The Queen of Antioxidants: What Does Astaxanthin Do for Skin?
Astaxanthin (pronounced asta-zan-thin) is one of the most underrated and underutilized ingredients for the skin. This super-antioxidant is more potent than vitamins C and E and a growing body of research shows that it can protect the skin against free radical damage, help to lessen inflammation, and minimize damage due to UV light exposure.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant with a deep red pigment that falls into the category of carotenoids. Carotenoids are a group of over 700 fat-soluble pigments that give the brilliant yellow and red colors to fruits, vegetables and leaves. It also gives salmon and flamingos their familiar pink colour. Astaxanthin is found in and mostly sourced from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis (this is where Sarka Botanicals sources ours for our Botanical Vitamin C Face Oil).
What Does Astaxanthin Do For The Skin?
The Queen of Antioxidants
First and foremost, astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges free radicals. A growing body of scientific literature shows that astaxanthin is more bioactive than and surpasses the antioxidant benefits of beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, canthaxanthin, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Research shows that astathanxin’s free radical scavenging ability is 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, 550 times stronger than green tea catechins and 75 times stronger than alpha lipoic acid.
Normally we have a balance of free radicals and an arsenal of antioxidants to counter them; but, conditions such as poor nutrition, stress, air pollution, smoking, ultraviolet light or disease can upset this equilibrium. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules that have unpaired or missing elections which causes them to take electrons from other molecules in the body in an effort to stabilize their molecular structure.
While this activity stables the free radical, the electron robbing leads to more free radicals and a cascade that results in cellular damage such as protein degradation, oxidized lipids and DNA damage. At the top layer of the skin, free radicals cause lipid peroxidation which results in reduced barrier function, increased sensitivity and transepidermal water water loss. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals through donating a missing electron and stop that cascade, and astaxanthin does this particularly well.
What does that mean for skin? It means the oxidative stress that plays a major role in skin aging and damage is minimized. When applied topically, astathanin scavenges free radicals, helps reduce moisture loss and keeps the skin smooth.
Beyond its antioxidant activity, astaxanthin has antiinflammatory properties and when applied topically it calms the inflammation which results from exposure to UV light. While astathanin doesn’t shield or absorb UV light, there are a number of studies showing that astaxanthin can minimize hyperpigmentation and inhibit melanin synthesis.
Astaxanthin and Collagen Repair
Given its antioxidant activity, it's not surprising that astaxanthin is effective in collagen fiber repair. The most important and abundant structures of the dermal extracellular matrix (the physical scaffolding of our skin) are collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans. In aging, changes in this structure lead to the loss of tensile strength and recoil capacity, wrinkle formation, dryness, and impaired wound healing. Astaxanthin protects the structure and condition of the skin through helping repair damaged collagen and through reducing the activity of the enzymes that break down collagen fibers. This improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles where significant improvement has been shown in wrinkling, age spot size, elasticity, and skin texture.
Who Should Use It?
Astaxanthin is especially beneficial for damaged and stressed skin and because it is safe and non-irritating, it can be used by all skin types. The anti-inflammatory properties make it ideal for those with sensitive skin because it helps to reduce redness, sensitivity and inflammation.
It is useful in chronic dry skin conditions. Studies show that regular use of astaxanthin can help with elasticity and moisture content in the skin, with the best results coming from both topical application and oral supplementation.
How Should I Work it Into My Routine?
This super antioxidant can be used in serums, oils, or moisturizers. It is excellent when combined with other antioxidants such as vitamins C or E, because it enhances their potency.
Astaxantin can be found in our Botanical Vitamin C Face Oil, which also contains next-generation oil-soluble vitamin C, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10.