This ingredient is the new skincare powerhouse you’ve never heard of

We'll tell you why it's worth the high price tag.


Colette Bennett


Posted on Mar 28, 2019   Updated on Mar 17, 2022, 6:30 am CDT

Skincare worshippers, listen up: if you’re on the lookout for products with super-potent ingredients, consider astaxanthin benefits. If you’re like “asta-what?” that’s alright. You don’t need to know how to pronounce it to sop up all the goodness it has to offer.

Those of you who swear by the Korean beauty routine know that what’s in your skincare is very important. Snail mucin, arbutin, propolis, and vitamin C and E are just a few of the ingredients skincare junkies have learned to rely on. Knowing how powerful they are, how would you feel hearing that there’s an antioxidant on the market that has 550 times more antioxidant activity than vitamin E…and 6,000 times more than vitamin C?

It exists, and you can smear this youth potion all over your face right now.

What is astaxanthin?

This powerful keto-carotenoid is naturally found in rainwater microalgae and created as a byproduct of stresses like excessive sunlight. When taken in supplement form, it has a myriad of benefits: eye, brain, and heart health improved athletic performance, and increased protection against UV radiation. Athletes also rely on it for faster recovery from workouts and to prevent muscle damage. Current studies also suggest that it could even help dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

Thanks to clinical studies conducted over the past few years, we now know that Astaxanthin has a truckload of advantages when used as a skincare product, too. It restores radiance to dull-looking skin, increases blood flow, and addresses elasticity, wrinkles, dark spots, and dryness.

Why haven’t I heard about astaxanthin sooner?

Probably because it’s best known as a supplement for athletes and it hasn’t been recognized as a heavy-hitter in the skincare market…yet. One of the only reputable brands that are worked with it until now is the Japanese skincare mainstay DHC. But a newly launched Korean product line called AZN Labs champions astaxanthin as one of its key ingredients, and they claim it’s so potent that no 10-step skincare routine is needed when you use it. I am 100 percent here for that, so I knew I had to give it a try.

Astaxanthin benefits in one week

As my past posts about Korean beauty have attested, I personally swear by the 10-step routine and have had success with it for years. So while the idea of reducing the number of steps/products in my routine is tempting, I’m extremely skeptical that a single product can outperform the results of layering products. The only way to get a conclusive answer was to spend time with it and see the difference, so I set out on a week-long test with the Afterglow Ampoule.

At a $150 price point, it certainly qualifies as a luxury skincare product, something that I typically do not reach for. I’ve always firmly believed there are usually cheaper skincare products on the market that can achieve similar results.

But if it can replace several steps in my routine, that would mean buying fewer products. Since the average price of my current skincare product is usually between $30-40 for each and I use 7-9 products in my typical routine, the cost of a high ticket product like the Afterglow Ampoule may be equivalent in the end (if not cheaper).

The Afterglow Ampoule comes in VERY fancy packaging. If you want to feel like you’ve truly treated yo’self, it’s very effective. The rose gold box comes tied with a beautiful ribbon and the ampoule itself comes in a bed of “diamonds.” But most exciting of all is the instruction card, which tells me to wash my face and apply toner, then mix a drop of the ampoule in with my favorite serum or moisturizer, and I’m done. That saves me no less than four steps of my usual routine: AHA, essence, emulsion, and serum– and that’s not including a sheet mask.

When it comes to naturally gorgeous skincare products, the Afterglow Ampoule is pretty seductive. Best of all, that vivid peachy-orange is straight from nature–it’s the same pigment that helps give carrots their color. The viscosity falls somewhere between an oil and a serum, and it does take a little while to absorb fully into the skin (on me, about 5-10 minutes). In the meantime, you have that super healthy skin glow that you’ve pined over while marathoning all those K-dramas.

The formula also contains several other skincare ingredient faves such as arbutin and ferulic acid. Since I am over 40, my top skincare concerns are to keep my skin hydrated in order to prevent the formation of wrinkles and replenish elasticity. The Afterglow Ampoule claims to address both concerns, so I decided to scale my routine back to follow the instructions to a T. For a week, all I did was cleanse, use a toner, then mix the ampoule with my moisturizer and apply.

The product does give your skin a glorious glow immediately after application, which does eventually fade. But AZN Labs promises that the Afterglow Ampoule’s effects take some time to show, which is the same rule with most high-quality skincare products, so I was most curious about the appearance of my skin a week into use. I was extremely pleased to see that on day seven I noted the glow was present hours after I’d applied the product. The results were favorable, so I am looking forward to seeing its long-term effects (increased collagen production and fading dark spots per AZN Labs). And since astaxanthin has badass UV-blocking properties, your skin will get an extra boost of protection from the sun (but don’t stop using your sunscreen because of it!).

The verdict: Astaxanthin works

After spending a week with the Afterglow Ampoule, I have to say the product lives up to its promises. My overall skin tone is brighter, the appearance of my fine lines has lessened, and my skin has a radiant glow. I didn’t know anything about astaxanthin before using this product, but it’s absolutely on my radar now. The effort AZN Labs put into the Afterglow Ampoule shows, not just in its elegant packaging and presentation but in the mirror when I do my routine. And it’s clearly been a success for them because hydrogel eye and lip patches were just added to the line. Between these three products, my skin looks absolutely radiant.

While many skincare products promise major results with a big price tag, this one is actually worth it–much to my surprise! With so my affordable, effective products on the market, I never felt the bigger spend was worth it, but the AZN Labs collection challenged that. Rather than have to spend 20-40 minutes on my morning and evening skincare routine, I can cut it down to less than ten with the ampoule. I do spend 15-20 minutes if I do the eye or lip patches, but they’re easy to wear while doing other things.

If the prices are too rich for you, you have a few other options. DHC does make a gel-based cream that features astaxanthin and collagen, and if you’re not worried about purchasing from a known brand, Amazon has a few other serums and creams that contain the antioxidant as well. However, we have not tested any other products with astaxanthin, so we cannot vouch for their results.


The Daily Dot may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article. Click here to learn more.

Share this article
*First Published: Mar 28, 2019, 12:22 pm CDT