This powerful antioxidant fights inflammation, wrinkles, and may even help prevent disease.

The antioxidant found in abundance in wild salmon, astaxanthin (pronounced “asta-ZAN-thin”), is what gives salmon their characteristic color. It can also fight free radicals to keep your skin smooth and your body healthy.


Astaxanthin comes from algae that is an important food for salmon. In supplements, the nutrient is extracted from the same type of algae, in a form the human body can utilize.

1 Antioxidant Protection. In the course of producing energy, free radicals are a toxic by-product that triggers chronic internal inflammation, which leads to heart disease, weight gain, diabetes and other ills commonly associated with aging. In skin, free radicals promote wrinkles and destroy the collagen that gives young skin its suppleness and elasticity. When antioxidants neutralize free radicals, they protect against the damage and may help to repair it. As antioxidants go, astaxanthin is especially powerful.

“When it’s matched up to other antioxidants like vitamin E or vitamin C, astaxanthin turns out to be somewhere between 60 and 100 times more potent in terms of its ability to fight free radicals,” says Nicholas Perricone, MD, board certified dermatologist, researcher, anti-aging expert and author of 11 books, most recently Forever Young: Introducing the Metabolic Diet.

In addition to studying all the scientific literature on astaxanthin for more than 12 years, Perricone has personally carried out research with the supplement. Reasons why it is so powerful, he says, include these:
The unique structure of astaxanthin enables it to work in multiple ways in every cell. “It intersperses into the cell membrane and all parts of the cell, giving protection, so therefore it can be at the right place to protect the cells from free radicals,” says Perricone.

It takes much less than a split second for a free radical to trigger inflammation, but that inflammation continues for hours or days. Astaxanthin not only neutralizes free radicals but it also stops the inflammatory process.

2 Stopping Wrinkles from Within. In his experience and research, Perricone has found that fine lines and wrinkles are visibly reduced, and the overall appearance of skin improves after taking astaxanthin for about 12 to 16 weeks. “I’ve not seen many supplements that can do that,” he says.

In combating inflammation, astaxanthin stops the production of pro-inflammatory substances that secrete collagen-digesting enzymes, preserving the youthful quality of skin. And, it shields against the sun.

A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared the ability of astaxanthin and placebo supplements to protect skin against sun damage. Researchers found that after three months of supplementation, astaxanthin, but not the placebo, visibly reduced fine lines and improved the appearance of skin exposed to sun. And, ultrasound measurements showed a 78-percent increase in skin density among those taking astaxanthin. There were no side effects.

After the first three months, participants stopped taking the supplements and were tested one month later. There was a slight decrease in the improvements experienced by taking astaxanthin, indicating that the supplement should be used on an ongoing basis.

The study concluded: “The supplement appears to be effective and safe as an oral supplement to protect the skin and support its repair process.”

Other studies report similar findings. For example, a review of research, published in Anti-Aging Therapeutics Volume XI, found that 4 mg of astaxanthin, taken daily in supplements for at least 4 to 6 weeks, reduced fine lines and wrinkles and improved moisture content and elasticity of skin. The same review also found that daily application of an astaxanthin skin cream produced similar results.

3 Body Benefits. A healthy body requires exercise, but physical activity creates additional free radicals and inflammation. By reducing these, astaxanthin decreases damage to muscles and helps the body to recover from exertion, creating a net effect of increased energy.

“In several studies,” says Perricone, “athletes supplementing with astaxanthin increased performance, in terms of stamina, by up to 50 percent.” Other research shows that the antioxidant reduces muscle soreness after exercise and protects joints, muscles, and tendons.

Astaxanthin helps in many other ways to maintain and improve overall health, enabling us to look and feel our best. Studies have found that it improves insulin sensitivity; helps to lower blood pressure; protects arteries by reducing oxidation of blood fats and helping to improve levels of cholesterol and triglycerides; reduces inflammation associated with heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis; relieves eye fatigue from computer use; protects the brain; helps to treat carpal tunnel syndrome; enhances immunity; may counteract diabetes complications; and helps to treat ulcers and digestive disorders.

Shopping Guide

Take 3 to 9 mg of an astaxanthin supplement daily. The antioxidant is also found in skin creams. For optimum benefits, use topical products in conjunction with an oral astaxanthin supplement. A serving of wild salmon, between 4 and 6 ounces, contains approximately 4 to 5 mg of astaxanthin. Note: Be sure to choose wild salmon; farm-raised salmon does not contain astaxanthin because the fish are not fed algae—their pink color is faked with dyes.

Good Buys

Solgar Astaxanthin 5 mg

SOLGAR Astaxanthin provides 5 mg of super-antioxidant astaxanthin per capsule to quench free radicals and support healthy skin. Take it daily to help smooth wrinkles and give your complexion a healthy glow.

Nutrex BioAstin Natural Astaxanthin

NUTREX BioAstin Natural Astaxanthin offers all-around anti-aging cellular protection, blending astaxanthin, antioxidant vitamins A and E, and lutein, in one potent formula to support skin and eye health, muscle recovery, and more.

Natrol Omega-3_Krill#80B4BB

NATROL Omega-3 Krill Oil Krill (tiny ocean crustaceans) are a natural source of astaxanthin. Plus, krill oil gives you the added benefits of omega fatty acids.

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