Access Dermatology

Facial Aging

As the US population continues to age and cosmetic procedures become more accepted, adults of all ages and socioeconomic status will seek to counteract the effects of facial aging. Today there are many nonsurgical cosmetic treatment options that can aid in rejuvenation, and more are being developed every year. To use these treatments effectively, physicians must understand the cellular and molecular events that result in an aged appearance, and be able to match the procedures and products available to certain types of wrinkles, folds, and furrows.

Dermal filler products are used widely for rejuvenation. Once the proper rejuvenation treatment has been chosen, optimal aesthetic cosmetic results can be achieved only with optimal administration techniques. Unfortunately, many dermatology residency programs have failed to emphasize the importance of these techniques.

Ask an Expert: Skin pigmentation and Cathaxanthin

Is Cathaxanthin a tanning pill?

My skin is losing pigmentation. I have been told that this is because my body is no longer producing melanin correctly. Is this true? I have also heard of a pill called Cathaxanthin. Is this going to help me, or is it just a tanning pill?

- Chris

Bryan's response:

First of all, as far as Cathaxanthin being a 'tanning pill', the answer is yes. Cathaxanthin is a fat soluble carotenoid that is brown/orange in color. It attaches in the fat layer just beneath the skin, where it gives this kind of pigmentation to the skin after reaching a sufficient level of saturation. As such, cathaxanthin is a good skin antioxidant, as it can help protect against the effects of sun damage, including UV rays. However, it is in no way stimulating the production, or action of melanin, as I had hoped. Therefore, I do not think this is the option you are looking for. Cathaxanthin can give artificial skin pigmentation, but this would only be a "cover-up", and not a solution to the true problem.

What is melanin?

Melanin is the pigment in the body that colors skin and hair. It is produced in cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are located in the top skin layer.

How is melanin produced in the body?

Melanin is produced through the enzymatic reaction of tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is a copper-containing enzyme that catalyzes melanin through the oxidation of tyrosine. Therefore, it is apparent that both tyrosine and copper must be present in the body in sufficient amounts for the reaction to be able to take place. If you are deficient in either of these nutrients, you can easily develop the symptoms you have described.

What else is involved in skin pigmentation?

Another very important nutrient for the pigmentation of hair and skin is Pantothenic Acid. Pantothenic Acid can be synthesized by the body from PABA, as can some other important pigment nutrients such as folic acid and B-12, but it may not be the best choice for this problem. The reason for this is that the body can best assimilate the Pantothenic acid in the form of Pantethine which yields CoA or Coenzyme A and the ACP or acetyl-carrier protein . It is this nutrient that has the best effect in the body (as far as pantothenic acid is concerned), since it is so highly absorbable.


I would recommend you have all the nutrients you know the body needs to produce pigmentation in order to have the best chance of allowing the body to perform its natural task of producing melanin. This includes making sure you get enough Tyrosine (whether you get it from phenylalaniune or not), folic acid, copper, and Pantothenic acid. Hopefully, this will give the body what it needs to oxidize the tyrosine and bind it with copper, thus yielding tyrosinase and then, melanin.