Discover two ocean-source ingredients proven to boost skin health from the inside out
Our skin is under constant attack from free radicals.
These unstable oxygen molecules are generated by exposure to sunlight, air pollutants, and man-made chemicals in the environment.
Free radicals damage skin cells and stimulate inflammation, which generates even more free radicals and promotes premature aging of the skin.
And your body's ability to produce its own antioxidants — which neutralize free radicals and thereby dampen inflammation — tends to diminish with age.
Some of your best allies against premature skin aging are the antioxidants in colorful fruits and vegetables, raw cocoa, tea, and coffee (Pandel R et al. 2013):
- Genistein – soy foods
- Coenzyme Q – fish, beef, poultry
- Flavonoids – colorful fruits and vegetables
- Lycopene – tomato products and watermelon
- Glutathione* – garlic, cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
- Selenium – wild seafood, garlic, grass-fed beef, poultry, eggs, grains
*Glutathione isn't found in foods, but body levels can be raised by eating sulfurous vegetables such as these.
Help your skin and body by favoring colorful plant foods — because many of the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are also pigments.
The same is true of a potent antioxidant that comes from algae in the ocean in wild salmon — which works its way up the oceanic food chain.
Let’s take a closer look at that antioxidant — known as astaxanthin (ass-tuh-zan-thin)— and the fast-growing evidence that it can be a major anti-aging ally for our skin.
Then we'll examine the evidence suggesting that omega-3s — which serve important functions in the skin and in the body's inflammation-control system — also benefit skin health.
Astaxanthin: the colorful carotenoid in salmon and krill
Beta-carotene — which the body converts into vitamin A — is the most famous member of the family of red-orange antioxidants known as carotenoids.
Astaxanthin is another carotenoid-type antioxidant, and emerging evidence supports its credibility as a serious aid to human health, while expanding its range of potential benefits.
As we said, astaxanthin comes from algae, which produce it to help protect themselves against UV sunrays and the oxidizing free radicals they can produce in any organism.
Marine algae are primarily eaten by zooplankton — a category of creatures that consists primarily of krill and other tiny crustaceans.
Zooplankton get eaten by shrimp, and in turn, both get eaten by wild salmon — especially sockeye, whose exceptionally crustacean-rich diet explains their uniquely dark-red flesh and traditional name, “red” salmon.
While all other wild salmon feature red-orange flesh, the flesh of sockeye salmon is a noticeably deeper red than the flesh of any of its cousins.
Astaxanthin is an exceptionally potent free radical “scavenger” whose fat solubility makes it an ideal ally for protecting skin health.
Evidence for the skin benefits of dietary astaxanthin’s been growing over the years, and the encouraging results of a recent clinical trial affirm the positive findings.
British-Russian clinical study affirms astaxanthin’s skin benefits
The new study comes from an international team led by led by Natalya Chalyk, who holds posts at the UK biomedical consultancy (Lycotec) and at Russia’s Saratov State Medical University.
Chalyk and her British-Russian team recruited 31 participants — 17 men and 14 women — aged 40 years or older for their clinical trial.
They wanted to test the idea that taking daily doses of astaxanthin (4 mg per day) over a month-long period could influence skin health.
Samples of facial skin were taken from the participants before and after the four-week trial, during which each participant took 4 mg of supplemental astaxanthin daily.
As hoped, the daily astaxanthin regimen reduced signs of oxidative stress from free radicals in the participants’ skin.
Levels of a key marker of oxidative stress (malondialdehyde or MDA) dropped by just over 11% after two weeks, and by almost 22% after four weeks.
And as the researchers wrote, “The results [demonstrate] that continuous astaxanthin consumption produces a strong antioxidant effect resulting in facial skin rejuvenation …”. (Chalyk NE, Klochkov VA, Bandaletova TY et al. 2017)
By the end of the study, the researchers also recorded statistically significant reductions in skin peeling and microbe counts.
As the researchers wrote, “All [of the observed skin] changes correspond to a shift towards characteristics of skin associated with a younger age.”
Interestingly, the strongest benefits were recorded among the study's obese and overweight subjects.
Japanese clinical study echoes the British-Russian findings
Last July, Japanese researchers published the results of a 16-week clinical study involving 65 healthy women.
This study was performed in Japan from August to December, when stronger UV sunrays and drier air normally promote wrinkles and dryness.
The participants were divided into three groups:
- Placebo capsules
- Astaxanthin at 6mg daily
- Astaxanthin at 12mg daily
At the end of the four-month trial, the placebo group showed significantly worse levels of wrinkles and skin drying.
In contrast, the astaxanthin group showed no increase in wrinkles or loss of skin moisture.
In addition, levels of a pro-inflammatory messenger chemical called interleukin-1α rose significantly in the placebo and low-dose astaxanthin groups, but not in the high-dose astaxanthin group over the course of the study.
