July 2023

Astaxanthin: A Natural Sunscreen?

Astaxanthin keeps coming up as a natural skin protector. You might get some questions about this as the summer months heat up. So does it work?

Not really, especially if used alone. 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 is 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.

Check out our resource in Pharmacist’s Letter to learn more about effective sun protection and common sunscreen questions.

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