Life Extension Magazine®

Mom and daughter playing outside protect their skin with astaxanthin

Astaxanthin and Aging Skin

In clinical studies, astaxanthin reduced and reversed aspects of skin aging, improving moisture and elasticity, while reducing wrinkling.

Scientifically reviewed by: Amanda Martin, DC. Written by: Michael Downey.

Astaxanthin has long been associated with eye,1 brain,2 and heart health.3

Scientists have also demonstrated that this carotenoid protects the health of the skin.

It does so by inhibiting drivers of skin damage, helping to maintain skin function and structural integrity.4,5

Aging skin is more than a cosmetic issue. Loss of skin integrity and functionality can impair overall health.6

Clinical trials show that oral astaxanthin can help protect skin against sun damage, loss of moisture, and development of wrinkles, while improving skin health.

Importance of Skin Health

The skin serves many functions, including:7

  • Acting as a barrier against infection,
  • Helping maintain the body's hydration and temperature, and
  • Serving as the frontline of immune protection against environmental toxins.

Wrinkled, dry, damaged skin are signs of deterioration with age.6

When skin structure starts to deteriorate, it can weaken its essential barrier function against the external environment.

Age isn't the only factor behind skin damage. Skin integrity is also degraded by and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.8,9

The damage inflicted by these factors results in reduced firmness and elasticity.

This may lead to deeper wrinkles, mottled pigmentation, roughness, drying, scaling, sagging, photoaging, precancerous lesions, and even skin cancers.9

Astaxanthin has been shown to help protect the appearance and function of the skin.

How Astaxanthin Reduces Skin Damage

Astaxanthin is a red carotenoid found at high concentrations in certain microalgae.1,2

It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that provides a wide range of health benefits.1 In the last several years, researchers have discovered the role it plays in protecting the skin.

Evidence shows that astaxanthin combats the negative effects of two underlying causes of skin aging: environmental pollutants and UV light exposure.

Preclinical and clinical data demonstrate that astaxanthin can:

  • Reduce the secretion of a protein-degrading enzyme called MMP-1.4,10 MMP-1 increases when skin is exposed to air pollution11 and breaks down youthful structure of skin.4,11-13
  • Suppress the production of harmful inflammatory cytokines that follows exposure to UV rays.4,10,14

Furthermore, by reducing MMP-1, astaxanthin may be able to fight wrinkles from multiple other causes.

Protection Against Skin Aging

Researchers investigated astaxanthin's ability to protect the skin against the effects of pollutants and aging. Studies showed that astaxanthin:

  • Improved skin wrinkles, elasticity, and texture,15,16
  • Boosted skin moisture content while reducing skin water loss,15,16
  • Inhibited the underlying processes that produce wrinkles and age spots,15-18 and
  • Enhanced collagen production in skin cells, which helps maintain or restore skin's youthful plumpness and firmness.19

These findings show that astaxanthin can help prevent the visible signs of skin aging and pollutants—and protect some of its critical barrier functions such as water retention.

Defense Against UV Damage

UV radiation is the most powerful driving force behind skin deterioration.

Studies suggest that astaxanthin provides targeted UV protection. Astaxanthin has been shown in a clinical and multiple preclinical settings, to:

  • Prevent UV-induced loss of the body's antioxidant glutathione,20
  • Restore UV-diminished levels of the body's antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD),20
  • Fight UV-induced increases in numerous enzymes that damage skin and promote wrinkles,4,21 and
  • Reduce UV-induced expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines that damage skin integrity.18,21

One study showed that giving astaxanthin to mice exposed to UV radiation suppressed the harmful molecular responses seen in UV-exposed mice that were not given astaxanthin.

The damaging responses prevented by astaxanthin included:5

  • Water loss across the skin barrier,
  • Accelerated formation of wrinkles,
  • Increased expression in the top layer of skin (epidermis) of enzymes that cause skin cells to break down, and
  • Increases in the bottom layer of skin (the dermis) of the MMP-13 enzyme (MMP-1 alternate in rodents), a contributor to loss of skin tone and elasticity.

This study demonstrated that, preclinically, astaxanthin taken orally makes its way to multiple layers of skin,5 where it can inhibit or reverse the destructive effects of UV radiation.

What You Need to Know

Maintain Skin Health

  • Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that supports eye, brain, and heart health. It now shows promise for maintaining skin integrity and function as well.
  • Studies demonstrate that oral astaxanthin safely slows skin deterioration caused by age, pollution, and sun exposure.
  • In clinical studies, astaxanthin helps prevent skin wrinkles, moisture loss, and UV-induced burning, improving skin appearance and health.
  • Taking astaxanthin combined with phospholipids makes it more bioavailable (absorbable).

Real-World Clinical Trial

In one clinical study, astaxanthin was "real-world tested" on 65 healthy Japanese women who went about their daily lives between August and December.4 Skin damage during these months is generally at its highest in Japan because of environmental factors such as UV light and low humidity.

Subjects took either a placebo or astaxanthin in 6 mg or 12 mg doses daily.

In just 16 weeks, the placebo group had:4

  • Significant worsening of wrinkles,
  • Reduced moisture content, and
  • Increased skin markers of inflammation.

Women taking either dose of astaxanthin showed no significant skin deterioration and no increase in inflammatory markers.

UV Protection

Another clinical (human) trial was conducted in a lab, where volunteers were exposed to controlled levels of UV rays.22

For nine weeks, subjects took either a placebo or 4 mg of astaxanthin daily, after which they were tested with UV exposure.

Compared with the placebo group, those taking astaxanthin had:22

  • Increased time before UV exposure caused burning,
  • Reduced loss of skin moisture in the UV-exposed area, and
  • Significant improvement of skin roughness and texture in non-irradiated areas.

That means both UV-exposed and non-UV-exposed skin health was improved by astaxanthin.

In addition, a 2021 meta-analysis of studies concluded that astaxanthin improves moisture content and elasticity, and reduces wrinkles,23 adding clear evidence that astaxanthin may be used to maintain skin health and fight skin damage.24


Studies have demonstrated that the carotenoid astaxanthin inhibits key skin-damaging factors.

These effects have been clinically validated to reduce and reverse aspects of skin aging caused by pollutants and sun exposure, while improving outward appearance and skin health.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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