Astaxanthin and Skin Health

By: Theresa Greenwell

Astaxanthin has been around for a very long time but is only quite recently receiving the recognition as the super-antioxidant it is. This reddish-hued antioxidant is often referred to as “the king of the carotenoids” because it is 10 to 100 times more powerful than the others.  It is also one that never becomes a pro-antioxidant, meaning that it can’t cause oxidation within the body!

What it is:

As we mentioned, Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant commonly found in marine life. It is a naturally occurring carotenoid pigment derived from Haematococcus pluvialis algae.  This antioxidant is unique in that its structure allows it to work within and across all layers of cells.

What can it do for your skin:

As one of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature, it has been shown to be beneficial for eye health, vision retention, muscle endurance, recovery, immune support, and skin health. By stabilizing free radicals, astaxanthin helps to minimize or even neutralize the damaging effects that radicals can have.

More specifically, a recent study released in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition (2017) looked at the effect of astaxanthin on skin elasticity, moisture, and wrinkles when compared to a placebo.  The study also looked into how astaxanthin affected inflammation in skin cells exposed to UVB radiation.

The Study:

The study lasted 16 weeks and included 59 women between the ages of 35 and 60. Participants were separated into 3 groups, each receiving a different treatment: placebo, 6 mg of astaxanthin or 12 mg of astaxanthin. In addition to studying the effect of astaxanthin on participants, researchers looked at the effect of astaxanthin on UVB induced damages in skin and tissue cells while in culture.

The Results:

Results from test subjects showed that wrinkles and skin moisture levels worsened in those in the placebo group over the 16 weeks, while astaxanthin at either the lower or higher dosages appeared to suppress any changes.  Additionally, pro-inflammatory interleukin-1alpha increased in both the placebo and 6 mg dosage astaxanthin groups, while no increase occurred in those taking 12 mg.  One thing to note is that no pre-existing damage showed improvement, but then not new damage occurred with the use of astaxanthin.

Results from the skin cells samples showed that astaxanthin not only provided protection from UVB radiation, it also reduced inflammatory cytokines IL-1α, IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-α.  Furthermore, astaxanthin helped to reduce the production of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1), an enzyme that breaks down collagen within connective tissue.

What it means:

Though this study does support the promise of astaxanthin for the retention of skin health, the skin does not usually change significantly in such a short time period.  The most important part of this study is that for those taking astaxanthin, the skin did not appear to change at all during the 16 weeks.

The study researchers felt that long-term use of astaxanthin for 2 years or more would provide for more remarkable and obvious results.




Tominaga. K., et al. Protective effects of astaxanthin on skin deterioration.  Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. 61(1): p. 33-39, 2017.