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

November 23rd 2018 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment


It’s more powerful than vitamins E and C and it can help to repair skin from within. Here’s the deal on the world’s most potent antioxidant…

How about if I told you that one of the most effective free radical fighters 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 and it also triumphs in terms of antioxidant oomph when compared to many other revered reparative 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…

It came to the fore in the forties

"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."

It's tricky to consume through diet alone

"It's generally difficult to acquire asthaxanthin through food alone 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."

It's got your skin's back

"Astaxanthin is a very powerful antioxidant, many times more potent than vitamin E. This means that it can help to protect the skin, throughout the dermal layers, from the free radical damage that's partly responsible for the skin ageing process. In addition, astaxanthin helps to protect the skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays, plus it improves the elasticity of the skin by aiding healthy skin cell function."

It's more prevalent in supplements than skincare products

"As with any high-quality, bio-available 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. As an antioxidant, astaxanthin has currently proved most powerful when ingested as opposed to applied topically."

It could help with post-workout recovery

"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."

It absorbs best alongside a little fat

"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."

It's not a magic bullet

"As with any supplement, the degree to which you'd notice an effect 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.

"As with any supplement, pregnant and breastfeeding women should only take supplements that are recommended during this time. Otherwise, there are currently no known contraindications. That said, if you're taking any prescription medication, always check with your GP before considering supplementation."

Six ways to get your astaxanthin fix:

Ingenious Beauty Ultimate Collagen+, £25.79


Suzie's recommendation -a natural food-grade form of astaxanthin that's apparently clinically proven to reduce fine lines by 26%.

Rejuvenated H3O Night Repair, £30


Cellular hydration from within with antixodiant free-radical fighting effects as you snooze.

Solgar Astaxanthin, £11.99


This brings affordable high-antioxidant clout to the table from one of the most trusted and well known vitamin companies among the nutritional community.

Gold Collagen Defence, £19.99


Offers a multivitamin/astaxanthin combo.

Green People Age Defy+ Green Beauty with Astaxanthin, £27.20


Astaxanthin with a side of greens. This is pharmacist and Victoria Health co-founder Shabir Daya's astaxanthin hit of choice.

Esthechoc Cambridge Beauty Chocolate, £29.99 for a 21-day supply


Alternatively...shun the greens and tuck into an astaxanthin-rich chocolate bar. Really.

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

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