astaxanthin antioxidant benefits in skincare

Some people like fish. I’m not one of those people.

I like chocolate. It tastes better. And it’s just as good for you. Especially when it contains fish. I know, ewww! Let me start again.

Salmon, shrimps and lobster (I know they’re not all fish, but you get the point) are so healthy because they contain astaxanthin, the antioxidant that gives them their pinkish/reddish colour.

And now chocolate has it too. Estechoc, a new bar of dark chocolate I’ve recently discovered during a wine tasting (ah the cool life of beauty bloggers 🙂 ) is loaded with astaxanthin.

WTH? Why would you put it there?

I just had to know more, my friend. So, between one delicious bite and another, I put my Sherlock cap on and started investigating. Here’s the evidence I uncovered:

What Is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is a red carotenoid naturally found in lots of plants and algae and the animals that eat them. Flamingos, shrinks, salmon and lobsters munch on red algae and literally turn pink (or red). Pretty cool, eh?

But that’s not all astaxanthin does for them. It protects their skin and eyes from UV rays (yep, animals have their own sunscreen too).

P.S. In case you were wondering, the astaxanthin used in your lotions and potions comes from algae, not lobsters.

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

Astaxanthin Skin Benefits: What Does It Do For Skin?

Like all antioxidants, astaxanthin is a multitasker:

1. Astaxanthin Is A Powerful Antioxidant

All carotenoids are antioxidants. But, they’re not created equal. Astaxanthin is one of the best.

It fights oxidative stress, which is a fancy way of saying it destroys the free radicals that cause premature wrinkles. Some studies show it does it 1000 better than vitamin E, another popular antioxidant.

It’s also several times more powerful than vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid and many other antioxidants out there.

Instead, it seems to be less powerful than lycopene, the fellow carotenoid in tomatoes. I say “seems” because how well an antioxidant works also depends on how well it can be absorbed. Astaxanthin can cross blood brain barrier while lycopene can’t. So, using them together may be best. As I always say, the more antioxidants you use, the better.

Cool, but what do scientific studies say? Does this stuff work when you put it on the skin?

According to a 2012 study, 36 Japanese men who took astaxanthin supplements saw incredible results. Their wrinkles got smaller, their skin was more elastic and hydrated and even oil production was under better control.

A similar study was done on women (they took supplements and used a cream with astaxanthin) and had similar results. Sadly, that was a non-controlled study, so it’s not as reliable. It’s good to have the men’s study to back up the claims.

We also know that astaxanthin is small and lip-soluble, so it doesn’t have any problems penetrating skin.

Related: The Most Common Antioxidants Used In Skincare: Which Ones Are Best?

2. Astaxanthin Has Soothing Properties

You know what else astaxanthin does better than vitamin E, and at lower concentrations too? Heal and soothe the skin. It works because it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties too.

Related: The Truth About Vitamin E: Can It Really Heal Scars?

3. Astaxanthin Boosts Sun Protection

Let’s get this straight from the beginning. Astaxanthin is NOT a sunscreen. I repeat, astaxanthin is NOT a sunscreen.

Astaxanthin can boost the protection your sunscreen gives you, but you can’t use it as a replacement. NEVER. Not even once. Got it?

Good. Let’s get on with it then.

Astaxanthin provides sun protection in three different ways:

  • It blocks a small amount of UV rays
  • It destroys some of the free radicals generated by UV rays (they would cause sun damage, otherwise)
  • It inhibits the formation of matrix metalloproseinases (MMP) created by UV rays (they contribute to sun damage and aging too)

Talk about multi-tasking!

Related: Do Plant Extracts And Oils Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

Does Astaxanthin Have Any Side Effects?

Remember earlier where I mentioned the animals that gobble down this stuff take on a pinkish hue? The same can happen to your skin, if you use too much of it.

Sort of. You won’t become as red as a lobster (pheww!), but you can get a bit of an orangey/reddish tint.

FIY, this hasn’t happened to me so far with Estechoc. Again, it’s the excess that causes problems.

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Astaxanthin?

Here’s the thing. Astaxanthin tends to be on the pricey side, so not many brands use it. Here are the best products I’ve found so far:

  • Derma E Age-Defying Day Creme with Astaxanthin ($31.60): available at iHerb
  • Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 ($38.00): available at Sephora

The Bottom Line

Astaxanthin can give a you bit of tan (let’s call it like that, shall we?), but it also fights wrinkles, prevents sun damage, soothes skin and boosts your sun protection too. Why not give it a go?