Acne is a common skin condition affecting most teenagers and many adults. It is characterised by pimples, blackheads, and comedones appearing on the skin. Although acne can be treated with medication and topical products, there are also natural solutions. Astaxanthin has often been cited as an ingredient to combat this skin nuisance. Discover in this article all the properties of this pigment and its potential benefits for fighting acne.
Acne, what is it?
Primarily located on the face and back, acne is a non-contagious skin condition characterised by the appearance of spots and blackheads at the level of the pilosebaceous follicles. There are three factors that promote the onset of acne: an excessive production of sebum (hyperseborrhoea) or a sebum that is too thick (dysseborrhoea), theobstruction of pores by the accumulation of dead cells (hyperkeratosis) and the proliferation of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes inside the follicle.
The excess sebum produced creates a favourable environment for the proliferation of the bacteria responsible for acne,Propionibacterium acnes, which primarily feeds on sebum. It secretes enzymes into the pilosebaceous follicle that hydrolyse the sebum's triglycerides into irritating and pro-inflammatory free fatty acids, triggering an inflammatory response. Hormones, particularly androgens, are the main cause of overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands, which are responsible for facial seborrhoea. Hyperseborrhoea and dyseborrhoea are factors that lead to the obstruction of the orifices, resulting in the appearance of spots and blackheads.
Beyond the factors previously mentioned, the formation and development of acne lesions can be influenced by various other elements, such as a persistent inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be caused by environmental factors such as pollution, stress, poor lifestyle habits, or excessive exposure to UV rays. This inflammation can exacerbate acne by increasing sebum production and supporting bacterial proliferation.
How does astaxanthin act on acne?
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that belongs to the carotenoid family. It is naturally found in certain algae, krill, shrimp, salmon, and crustaceans. This molecule has several interesting properties for the skin, notably its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action.
What can be said about its antioxidant properties in combating acne?
Dysseborrhoea is characterised by a problem with the composition of sebum, notably a deficiency in vitamin E. This is a vitamin that protects squalene, one of the constituents of sebum, from its oxidation into lanosterol by free radicals. This change in composition leads to a change in the texture of the sebum, which becomes thick and eventually clogs the pores, promoting the appearance of spots or blackheads.
The antioxidant action of astaxanthincould potentiallyprotect the skin against the effects of these reactive and unstable species, which damage skin cells and cause inflammation. Its antioxidant action helps the body to combat cell oxidation and reduce the effects of acne.
However, it is important to bear in mind that antioxidants do not entirely reduce the underlying causes of acne which are multifactorial and more or less complex, and therefore they cannot completely eradicate your acne problems.
What about its anti-inflammatory properties?
Acne-prone skin contains higher levels of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) than so-called "normal" skin. However, it has been demonstrated that astaxanthin reduces the levels of MMP and pro-inflammatory cytokines. It inhibits the activity of IκB kinase, a complex responsible for controlling the activation of NF-κB. This keeps NF-κB, a pro-inflammatory signalling pathway, inactive in the cellular cytoplasm, allowing to reduce the inflammation caused by acne.
In conclusion, astaxanthin possesses two intriguing properties against acne. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can soothe the skin following inflammations. Its antioxidant action assists the body in combating sebum oxidation and reduces the effects of acne, but it does not act on hyperseborrhea and hyperkeratosis. Bear in mind that these studies were not conducted directly on acne-prone skin, and it cannot be definitively stated that astaxanthin entirely reduces the onset of acne.
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NAME J. J. & al. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of action of astaxanthin in cardiovascular diseases (Review). International Journal of Molecular Medicine (2020).