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Astaxanthin: The Antioxidant that can Act as an Internal Sunscreen

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Astaxanthin is an antioxidant that doubles as an internal sunscreen. That’s correct. Most of us are exposed to huge amounts of UVA (ultraviolet radiation) throughout our lives. These are the type of sun rays that account for approximately 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, and your delicate skin. UVA penetrates your skin much deeper than UVB and contributes largely to the ageing and wrinkling of your skin. To a lesser extent, it can contribute to the development of skin cancer.


This is where astaxanthin comes in. Astaxanthin selectively inhibits the reactive oxygen species (free radicals) signalling cascade. You see, numerous reactive oxygen species are generated when UVA rays hit the surface of your skin. Simply put, astaxanthin messes up how reactive oxygen species talk to each other thereby inhibiting their ability to cause ageing and wrinkling. These are the research findings of a study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science.



Wait, there are more benefits of astaxanthin, but first…

What exactly is astaxanthin?



Astaxanthin is a red pigment produced by certain algae (Haematococcus pluvialis), yeast (Phaffia), and lichen (several species in the arctic zone). It has a chemical structure similar to the beta-carotene found in carrots, and vitamin A. Here’s the amusing part, whatever eats the astaxanthin-containing algae, yeast, and lichen will store the red pigment. Crustaceans like shrimp, krill and lobster as well as salmon and flamingoes store the pigment in their shell when they eat this freshwater algae, hence their orange-pink-red colour. Neat, right?



Why do algae, yeast and lichen make astaxanthin in the first place? Aside from the obvious reason that it gives them colour, the precise role of astaxanthin in these organisms is unknown.

Natural versus Synthetic Astaxanthin



Astaxanthin can be either synthetic or naturally-sourced. Most of the commercially made astaxanthin used as pigmentation for aquaculture is synthetic. However many consumers prefer naturally-sourced astaxanthin which is fairly easy to obtain and also abundant. Astaxanthin is available as a dietary supplement in capsule form. Check with the manufacturer that its made from the natural form.


Other Health Benefits of Astaxanthin


  1. Reduces inflammation, especially in your joints. Astaxanthin has been shown to block the COX-2 pathway, a pathway which generates chemical substances that lead to inflammation inside your body. The effect of this can mostly be felt in your joints.

  2. Maintenance of good eye health. Another wonderful benefit of astaxanthin is the maintenance of healthy vision. People with age-related macular degeneration, have reported decreased progression and increased visual acuity while using astaxanthin. It was discovered that astaxanthin protects retinal pigment cells by decreasing the oxidative processes. A Japanese study showed the benefits of astaxanthin supplementation which includes less blurry vision, reduced eye strain, and decreased eye fatigue.

  3. Improves exercise recovery and energy levels. Exercise is a trigger for oxidation and generation of free radicals. A research study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness documented that athletes who supplemented with astaxanthin have lower free radicals in their system compared to the other group which didn’t supplement. The fewer free radicals in your system, the faster you will recover from exercise.

  4. Improved cardiovascular health. One study completed in volunteers who were supplemented different strengths of astaxanthin, showed that it inhibited oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). So it may contribute to the prevention of atherosclerosis.



To summarise, astaxanthin acts as an internal sunscreen, reduces inflammation, maintains good eye health, helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and aids exercise recovery. The effects of astaxanthin depend on the source and may vary from one person to another. Health experts around the world believe that the antioxidant power of astaxanthin belongs along the ranks of vitamin C, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10. It’s worth a try if you’re interested in its health benefits. Research is slowly unravelling its untapped healing abilities.


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