CoQ10 Is a Powerful Antioxidant for Your Skin

Anti-Aging Medicine
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Anti-Aging Medicine
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Key Takeaways

  • In the U.S., CoQ10 supplements are often marketed for their heart health benefits, but CoQ10 is also a popular skin care ingredient in Asia.
  • Like vitamin C, CoQ10 is an antioxidant that can fight skin-damaging free radicals. Some research suggests it can reduce visible signs of aging.
  • Experts say CoQ10 creams and moisturizers can be used alongside retinols to brighten skin, reverse sun damage, and promote collagen production.

Coenzyme Q10, also called CoQ10 or ubiquinone, is an antioxidant widely used in Japanese anti-aging skincare products. Most CoQ10 supplements in the United States are marketed for heart health and fertility, but CoQ10 might belong in your skin care routine as well.

“CoQ10 isn’t talked about near as much as other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, but it is a very important molecule in the skin,” Patricia K. Farris, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine, told Verywell in an email.

This molecule plays a key role in the mitochondrial electron transport chain—a series of reactions in the mitochondria, or “powerhouse” of the cell, that create energy for your cells.

Your body can naturally make CoQ10, but these levels drop as you get older. This drop in CoQ10 means “there is less efficient energy production by cells” which in part “contributes to aging,” according to Farris.

In addition to its role in energy production, CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant and can neutralize unstable molecules, or free radicals, that are formed when the body is exposed to certain factors like UV light and cigarette smoking.

“Free radicals damage proteins like collagen and elastin, cell membranes, and DNA directly. They also turn on the production of enzymes that degrade collagen further damaging the extracellular matrix of the skin. This contributes to wrinkles and sagging of the skin,” Farris said.

Some researchers suggest replenishing CoQ10 lost from the natural aging process with supplementation might slow visible signs of aging. However, most evidence comes from small sample sizes or mice studies, so more research is needed.

How Should You Use CoQ10 for Skin Care?

Jennifer Baron, MD, FAAD, FACMS, a double board-certified dermatologist based in San Jose, California, said that CoQ10 offers protection in the topmost layer of the skin.

Topical products that have CoQ10 can be absorbed directly into the skin and “will immediately act to reduce the aging effects of the sun,” and they’re likely to have an anti-aging effect if applied daily, Baron added.

A 2015 study with 73 women ages 20–66 found that topical CoQ10 treatment can increase antioxidant capacity and reduce free radicals in stressed skin.

According to Baron, CoQ10 pairs well with other antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients too. For example, retinol and CoQ10 are both fat-soluble, and if used together, they can penetrate through all layers of the skin.

“Retinol, green tea, and vitamin C are the bigger players in protecting and brightening the skin, reversing sun damage, and promoting collagen production. But it’s the CoQ10 that builds them up with more power and better entry into all layers of skin,” Baron said.

Oral CoQ10 supplements are also available, and this antioxidant is found in dietary sources like meat, fish, nuts, and some oils. A 2016 study with 33 participants also found that a daily dietary supplement of CoQ10 led to fewer fine lines and wrinkles.

But this doesn’t mean CoQ10 supplements are a miracle cure for wrinkles.

“It will not rebuild collagen or elastin that is lost, but it may slow down its destruction,” Baron said.

What This Means For You

CoQ10 supplements are considered safe. but they may cause interactions if you’re on chemotherapy and certain medications. It’s best to check with your healthcare provider before you start taking new supplements.

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