Does Astaxanthin Help You Tan?
Not to brag, but I always had perfect skin. Until one day, I didn't. I developed hyper-pigmentation on my forehead and cheeks and suddenly a day at the beach—even protected by sunscreen and a hat—was too much. I was horrified. So off to the dermatologist I went.
My derm's solution was hydraquinone and retin-A. And to stay out of the sun—forever. She also suggested carrying an umbrella, wearing sunscreen in the house (upon waking, and on rainy days too), and to never forget that sunscreen will not 100% protect you.
I walked out of there thinking she was nuts, but I soon found myself retreating to darker rooms, wearing hats, and slathering on sunblock like my life depended on it. Soon night was my favorite time of day, and I feared I was beginning to look like a member of the Cullen family. Clearly, I needed a different approach.
I decided to consult Thea Fournier, a Medical Intuitive and nutritionist who suggested taking astaxanthin powder bulk, a supplement currently being touted as the most potent antioxidant available. Naturally found in wild salmon, it’s produced when the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis dries up and has to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation. In nature, it produces a force field to protect the algae from lack of nutrition—or intense sunlight. Turns out, it can have the same effect on your body. Fournier says, “As studies suggest, it has been my experience that astaxanthin acts as a natural internal sunscreen protecting you from further UV damage and helping to diminish skin pigmentation. It also acts as a strong anti-inflammatory, targeting a variety of inflammatory mediators, whereby helping to reduce pain in the body.” One study found that mice taking the supplement could last longer under UV radiation without getting burned; humans taking 4 mg per day for just two weeks could do the same.
Astaxanthin has many fans in the medical community, including one of the New York’s most famous dermatologists, the best-selling author Dr. Nicholas Perricone, MD. In his book, “The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet,” he calls it a “Superstar Supplement,” listing a series of benefits: “It provides wrinkle reduction by internal supplementation…It reduces hyper-pigmentation (better known as age spots)” Even Heidi Klum and Gwyneth Paltrow allegedly use “astaxanthin to help fight wrinkles, improve elasticity, reduce visible signs of UV-aging, and reduce the risk of skin cancer.”
As an added bonus it gives the skin a slight tan—not the “I ate too many carrots” kind, but a natural pigment that looks particularly healthy after my year of no sun. I’m sold on the health benefits, but a side of glow makes it a must-have.
Does astaxanthin make your skin darker?
"Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant known as a carotenoid, found in various foods," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City and the director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. "It naturally has a bright red/orange color, and its high content in salmon is what gives it its color. It also is found in some forms of red algae. Studies have shown that the antioxidant ability of astaxanthin is much more powerful than Vitamin C."
Therefore, it was only a matter of time before the so-called "king of carotenoids" would find its way into our bathroom cabinets by way of bottles and tinctures. As Zeichner noted, according to research, astaxanthin contains significantly more antioxidants than other superfood heroes, is anywhere from 10 to 100 times more powerful than other carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene, and may even be significantly more potent than skin-enhancing vitamin C and vitamin E.1 Intrigued yet?
Read on for more about the benefits of astaxanthin, with information gleaned from Zeichner, New York dermatologist Hadley King, MD, and cosmetic chemist Marisa Plescia, of clean beauty e-tailer NakedPoppy.
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Carotenoid (yellow, orange, and red pigments that are produced by plants, algae, and bacteria).
MAIN BENEFITS: Improves dryness, protects the skin against free radicals and sun damage.
WHO SHOULD USE IT: It is recommended for those of all ages and skin types and is especially beneficial for those with damaged skin.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: It is safe to use morning and night.
WORKS WELL WITH: Moisturizers.
DON'T USE WITH: Generally, astaxanthin is safe to use with all other ingredients.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin's best descriptor is that it's a potent antioxidant—one that does a world of good for the skin. "Astaxanthin is an antioxidant and it can be used topically on the skin," says King. In fact, a 2012 study found that daily oral and topical supplementation with astaxanthin improved skin texture and elasticity, reduced age spot size, and even addressed crow’s feet.2
While more data is needed to confirm those findings, research has found that the powerhouse ingredient can do wonders for the skin, fighting everything from sun damage to fine lines and wrinkles. According to a 2018 review, astaxanthin's benefits might be more comprehensive than previous research suggests, and include "photoprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Does astaxanthin make you gain weight?
Natural astaxanthin has been shown to inhibit weight-gain and other markers linked with a high fat diet. Furthermore, astaxanthin in combination with exercise is even more effective in reducing weight because of astaxanthin’s high antioxidant capacity, protective effect during energy production in mitochondria and fat burning effect.Successful weight management is challenging because of the modern lifestyle and the dietary choices that surround us. However, a program that combines sensible food intake levels, exercise routine with natural astaxanthin makes such goal a realistic one.
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