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August 2018

Astaxanthin: a natural sunscreen?

Not quite. A small study shows that taking astaxanthin by mouth may help prevent sunburn in some people. But patients should keep in mind that astaxanthin supplements should always be used ALONG with topical sunscreens. Astaxanthin should not be used as a sunscreen replacement. The sun protection factor (SPF) of astaxanthin would be much lower than what is found in nearly all sunscreens. Therefore, astaxanthin is unlikely to have a significant sun-protecting effect if used alone. Also, there’s no strong evidence that astaxanthin protects against skin cancer or early skin aging.

Oral products marketed as "sunscreens" are considered by the FDA to be unproven and subject to warnings. Some products that have received FDA warnings include Sunsafe Rx and Advanced Skin Brightening Formula. These oral "sunscreens" are actually just a mixture of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They don't have confirmed SPF.

To learn about what sun protection methods are appropriate, read our recent article in Pharmacist’s Letter.

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