antioxidant skincare benefits of coenzyme q10

What are the benefits of Coenzyme Q10 for skin? I remember seeing this ingredient all over Nivea creams when I was a teen – and Nivea was the only thing I could afford on my non-existent skincare budget. Then, it sort of disappear from the skincare radar for a while… only to make a comeback when we all realised Coenzyme Q10 is one of the hero ingredients in Japanese skincare. Word on the street is, it helps skin prevent premature wrinkles and age slowly. Who doesn’t want that, am I right? So what’s the lowdown on Coenzyme Q10 for skin: does it really have what it takes to fight wrinkles or is it just another hyped up antioxidant? Let’s find out:

What Is Coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10, also called CoQ10 for short or Uniquinone, is an antioxidant and naturally produced bodily enzyme found in every cell of the human body, including skin. “A coenzyme is a substance that enhances or is necessary for the action of enzymes, generally smaller than the enzymes. CoQ10 is vital in energy production in cells,” explains Vanessa Thomas, founder of Florida-based Freelance Formulations.

Its job is to produce energy for the body but it’s its side hustle that has propelled it to fame. Coenzyme Q10 also has antioxidant properties that keep wrinkles away from your face. Like all other good substances in our bodies, your skin produces a ton of Coenzyme Q10 when you’re young. It reaches its peak production when you’re a teen and begins to decline after 20! As you get older, your body produces less and less of it.

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Benefits Of Coenzyme Q10 For Skin

I’ve already mentioned this in passing, but let’s go deeper now. Here are all the benefits of Coenzyme Q10 for skin:

1. It’s A Powerful Antioxidant

Antioxidants are helpful little molecules that fight free radicals, the nasty buggers that give you dark spots and wrinkles. Your body produces a small amount of free radicals through metabolic processes like breathing as well as a natural store of free radicals to neutralise them.

Problem is, that’s not enough these days. Free radicals are also caused by unprotected sun exposure, pollution, a diet rich in processed foods… Pretty much daily modern lifestyle. Your skin’s natural antioxidant defences aren’t enough anymore.

Coenzyme Q10 gives your skin a helping hand. It neutralises free radicals before they can wreak their damage on your skin, helping it ages slower and keeping wrinkles away from it for longer.

FYI, Coenzyme Q10 is a great antioxidant, but it shouldn’t be used alone. Just like your body doesn’t only need kale, your skin doesn’t need only Coenzyme Q10. The more antioxidants you use in your skincare routine, the better you’ll age.

Related: The Best Antioxidants In Skincare Products: Which Ones Should You Use?

2. Coenzyme Q10 Reduces Sun Damage

Even the best sunscreen let between 1 and 2% of UV rays hit your skin. As soon as they touch your skin, those pesky UV rays start generating free radicals, leading to wrinkles, saggy skin, and dark spots. By using skincare products with Coenzyme Q10, you neutralise some of the free radicals and the damage the sun inflicts to skin. It works by “decreasing the collagen degradation of skin and interdicting the damage caused by photo-aging,” explains Thomas.

3. Coenzyme Q10 Helps To Fade Away Dark Spots

A 2019 study published in Biochemical Pharmacology shows that “CoQ10-induced anti-melanogenic effects were mediated by down-regulation of melanogenic regulatory genes and the induction of anti-oxidant defense mechanisms.” However, this happened in vitro (not on real skin).

We don’t know if or how well Coenzyme Q10 fades away dark spots when topically applied. But I know this: if it were as effective as common treatments, such as Alpha Arbutin or Azelaic Acid, we’d know. So use Coenzyme Q10 for its wrinkle-fighting properties and enjoy the extra, mild skin-lightening benefits. But don’t rely on its single-handedly to fade away your dark spots.

Related: The Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is Best At Treating Dark Spots?

4. Coenzyme Q10 Stimulates Collagen Production

Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin firm. You guessed it: the more collagen your skin has, the firmer it is and the fewer wrinkles it has. Unfortunately, just like Coenzyme Q10, its natural production decreases overtime. Adding Coenzyme Q10 helps your skin produce more collagen. A 1999 German study shows that using Coenzyme Q10 regularly reduces oxidative damage and could reduce crow feet. Although it’s not as effective as retinoids. But hey, every little bit helps, right?

Related: 7 Science-Backed Ways To Replenish Lost Collagen

How to Use It 

Coenzyme Q10 is a common ingredient in serums and moisturisers. If it’s in a serum, apply it after cleansing/exfoliating, but before moisturiser. If it’s in a moisturiser, it’s the last step of your skincare in the evening. In the morning, it goes in between serum and sunscreen. Also, it mixes well with pretty much every skincare ingredients, especially antioxidants. The more you use, the merrier your skin is, remember?

How Often Should You Use It?

Coenzyme Q10 is so gentle, you can use it up to twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Who Should Use It?

Anyone who is concerned about anti-aging and isn’t sensitive to it, has vitiligo, on chemotherapy, or taking medicine for cholesterol and blood pressure. Read the next section about side effects to understand why.

Side Effects Of Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is safe for most people. If you have super sensitive skin, there’s the risk it may irritate it (what doesn’t?). But even then it’s rare. So who should be careful?

“If you have a history of vitiligo, approach topical CoQ10 products with caution,” says dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD. “CoQ10 has been shown to block an enzyme known as tyrosinase, which is necessary for creating pigment. By blocking it, it may lead to worsening of depigmentation in those who suffer from vitiligo.”

Also, if you’re having chemo or taking blood thinners or other meds for cholesterol and blood pressure you should consult with your doctor before adding Coenzyme Q10 to your skincare routine.

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Coenzyme Q10?

Nivea may have made Coenzyme Q10 famous, but I’m not a big fan of the brand. They use only the odd antioxidant while I prefer products that are loaded with them (and other goodies). Like those below:

  • Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner ($38.00): I don’t think you need a toner in your routine, but if you want to use one, this is a great option. In addition to Coenzyme Q10, it’s loaded with hyaluronic and soothing agents that makes skin softer, reduce irritations, and prevent wrinkles. Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Indie Lee, Nordstrom, and Ulta.
  • Mad Hippie Face Cream ($26.99): A nourishing cream for dry skin that uses natural oils to moisturise skin and a bunch of antioxidants to prevent premature wrinkles. Available at iHerb and Ulta.
  • Nourishing Skin Firming Body Lotion w/ Q10 and Vitamin C ($13.99): I’m not a huge fan of Nivea, but they put Coenzyme Q10 on the map, so they deserve a special mention. This rich lotion strengthens the skin’s protective barrier, banishes dryness, and has a sprinkle of antioxidants to prevent premature wrinkles. Available at Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster ($49.00): One of my fave skincare products, it’s loaded with niacinamide and antioxidants to prevent wrinkles, brighten skin, and shrink pores (it made mine invisible!). Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Net-A-Porter, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK.

The Bottom Line

Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that helps you keep wrinkles away for that little bit longer. Just don’t use it alone. It’s way more powerful when it hangs out with his antioxidant friends.