Canthaxanthin is a red and pink pigment that is naturally present in both plants and animals. The amount of canthaxanthin appearing on the skin depends on the amount of canthaxanthin consumed in the diet.
Like other carotenoids, canthaxanthin may have antioxidant effects.
Canthaxanthin collects in the second layer of skin, giving it a darker color and possibly protecting it from the sun.
Canthaxanthin may be sold as tanning pills that lack U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
Studies show that canthaxanthin may help with cancer, skin pigmentation disorders, and vitiligo.

Related Terms

C40H52O2,canthaxanthine, carophyll red, carotenoid, carotinoid-N, CI food orange 8, color index no. 40850, E161, nonprovitamin A carotenoid, oxycarotenoid, oxygenated carotenoids, phytochemical, polar carotenoid, polar carotenoid pigment, roxanthin red 10, tanning pills, terpene, xanophyll.
Product examples: Canthorex®, Bronze EZee®, ASN Canthaxanthin®, Orobronze®.
Combination product examples: Phenoro (2/5 beta-carotene, 3/5 canthaxanthin).

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Cancer (Grade: C)
Higher blood levels of canthaxanthin and other carotenoids may be related to lower risks of cancer. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Erythropoietic protoporphyria (genetic skin sensitivity to sunlight) (Grade: C)
Canthaxanthin alone or with beta-carotene has been used to improve sensitivity to light in some patients suffering from erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) (a genetic disease with sensitivity to sunlight).
Photosensitivity (sensitivity to light) (Grade: C)
Canthaxanthin with beta-carotene has been studied for its role in protecting skin from sunlight and decreasing polymorphous light eruptions (itchy rash caused by sun exposure). More research on canthaxanthin alone is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Skin pigmentation disorders (problems in skin coloration) (Grade: C)
Abnormally colored skin treated with canthaxanthin and beta-carotene became more normal in color. More research where canthaxanthin is used alone is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin) (Grade: C)
Using canthaxanthin to treating vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin) produced mixed results. More research is needed in order to make any conclusions.
Psoriasis (Grade: D)
Overall, studies showed a lack of effect of carotenoids, including canthaxanthin, for psoriasis.