You are religious about sunscreen application. You slather on night cream. And you eat all the right foods. But did you know that the secret to youthful skin might actually be a tough-to-pronounce antioxidant?
Astaxanthin (pronounced asta-ZAN-thin) is the reason why both the skin of salmon and flamingos sport that lovely pink hue. And now there’s some scientific evidence that this potent carotenoid may help protect your skin from wrinkles and the cumulative damage that comes with age.
Let’s take a look at why scientists and skin care experts alike are touting it as the next anti-aging breakthrough…
To understand the power of astaxanthin, you have to first understand the cause of most skin damage. It’s called oxidative stress – sometimes described as the rust forming in our body from oxidation – which accelerates aging and disease.
We know that sun exposure, smoking and pollution can produce free radicals, but so can simple healthy processes like eating and breathing.1
We also know that antioxidants can minimize free radicals from triggering oxidation. Thankfully, our body does produce some antioxidants on its own, such as glutathione, but not nearly enough. That’s why many of us boost our antioxidant levels and our ability to fight free radical damage with an antioxidant-rich diet and key supplements.
Why Astaxanthin is the “King of Carotenoids”
Antioxidants are grouped into different “families,” and astaxanthin is part of the carotenoid family. The carotenoid family is responsible for the bright red and orange color of so many fruits and vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Other carotenoids include lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
However, astaxanthin is believed to be the most powerful of them all. It’s five times more potent than beta-carotene and 6,000 times more potent than vitamin C, earning it the name the “King of Carotenoids.”2
Astaxanthin is Like Internal Sunscreen
Skin care experts and scientists agree that 90 percent of visible skin damage is from sun exposure.3You see, sun exposure triggers free radical production, which sets off a chain of unfortunate events. This cycle causes breakdown of collagen and elastin, which leaves skin to wrinkle and sag.
Fortunately, antioxidants, especially astaxanthin, can help by shielding you from potential UVB ray damage and the need to manage the inflammatory response that follows. In a way, astaxanthin serves as an internal sunscreen.
Multiple studies show astaxanthin slows down UV-exposure-induced damage, which means less scorched skin now and fewer wrinkles later.4
Astaxanthin Results in Better Elasticity, Fewer Wrinkles
In a 16-week clinical trial, participants who supplemented with astaxanthin observed improvements in skin elasticity, while those who did not supplement saw their wrinkles get worse.5
What’s more, if you’ve already suffered your fair share of sunburns, there’s hopeful news. Research has shown that besides blocking skin damage, astaxanthin can lend its power to the healing process.
In one study, participants reported that astaxanthin supplementation significantly improved skin elasticity, smoothness, and hydration in as little as 12 weeks.6
Another study found astaxanthin improved skin texture, wrinkle formation, and age spots.7Further research found improvement in moisture levels, overall elasticity and improvement in skin tone.8
Skin Benefits and Beyond…
As with other potent antioxidants, the health benefits of astaxanthin are endless. Research points to astaxanthin benefiting the heart, the brain, the eyes and much more. So where can you find astaxanthin? Look for it in a supplement or partnered with other skin-improving ingredients like collagen or krill oil.
And to get even more astaxanthin in your life, occasionally eat sockeye salmon, which has the highest concentration of astaxanthin — 38mg/kg in wild-caught varieties.9