Astaxanthin Sun Tan Protection Skin Benefits

Supported by Research

This Naomi content is fact checked. There is published research supporting this article.


As we age, our skin starts to lose its ability to recover from stress and damage. The number one thing that causes damage to the skin is UV exposure from the sun. Over time this repeated stress and damage can lead to signs of aging such as discoloration, wrinkling, and loss of moisture.

Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that has been proven to help protect the skin from UV rays and help repair skin from sun damage. Read on to learn more about how astaxanthin may become your new beach bag staple.

UV Rays and Skin Health

Over the years more focus has been made on protecting the skin from harmful effects from the sun. When the skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds, the layers of the skin undergo various levels of stress and potential damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS).

ROS are created when oxidative stress occurs after sun damage. Chronic or repeated damage can lead to altering the DNA inside the cells of the skin, leading to premature aging. Actinic keratosis, the rough and scaly patches that seem to appear with aging, are caused by UV damage. Thickening of the skin, wrinkles, and discoloration are all made worse by chronic exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds.

Although not all signs of skin aging can be prevented, it’s clear if you properly protect your skin from harmful effects from the sun, most premature signs of aging can be prevented.

What is Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants  and is the most potent antioxidant in the carotenoid class. Beta carotene and lycopene are other examples of carotenoids and all of these compounds are rich in health benefits.

Astaxanthin is typically found in fish and shellfish like crab, salmon, and microalgae. This powerful antioxidant is known for its bright reddish-orange hue. Flamingos eat algae full of astaxanthin and this is why they have their unique pink hue (but don’t worry, astaxanthin won’t make your skin pink or orange!)

Antioxidants hunt (or scavenge) free radicals caused by stress, environmental factors, and age to help restore balance in many aspects of health. UV rays contribute to the vast majority of damage causing free radicals that can appear in the skin making astaxanthin a powerful ally when trying to protect your skin from the sun. In addition to UV ray benefits, astaxanthin has been proven to help support brain function, metabolism, exercise performance, sleep, and chronic skin conditions.

Astaxanthin Skin Benefits

Astaxanthin has been extensively studied, specifically exploring the potential for any astaxanthin skin benefits. Thanks to its potent antioxidant abilities, astaxanthin helps protect the skin against sun damage. Sun damage can occur with or without intentional tanning so it’s important to find new ways to support and protect your skin. 

A study done with 30 healthy female subjects found taking oral supplementation combined with topical application improved skin wrinkling, age spot size, elasticity, and skin texture. Women aren’t the only ones who benefit from astaxanthin – a study including 36 men showed improvement in moisture content and a reduction in crow’s feet and elasticity.

In addition to the overall skin benefits of astaxanthin, there is evidence astaxanthin protects from sun damage. In a 10-week study evaluating the protective role of astaxanthin when it comes to UV-induced sun damage or deterioration, it was found the minimal erythema dose (MED) increased after 9 weeks of supplementation. MED is a measure used to determine how much time is needed for erythema, or burning, to occur. Simply put, taking an astaxanthin supplement was shown to increase the time it takes for someone to burn – which is the goal of traditional sunscreen products.

A 2020 study done with hairless mice found astaxanthin prevented signs of photoaging – including wrinkle formation and skin thickening. Astaxanthin increased collagen fibers in the skin and prevents the formation of reactive oxygen species which are known to cause oxidative stress (a common cause of premature aging).

Not only are there benefits of taking oral astaxanthin supplements, but a 2012 study also found a topical form of astaxanthin (combined with liposomes) protected UV-induced skin thickening when applied prior to UV exposure. Topical astaxanthin also prevented a loss in collagen that can occur with UV exposure making topical astaxanthin a potential solution to reducing UV damage.

Astaxanthin Skin Pigmentation and Tanning

While astaxanthin is known for giving shrimp and flamingos their pink hue, but taking astaxanthin (even in high doses) has not been shown to significantly change the color of skin. Some anecdotal reports state astaxanthin helps give your skin a sun-kissed glow, but this has not been proven in studies. 

One theory for this glowing hue for some may be the relationship between astaxanthin and melanin. Melanin is what gives your skin pigment and when the melanocytes become stimulated – this is where your classic suntan color comes from.

How Does Astaxanthin Benefit Eye Health?

In addition to harmful effects to the skin, UV rays can damage eye health. The surfaces of your eyes are almost always exposed to sunlight, just like your skin. UV ray exposure can cause inflammation to the cornea which is the front of the eye. Cataracts and pterygium (tissue growth on the eye surface) can impair vision.

The majority of eye diseases caused by UV rays are due to inflammation. The antioxidant effects of astaxanthin have been shown to protect the delicate structures of the eye and reduce the effects of UV damage.

How to Take Astaxanthin to Protect Yourself in the Sun

Taking a high quality astaxanthin oral supplement before you plan to spend time in the sun is your best bet to gaining the full benefits. This allows you to build up the antioxidant effects from astaxanthin to protect yourself in the sun. Although some studies have shown sun protective benefits of astaxanthinn taken just a few days before UV ray exposure.

If you find yourself outside most of the time, taking astaxanthin daily is probably your best plan. This will give you confidence that you have the sun protective benefits of astaxathin on board no matter what comes up that day. Additionally, in the event you happen to sunburn, having astaxanthin in your system will help your skin heal faster with a lower risk of long term consequences from sun damage.


  • Chronic exposure to UV rays can lead to skin damage which can contribute to premature aging of the skin
  • Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant with many skin related benefits found in fish and shellfish
  • Astaxanthin has been proven to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce discoloration, and restore skin texture
  • In addition to improving appearance, astaxanthin protects the skin from UV damage and helps repair the skin after sun damage
  • Astaxanthin hasn’t been proven to tan the skin, but some people report a nice sun-kissed glow thanks to daily astaxanthin use
  • Astaxanthin also protects the structures of the eye from UV damage

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