Astaxanthin is unlike several carotenes and one other known carotenoid, is not converted to vitamin A (retinol) in the human body. Like other carotenoids, astaxanthin has self-limited absorption orally and such low toxicity by mouth that no toxic syndrome is known. It is an antioxidant with a slightly lower antioxidant activity in some model systems than other carotenoids. However, in living organisms the free-radical terminating effectiveness of each carotenoid is heavily modified by its lipid solubility, and thus varies with the type of system being protected.
Tanning pills are made up primarily of a nutritional supplement called astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is more commonly used as a food colouring rather than as a nutritional supplement.