by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM, April 16, 2021
Astaxanthin is a type of naturally-occurring pigment called a xanthophyll carotenoid. Unlike other similar substances, it does not convert to Vitamin A in the body.
Often found in algae, specifically the strain Haematococcus pluvialis, Astaxanthin gives salmon, lobster, shrimp, and trout their pink and red colors.
In the last few years, Astaxanthin has gained footing as a supplement for vision problems, indigestion, muscle soreness & damage, high cholesterol levels, arthritis, and infertility.
As for the skin, it’s said to reduce wrinkles – even protect the skin from sunburn – among many other positive effects. With these benefits, astaxanthin is considered one of the hottest beauty supplements of today.
Astaxanthin’s effects are made possible by its antioxidative activity. It helps neutralize free radicals, which are harmful substances that result from exposure to cigarette smoke, UV rays, pesticides, and other chemicals.
When left unregulated, free radicals can cause oxidative stress. As this can affect the individual’s DNA, proteins, and lipids, oxidative stress can lead to diseases such as diabetes, cancer, dementia, and degenerative eye disease.
Astaxanthin can help the skin through several mechanisms.
An antioxidant more potent than Beta-carotene, Astaxanthin may help fight the free radicals that affect the skin. If left unmanaged, this can lead to dark spots, blemishes, wrinkles, fine lines, and sagginess.
UV radiation damages the DNA. Unfortunately, the body's attempts to repair it are often strewn with errors – which can precipitate skin problems such as cancer. According to a study, Astaxanthin may help prevent this with its ability to improve the DNA-repairing capacity of cells.
Astaxanthin helps inhibit chronic inflammation by minimizing the damaging effects of UV exposure, which is known to cause prolonged oxidative stress. This, in effect, can lead to several chronic skin diseases, such as cancer and age-related neurodegeneration.
Astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory effects make it a promising supplement for skin problems such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (AD). Such benefit was documented in an animal study, where researchers applied Astaxanthin on the affected areas 3x/week for 4 weeks.
Results showed the supplement helped minimize dermatitis symptoms by limiting the thickening of the skin. It also helped limit the activity of mast cells and inflammatory cells, both of which lead to the onset of AD.
A suppressed immune system can make the skin more vulnerable to UV-related malignancies such as melanoma. With Astaxanthin's immune-boosting effects, such risks may be minimized.
According to several animal studies, Astaxanthin helps improve immunity by increasing the activity of natural killer cells, which help control certain infections. It can also help boost the activity of T lymphocytes, which works by enhancing a person’s immunity against foreign substances.
Collagen and elastin are just some of the proteins that keep the skin strong, elastic, and hydrated. Unfortunately, aging and UV exposure can affect these structures. When this happens, wrinkle formation, dryness, loss of skin elasticity & recoil, and compromised wound healing can occur.
Astaxanthin may help minimize these effects by inhibiting the activity of matrix metalloproteinases, which are substances that degrade collagen. When this happens, collagen production increases – thus resulting in healthier skin and faster wound healing.
Such effects were noted in a Japanese study of 65 females. The researchers gave 6 mg or 12 mg of Astaxanthin for 16 weeks. Results showed that those who received the placebo experienced drier skin and more wrinkles, while those who received Astaxanthin have no such reports.
Astaxanthin’s positive effects on the skin were also seen in another Japanese study, where the researchers gave Astaxanthin 6 mg orally and 2 ml topically for 8 weeks. Results showed that it helped improve skin texture after 4 weeks of use. After 8 weeks of continued use, Astaxanthin managed to reduce wrinkles and age spots – apart from improving skin elasticity and moisture.
With these findings, it is believed that the supplement may help minimize skin deterioration – as well as other conditions associated with environmental/UV exposure.
Astaxanthin may be obtained by eating food sources such as Sockeye Salmon and Atlantic Salmon, which contains 4.5 mg and as much as 1.1 mg respectively.
Another option is to take Astaxanthin-rich supplements.
It is important to note that there is no set dosage for Astaxanthin. However, clinical trials have shown that it may be safely taken at the following doses and durations:
To reap Astaxanthin’s antioxidative effects, a dose of 4-8 mg should be taken for 2-3 a day with meals.
For skin health, the recommended dose is 2 mg of Astaxanthin 2x/day (with breakfast and dinner) for 6 weeks.
Based on various published studies Astaxanthin may have possible benefits to avoid sunburn, exercise induced damage and even possibly lowering cholesterol levels.
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As with most supplements, taking Astaxanthin may lead to some side effects. The most common is an increase in bowel movements, with the stools being red.
It’s important to follow the recommended dosage, as taking too much Astaxanthin may lead to stomach pain.
Although several studies have noted the safety of Astaxanthin, not much research has been done on pregnant and/or lactating women. As such, it should be avoided in such populations.
Astaxanthin, a carotenoid, may help the skin by fighting free radical damage and improving DNA repair. It also inhibits inflammation, improves immunity, and minimizes protein damage – all of which are vital for maintaining healthy, young-looking skin.
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