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Sunburn, Salmon, and Skin Healing

Enjoy the video!  It’s a deep cut from our archives but still a powerful clinical pearl.

As we enter the warmer months here in the US, many of our patients and clients will be looking for help avoiding sunburn while still savoring the beautiful weather.  As we all know, it’s obviously important to enjoy the sun responsibly, avoiding the most intense radiation times of day (10am to 3pm) as we approach summer.  Just the right amount of sun gives us access to natural Vitamin D and rejuvenates the body.  Too much causes oxidative damage (truly: a burn, which is an inflammatory response) to the skin.  But we can’t make Vitamin D when our body is slathered with sunscreen!  So many of our clients may need another tool to enjoy summer sunshine responsibly.

Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant to heal damaged skin but also to increase skin resiliency.  Research shows that with regular astaxanthin use,  sunburn typically happens less quickly  and less intensely when we are exposed to the sun (here’s another one).  This has worked for me personally (fair-skinned and freckle-prone) for years!  Astaxanthin can also help to reduce/prevent other types of skin damage or dysfunction such as blemishes and wrinkles ( another one).   And can be helpful for eye tissue support as well  (especially macular degeneration).

Astaxanthin is made in nature by a tiny algae that sea animals (e.g. wild salmon, shellfish, krill – and yes, flamingos) eat and thus reflect its beautiful orange-pink color in their own tissue.  This antioxidant is thousands of times more effective in free-radical “quenching” value than Vitamin E, CoQ10, Beta Carotene, or even Vitamin C.  This is especially true for what is called “singlet oxygen quenching” which is the type of oxidative damage most typically wreaked on skin from too much sun exposure.

Encourage your patients to enjoy high-quality versions (i.e. not conventionally farm-raised) of these seafoods regularly in their diet (e.g. salmon, lobster, shrimp, crab, crayfish).  For targeted benefits, they may wish to use a daily supplement, especially during the summer and early fall seasons when we tend to spend much more time outdoors.  In a supplement, I recommend 8-12mg/day for these purposes.  Jarrow’s Astaxanthin is an easy brand for most people to find (online or in health food stores) in the US.

Foundational choices matter!  As within, so without.  The skin is a reflection of our systemic, internal health (especially the gut, but that’s a different post for another day).  Certainly there are many key dietary choices to make in support of long-term skin health…drinking more plain water, avoiding excessive coffee and black tea (tannins are dehydrating), keeping alcohol consumption moderate, consuming less sugar/sweeteners, saying “No” to processed and refined foods, avoiding insulin resistance, etc.   As practitioners, we all know that regular, sufficient sleep also makes a huge difference.  If you missed our recent video feature on Sleep Myths and Truths for Practitioners, you can catch it right here.

Thank you for empowering the people in your practice to avoid oxidative damage in the first place!




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6 Questions for “Sunburn, Salmon, and Skin Healing”

  1. 4
    lara says:

    Do you know if Astaxanthin is safe while breastfeeding? We will be traveling in February to Hawaii with our daughter who will be 8 months old and Id love to take this to lessen the amount of sunscreen I have to put on me as I know she will inevitably get that in her mouth :/ Thank you

  2. 3
    Holly Flaker says:

    Thank you, you helped in more ways than one as I wanted to know if skin cancer is also part of the clinical course. I will be enrolling!!

  3. 2
    SAFM Team says:

    A question was asked about a good clinical research summary on astaxanthin. This one is a few years old, but it’s an excellent summary (and resource for further inquiry): . Enjoy!

  4. 1
    Holly Flaker says:

    Hi Tracy;

    I have two questions after reading this article.

    1) what are your recommendations using this supplement for young children? You mentioned 8-12mg during summer months and I assume that is for adults. My son is 7 1/2 and is outdoors all day at summer camp.

    2) what additional recommendations to support skin health? I just recently had squamous cell cancer removed from my shin. Yesterday, I had four areas (jaw, arm, hands) treated with liquid nitrogen for pre-skin cancer. Is the presence of skin cancer similar to cancers internally? I, too, am fair skinned and freckle.

    Thank you in advance.


    • 1.1
      SAFM Team says:

      As is often the case, there is no safety/efficacy research (at least of which I am aware) regarding astaxanthin use in children. Studies in adults up to 40mg/day have shown no safety concerns at all (and no side effects other than skin/stool/urine coloring). In general, even in my own family, I am cautious about concentrated supplements for children under the age of about 8 or 9, as their elimination and detoxification function is still maturing during the elementary school years. Certainly you need to make the choice that resonates with you (and consider the size and health and history of your son). I recommended 4mg/day for my 12-year-old cousin, and she seems to have thrived with it. For squamous cell skin cancers, yes, the concepts of cancer overall do definitely apply (we have a Deep Dive clinical course that deals with this in-depth). Addressing sources of oxidative stress and immune system strength are key focus areas. Beyond all of what I mention above, if this were me, I would make sure that Vitamin D is optimal (at least 50 ng/ml), and I would use astaxanthin in higher doses (~8mg twice daily). Our Cancer clinical course for practitioners offers many other suggestions. Obviously high intake of antioxidants is key, as well as addressing root causes of oxidative stress (e.g. smoking, pesticides, poor sleep, insufficient hydration, other toxic exposure, insufficient omega-3 fats, overload of refined omega-6 fats, poor glutathione synthesis). These skin issues would be an important wake-up call to me re: getting to the root of oxidative stress overload.

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