Many people dream of sporting a lovely tan. However, sun exposure can be harmful to the skin. Astaxanthin, a pigment from the carotenoid family, is said to protect the skin from free radicals and promote the tanning process. But is this really the case?
Astaxanthin to facilitate tanning and provide a sun-kissed complexion?
Sun-kissed Complexion: The Various Solutions.
There are two methods to achieve a tanned complexion: sunbathing or the use of self-tanning products.
Tanning is a natural skin protection mechanism during exposure to the sun. When the skin is exposed to UV rays, the melanocytes, which are epidermal cells, begin to produce melanin, a natural pigment responsible for the colour of our tan. Its role is to absorb the sun's rays.
Self-tanning products are another way to quickly achieve a sun-kissed complexion. They typically contain a tanning agent, such as dihydroxyacetone (DHA). These molecules react with the amines, peptides, and amino acids in the upper layer of the epidermis to form pigments, known as melanoidins, which are responsible for the skin's brown colouration. These treatments provide a uniform tan similar to sunbathing without having to expose oneself to the sun for several hours. However, this colour gradually fades to completely disappear within 5 to 7 days.
Astaxanthin to boost tanning?
Theastaxanthin has often been mentioned as an active ingredient involved in the tanning process by stimulating the production of melanin. But is this really the case? Melanin is a black or brown pigment produced during the melanogenesis process, a process by which melanin is produced in the melanosomes. For astaxanthin to promote tanning, it would need to have an activating role on melanogenesis.
A study has shown that oral intake of astaxanthin could increase the level of tyrosinase. This enzyme triggers the oxidation of tyrosine to produce melanin. By increasing it, astaxanthin would therefore promote the process of melanogenesis and hence the appearance of a tanned complexion. However, another study suggests the opposite. Indeed, previous reports conducted on mice have shown that astaxanthin would inhibit the activity of tyrosinase and therefore indirectly the production of melanin by inhibiting the auto-oxidation of dopa and dopaquinone. The amount of melanin had decreased by 40% in B16 mouse melanoma cells.
These conflicting results do not allow us to conclude whether astaxanthin promotes melanogenesis or not. However, it does help to protect the skin from free radicals produced during sun exposure. Nevertheless, it is important to note that astaxanthin should not be used as a substitute for adequate sun protection. It remains crucial to shield your skin from harmful UV rays by using a sunscreen and limiting sun exposure during the hottest hours of the day. By using products containing astaxanthin in combination with appropriate sun protection, you can enhance the appearance of your skin and protect it from sun damage.
CAPELLI B. & al. Astaxanthin sources: Suitability for human health and nutrition. Functional Foods in Health and Disease (2019).
CHINTONG S. & al. In vitro antioxidant, antityrosinase, and cytotoxic activities of astaxanthin from shrimp waste. Antioxidants (2019).