Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant that is part of the carotenoid family. Astaxanthin is made from certain kinds of algae as well as other similar microorganisms. When shrimp or krill feed on algae, they store astaxanthin in their shells. Higher up the food chain, we eat astaxanthin when we consume seafood.
This carotenoid has been in the news of late and has been studied for its possible ability to protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Although clinical proof for astaxanthin is mixed, researchers in Japan say they have found evidence that the carotenoid could protect the skin from signs of aging.
The theory is that astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that fights free-radical damage, helping to banish wrinkles and age spots, while making you look younger as you age. Following this same train of thought, the Japanese researchers performed two clinical studies. One was a study involving 30 healthy female participants that lasted for eight weeks. Significant improvements in skin appearance were observed by combining an oral supplement with a topical application of astaxanthin each day. Participants showed improvements in crow’s feet (those wrinkles around your eyes), age spot size, skin elasticity, and skin texture and moisture content after the eight weeks.
The other study involved 36 healthy male participants for six weeks. The researchers found similar results for the men: crow’s feet wrinkle and skin elasticity improved, along with transepidermal water loss after six milligrams of astaxanthin daily supplementation. Moisture content and sebum oil level at the cheek zone also showed strong improvement. The research team concluded that astaxanthin derived from “Haematococcus pluvialis” (a type of algae particularly rich in the carotenoid) may improve skin condition not only in women, but also in men.
There are conflicting reports about the safety of supplementing with astaxanthin long-term. There may be interactions with some drugs, as well as side effects (which could include yellow- or orange-colored skin, orange or red feces, unwanted hair growth, lowered calcium levels, decreased libido, and male breast enlargement, according to some sources). Use caution if you’re considering supplementing with astaxanthin, especially if you’re being treated for hypertension or have asthma, thyroid disorders, or osteoporosis.
For information about how to protect your skin from signs of aging by eating whole, natural foods, read our article Three Healing Foods That Fight Skin Damage.