4,4-diketo-beta-carotene, Beta,beta-carotene-4,4-dione, Cantaxantina, Cantaxantine, Canthaxanthine, Carophyll Red, CI Food Orange 8, Colour Index No. 40850, E161, Roxanthin Red 10.


Overview Information

Canthaxanthin is a dye that is similar to the chemical that makes carrots orange. It occurs naturally and can also be made in a laboratory. People use it as medicine.

Canthaxanthin is used to reduce sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity) experienced by people who have a rare genetic disease called erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP). In these people, sunlight can cause skin reactions such as rash, itch, and eczema. Canthaxanthin is also used to reduce sun sensitivity caused by certain medications and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Orobronze (canthaxanthin) is sold in Canada as a nonprescription "tanning pill." In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved tanning pills containing canthaxanthin. Nevertheless, these products seem to be readily available to people in the U.S. through mail order and tanning salons.

In foods, canthaxanthin is used as food coloring and is added to animal feed to improve the color of chicken skins, egg yolks, salmon, and trout.

In manufacturing, canthaxanthin is used in cosmetics and in medications.

How does it work?

Canthaxanthin is a dye similar to the carotenes in vegetables such as carrots. It deposits in the skin to produce an artificial "tan." It might protect against sun sensitivity through antioxidant activity.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • An inherited disorder marked by sensitivity to light (erythropoietic protoporphyria or EPP). Taking canthaxanthin by mouth, with or without beta-carotene, seems to reduce rash, itching, or eczema caused by sensitivity to sunlight exposure in people with EPP.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • A type of lupus that mainly affects the skin (cutaneous lupus erythematosus or CLE).
  • Skin rash caused by sun exposure (polymorphous light eruption or PMLE).
  • Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis).
  • A skin disorder that causes white patches to develop on the skin (vitiligo).
  • Sun sensitivity caused by certain medications.
  • Itching caused by the sun.
  • Artificial sun tanning.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of canthaxanthin for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Canthaxanthin is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in food amounts. However, it is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in amounts needed for artificial tanning. Some people who have taken canthaxanthin for these purposes have experienced eye damage and vision loss.

At high doses, canthaxanthin has caused a serious, potentially fatal blood disorder called aplastic anemia. Canthaxanthin can also cause diarrhea, nausea, stomachcramps, dry and itchy skin, hives, orange or red body secretions, and other side effects.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Canthaxanthin is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for pregnant or breast-feeding women when taken by mouth in small medicinal amounts. It's LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large amounts needed to produce a tan. It can cause eye damage and other harmful effects.

Vitamin Aallergy: People who are allergic to vitamin A and related chemicals called carotenoids might also be sensitive to canthaxanthin.



We currently have no information for CANTHAXANTHIN Interactions.



The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For an inherited disorder marked by sensitivity to light (erythropoietic protoporphyria or EPP): 60 to 90 mg of canthaxanthin daily on average for three to five months per year.

View References


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