As the authors concluded, “… our study suggests that long-term astaxanthin supplementation may inhibit age-related skin deterioration and maintain skin [health] via its anti-inflammatory effect (Komatsu T et al. 2017)
Japanese animal study echoes the clinical findings
A recent study in mice suggests that supplemental astaxanthin may protect skin from the harmful effects of UVA sunrays (Tominaga K et al. 2017).
Unlike UVB sunrays, which cause sunburn but don’t penetrate deeply, UVA’s sunrays have a longer wavelength which means they penetrate deep into the skin — and they’re suspected of promoting melanomas and other dangerous skin cancers.
For their study, the Japanese researchers divided hairless mice into four groups:
- Control group #1 — normal diet, exposed to UVA rays
- Control group #2 — normal diet, not exposed to UVA rays
- Low-Dose Astaxanthin group — normal diet supplemented with 0.01% astaxanthin, exposed to UVA rays
- High-Dose Astaxanthin group — normal diet supplemented with 0.1% astaxanthin, exposed to UVA rays
The results showed that UVA exposure significantly increased drying and wrinkle formation in the control (no astaxanthin) groups, while the astaxanthin groups significantly less of those adverse effects of UVA exposure.
And even doses of astaxanthin corresponding to the lower dose given to some of the astaxanthin supplemented mice would probably work for people.
The Japanese team estimated that the corresponding low and high doses for humans, based on their greater body weight, would be 20–200mg per day.
And, because people absorb carotenoids much more efficiently than mice can, they believe that human-size doses corresponding to the lowest dose used in the study — 20mg per day — would be plenty for people to see a benefit.
We should note that wild salmon contains far smaller amounts of astaxanthin, but long-term consumption of the only ample food source of this antioxidant certainly can't hurt.
You can get much higher doses from astaxanthin supplements — which typically provide 4mg per capsule — and smaller (but still substantial) naturally-occurring amounts from krill oil supplements/content/selected-supplements-sale-jan-13-thru-jan-19-2018.
Seafood source omega-3s: Critical to skin health
The outermost layer of skin, the epidermis, becomes thinner with age.
So, it gets harder for the skin to retain moisture, leading to dry, flaky, and wrinkled skin.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fatty, wild-caught fish help the epidermis hold moisture for smoother, softer skin.
As we said, UV sunrays trigger inflammation in the skin — and the body relies on its seafood-type omega-3s (EPA and DHA) to make messenger chemicals (resolvins and protectins) to moderate or end inflammation.
So, it's no surprise that omega-3s exert anti-inflammatory effects, which can reduce the damage done to skin cells by UV sunrays and thereby discourage premature skin aging and the development of cancerous cells.
Human clinical research and animal experiments alike show that omega-3s help protect against sunburn and against skin damage caused by UV sunrays.
As far back as the mid-1990s, researchers reported that omega-3 fish oil could help protect against sunburn. As one British team wrote, “The sunburn response is markedly reduced by dietary fish oil rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” (Rhodes LE et al. 1995)
An evidence review published by British researchers 12 years ago affirmed the promise of fish fats:
"There is strong circumstantial evidence from both experimental and clinical studies to support a role for omega-3 FA [fatty acids] in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer.” (Black HS, Rhodes LE 2006)
According to the lead researcher — dermatologist Lesley Rhodes, M.D. — "The findings are very exciting. This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer.”
When British researchers reviewed the evidence seven years ago, they came to a positive conclusion: “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are promising candidates, showing potential to protect the skin from UVR injury through a range of mechanisms.” (Pilkington SM et al. 2011)
Likewise, French researchers linked higher estimated intakes of plant- and seafood-source omega-3s to reduced skin aging (Latreille J et al. 2013).
And, a 2013 study showed that taking fish oils daily boosted the immunity of volunteers' skin to the damaging effects of sunlight (Pilkington SM et al. 2013).
Fish species that abound in omega-3s include wild salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, sablefish, herring, and anchovies. This also applies to canned examples of these fish.
Among fatty fish, wild salmon may be especially beneficial, thanks to the astaxanthin that gives salmon their red-orange hue.
For our prior coverage of this research, see Fish Oil Found to Deflect Sun Damage, Omega-3s May Help Curb Skin Cancer, Fish Fats Called Credible Foes of Skin Aging and Skin Cancer, Fish Fat Curbs Skin and Oral Cancers, and Dietary Fish Oil Found to Deflect Sun Damage.
Limit your omega-6 intake
Sun protection from omega-3s is more likely to be effective when your intake of omega-6 vegetable fats is no more than two to three times your omega-3 intake.
Unfortunately, excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids is typical of the standard American diet, and that overload speeds aging of the skin by promoting inflammation.
Most of those omega-6 fats come from the cheap vegetable oils used in packaged, fried, restaurant, and fast foods, as well as in many home kitchens (corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower).
Today, the average American's diet provides 10 to 15 times more omega-6s than omega-3s ... an historically unprecedented imbalance that keeps inflammation simmering, with dire health implications (see our Omega-3/6 Balance page and our Out of Balance Video).
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