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Astaxanthin: The skin-saving antioxidant you’ve never heard of

October 5th 2016 / Anna Hunter


It’s more powerful than vitamin E and vitamin C, and it can tackle wrinkles from the inside. Here’s the deal on the world’s most potent antioxidant…

How about if I told you that the most effective free radical fighter known to humankind is also the stuff that helps salmon to swim upstream? I’ll also just drop in the fact that it’s the reason that those swimmers, and incidentally flamingos, are a lovely, vibrant pink hue. You’d probably be thinking that this super skincare ingredient mumbo jumbo had gone too far, but in a twist of improbable fact over faddiness, it turns out that the naturally occurring, pink pigmented carotenoid astaxanthin stands up to scrutiny from both a health and beauty point of view.

In terms of antioxidant prowess, astaxanthin knocks fellow member of the carotenoid family out of the park, being around 40 times more powerful than beta-carotene according to Perricone MD, and it also triumphs in terms of antioxidant oomph when compared to many other revered anti-ageing skincare ingredients, being 6000 times more effective at mopping up free radicals than vitamin C and 550 times more ‘active’ than vitamin E and green tea, as evidenced in clinical studies carried out by Dr Debasis Bagchi at Creighton University in the US.

On paper it’s undoubtedly impressive, but just where has this rose-tinted antioxidant spring from, how does it work and what can we do to harness its skin-improving potential in particular? We looked to clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer for astaxanthin answers…

Get The Gloss: Where has astaxanthin been all our lives?! Why are we only just hearing about it?

Suzie Sawyer: Astaxanthin was actually first discovered and named in the 1940s, although it was present in the diet long before this. However, as with any ‘new’ ingredient, it can often take time for people to fully understand its potential. Additionally, any robust research takes time and money to produce; astaxanthin now has numerous double blind, placebo controlled trials to substantiate its effectiveness in many health areas.

GTG: Can we obtain astaxanthin through our diets?

SS: Not generally in any significant amounts; as an example wild salmon provides some astaxanthin because it feeds on the algae that naturally lives and grows in open waters. However, farmed fish generally does not provide any, unless it’s fed astaxanthin, but this would be in a synthetic form which cannot be utilised in the body, in the same way as the natural source. Depleted fish stocks mean that very little is now obtained from the diet.

GTG: What benefits does astaxanthin provide in terms of skin health?

SS: Astaxanthin is a very powerful antioxidant, many times more potent than vitamin E. This means that the skin is protected, throughout the dermal layers, from free radical damage, responsible for the ageing process. In addition, astaxanthin protects the skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays, plus it improves the elasticity of the skin, helping it to stay plump and wrinkle-free.

GTG: Why do you think that astaxanthin is more prevalent in supplements rather than skincare products?

SS: As with any supplement, there is always going to be a greater effect from taking an ingredient or ingredients that are absorbed at a cellular level into the body. The skin can only absorb a certain amount of any skincare product, and it may not necessarily penetrate down to the deeper layers. It’s always worth remembering that skin can only be a reflection of what’s inside. Ingenious Beauty Collagen+ supplements (£75 for 120 capsules from www.ingeniousbeauty.com) are the only cosmeceutical on the market to offer a unique blend of 100% natural triple actives, including astaxanthin. With a unique delivery mechanism to ensure maximum absorption, Ultimate Collagen+ allows the body to fully reap the benefits of its highly advanced formulation, including UV protection and an increase in hydration and firming of the skin.

GTG: What other health benefits does astaxanthin offer?

SS: Astaxanthin offers a wealth of other benefits; its potent antioxidant power ensures that it’s highly beneficial during and after exercise. The quenching of free radicals helps to prevent inflammation and muscle damage during exercise, and astaxanthin also has a positive effect during endurance exercise. Moreover, astaxanthin helps to re-focus tired eyes resulting from the overexposure to computer screens as well as improving capillary blood flow and protecting the eyes from sun damage. Any nutrient that has a powerful antioxidant effect will provide health benefits throughout the whole body.

GTG: What should we look out for when shopping for an astaxanthin supplement? How should supplements be taken?

SS: You should always look for natural astaxanthin; the natural form is fat-soluble and has a chemical structure that is much more readily absorbed by the body. It is therefore best taken with a meal, preferably one containing some fat.

GTG: How long might it take to see and feel the benefits of taking an astaxanthin supplement?

SS: As with any supplement, it really depends on the nutrient status of the individual at the time. However, research on astaxanthin suggests that positive effects are seen and felt within about four weeks.

GTG: Is astaxanthin suitable for everyone? Should anyone avoid it?

SS: As with any supplement, pregnant and breastfeeding women should only take supplements that are recommended during this time. Otherwise, there are no contra-indications. If an individual is taking prescription medication, they may want to check with their GP.

Six ways to get your astaxanthin fix:

Ingenious Beauty Ultimate Collagen+, £75

Clinically proven to reduce fine lines by 26%. Definitely worth a shot if worry lines are causing more worry…

Rejuvenated H3O Night Repair, £30

Hydration and free-radical fighting as you snooze. If beauty sleep came in a packet it would look a lot like this.

Solgar Astaxanthin, £11.99

Affordable antioxidant clout from one of the most trusted and well known vitamin purveyors.

Gold Collagen Defence, £19.99

Ideal if you’re after a multivitamin/astaxanthin combo.

Green People Age Defy+ Green Beauty with Astaxanthin, £34

Just the ticket if you’d like your astaxanthin with a side of greens.

Esthechoc Cambridge Beauty Chocolate, £42.50 for a 21-day supply

Alternatively...shun the greens and tuck into an astaxanthin-rich treat.

Follow Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie, and Anna on Instagram @annyhunter

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