation is often used for its systemic benefits, while topical application targets specific skin areas. Astaxanthin's bioavailability can be influenced by factors such as the presence of lipids, which enhance absorption, and the type of formulation used (11). Research suggests that combining oral and topical astaxanthin may result in synergistic effects, offering even greater benefits for skin health (6).

In general, astaxanthin is considered safe with few reported side effects. Most studies have not observed any significant adverse effects when administered at doses of up to 40 mg per day for up to 12 weeks (12). However, high doses of astaxanthin may cause a harmless orange pigmentation of the skin, known as carotenodermia (13).


Astaxanthin's Benefits Beyond Skincare

Astaxanthin's potential health benefits extend beyond skincare. Research suggests that it may play a role in preventing and treating various diseases, including cancer. Astaxanthin has been shown to inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells, induce cancer cell apoptosis (cell death), and suppress tumor growth in animal models (14). Although more research is needed to confirm these effects in humans, astaxanthin's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to its potential anticancer benefits.

Additionally, astaxanthin has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and enhanced exercise performance and recovery (15, 16, 17). These wide-ranging health benefits further highlight the potential of astaxanthin as a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle.


Concluding Thoughts

The growing body of research on astaxanthin highlights its potential as a valuable addition to skincare regimens and treatments for various skin conditions. Its potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and photoprotective properties make it a promising candidate for addressing a range of skin concerns, from visible signs of aging to inflammatory disorders. Furthermore, astaxanthin's potential benefits extend to other areas of health, including cancer prevention and treatment. While more research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms and establish optimal dosages, the current evidence suggests that astaxanthin holds great promise in the field of dermatology, skin health, and overall well-being.



(1) Davinelli, S., Nielsen, M. E., & Scapagnini, G. (2018). Astaxanthin in Skin Health, Repair, and Disease: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients, 10(4), 522.

(2) Nishida, Y., Yamashita, E., & Miki, W. (2007). Quenching activities of common hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants against singlet oxygen using chemiluminescence detection system. Carotenoid Science, 11, 16-20.

(3) Poljšak, B., & Dahmane, R. (2012). Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012, 135206. 

(4) Fassett, R. G., & Coombes, J. S. (2011). Astaxanthin: A potential therapeutic agent in cardiovascular disease. Marine Drugs, 9(3), 447-465. 

(5) Tominaga, K., Hongo, N., Karato, M., & Yamashita, E. (2012). Cosmetic benefits of astaxanthin on humans subjects. Acta Biochimica Polonica, 59(1), 43-47. 

(6) Yamashita, E. (2006). The effects of a dietary supplement containing astaxanthin on skin condition. Carotenoid Science, 10, 91-95.

(7) Lee, S. J., Bai, S. K., Lee, K. S., Namkoong, S., Na, H. J., Ha, K. S., Han, J. A., ... & Kwon, Y. G. (2003). Astaxanthin inhibits nitric oxide production and inflammatory gene expression by suppressing I(kappa)B kinase-dependent NF-kappaB activation. Molecules and Cells, 16(1), 97-105.

(8) Camera, E., Mastrofrancesco, A., Fabbri, C., Daubrawa, F., Picardo, M., Sies, H., & Stahl, W. (2009). Astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and β-carotene differently affect UVA-induced oxidative damage and expression of oxidative stress-responsive enzymes. Experimental Dermatology, 18(3), 222-231. 

(9) Rinnerthaler, M., Bischof, J., Streubel, M. K., Trost, A., & Richter, K. (2015). Oxidative stress in aging human skin. Biomolecules, 5(2), 545-589. 

(10) Suganuma, K., Nakajima, H., Ohtsuki, M., & Imokawa, G. (2010). Astaxanthin attenuates the UVA-induced up-regulation of matrix-metalloproteinase-1 and skin fibroblast elastase in human dermal fibroblasts. Journal of Dermatological Science, 58(2), 136-142.

 (11) Rüfer, C. E., Moeseneder, J., Briviba, K., Rechkemmer, G., & Bub, A. (2008). Bioavailability of astaxanthin stereoisomers from wild (Oncorhynchus spp.) and aquacultured (Salmo salar) salmon in healthy men: a randomised, double-blind study. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(5), 1048-1054. 

(12) Capelli, B., Talbott, S. M., & Ding, L. (2019). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a novel astaxanthin formulation on the skin in healthy females. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 18(6), 1906-1914. 

(13) Sies, H., & Stahl, W. (2004). Non-nutritive bioactive constituents of plants: lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 74(2), 61-70. 

(14) Zhang, L., & Wang, H. (2015). Multiple mechanisms of anti-cancer effects exerted by astaxanthin. Marine Drugs, 13(7), 4310-4330.

(15) Fassett, R.G., & Coombes, J. S. (2011). Astaxanthin: A potential therapeutic agent in cardiovascular disease. Marine Drugs, 9(3), 447-465. 

(16) Grimmig, B., Daly, L., Subbarayan, M., & Hudson, C. (2017). Astaxanthin has neuroprotective effects against amyloid beta 1-42-induced neurotoxicity and spatial memory impairment. BioFactors, 43(3), 335-344. 

(17) Aoi, W., Naito, Y., Takanami, Y., Ishii, T., Kawai, Y., Akagiri, S., ... & Yoshikawa, T. (2008). Astaxanthin improves muscle lipid metabolism in exercise via inhibitory effect of oxidative CPT I modification. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 366(4), 892-897.

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