In the crowded field of buzzworthy antioxidants, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is getting more attention for its ability to, in essence, stop the clock. Produced by the human body, CoQ10 (also known to aid in everything from obesity to infertility) strengthens cells, slows down tissue damage by helping to fight free radicals, and boosts cells’
mitochondrial energy. Yet after about age 30, CoQ10 naturally begins to decrease in skin cells, which blocks the skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin. This cues the skin to wrinkle and sag. To make up for its depletion in the body, the vitamin is extracted from natural sources and is now being more widely used in anti-aging skincare products.
“It really seems to work as an antioxidant—a sponge that absorbs energy released by free radicals,” says Neal Schultz, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. “The beauty of antioxidants is that they absorb the bad energy and then get destroyed, instead of the cells getting destroyed, which is what causes aging.” Calling it “one of the first antioxidants that was legitimately promoted,” Schultz says the dermatology field first started noting its efficacy more than a decade ago. He names CoQ10 as a favorite antioxidant along with vitamins C and E, and green tea.
CoQ10 arguably became more prevalent when pioneer Nicholas Perricone, M.D., began touting its benefits, naming it one of his top 10 super supplements. He recommends a minimum of 30 milligrams per day, though its topical uses are now being explored. Clinical studies have shown that six weeks of daily treatment reduces crow’s feet by 27 percent; after 10 weeks, it reduced fine lines and wrinkles by 43 percent. “The [ingredients] found in the skin are the ones you want to use in topical products to help restore it,” says Schultz. Lake Louise, founder and CEO of the skincare brand Lotus Moon, which uses CoQ10 in its power-packed Hyaluronic Intensive, states, “I’m moving into a direction of including, when appropriate, ingredients we take internally and finding ways to include them in serums to be applied topically.” She takes CoQ10 internally to help neutralize free radicals inside the body and also help the skin. “When you take it internally, it does all the work inside and doesn’t necessarily get to the skin,” explains Louise. “Applying it topically gets it directly to the skin.” Though, like a healthy diet or exercise, the results accumulate over time. “It’s not one of those things where you wake up and say, ‘my skin’s amazing,’” she says. “One of the things people need to understand is that antioxidants are a long-term plan.”
CoQ10 underscores a more modern philosophy in skincare, which is to build up the skin as it becomes thinner with age—the thicker the skin, the more resilient it is to creasing. Older technology, like products infused with collagen and elastin, known to some as the “fluff and puff” of skincare, is now being replaced by the more effective CoQ10. “Collagen can’t repair cells,” says Tina Zillmann, director of Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts, who began using CoQ10 in both her anti-aging treatments and her Cellular Solutions line, which launched about six years ago. KayDel Shelton, founder of The Myrtle Leaf, uses it in its highest recommended dosage of 3 percent (most range from 1 to 3 percent) in her Nature’s Chemistry Firming Eye Serum and newest product, Cranberry and COQ10 Super Antioxidant Firming Serum. “If it’s used at its proper percentage, you definitely will see the color,” which she describes as a rich orange or amber, similar to beta carotene (unless the powder has been bleached). Shelton says looking for a great CoQ10 product is “just like when you’re shopping for nutrients for your salad—the brighter fruits and vegetables are, the more antioxidants they have.” She recommends reading the ingredient list and making sure it’s in a base of pure botanical oils—it will penetrate into skin and be more effective rather than just sitting on top of the skin.
In part, it’s a partnership with hyaluronic acid that makes CoQ10 a superstar. “People started looking at ingredients that change the cellular structure by applying it topically, then adding hyaluronic gel or using ultrasound during treatment to help it penetrate,” says Zillmann. Because CoQ10 works inside the cell, she suggests pairing it with another ingredient like hyaluronic acid, which she says “plumps the skin like a drink of water,” producing an effective topical difference. For the all-in-one-cream ONE, which she developed about six years ago after working as a Hollywood makeup artist for actors on high-definition TV, True Promise Beauty founder Gail Johnson uses DMAE, a super firming agent, and hyaluronic acid, a true skin plumper, with the master antioxidant CoQ10. Hyaluronic acid along with DMAE, she explains, will boost whatever it attaches to, to 1,000 percent of its moisture value. “If a molecule is small enough, it will take whatever it attaches to and take it to the dermis from the epidermis,” says Johnson. “Antioxidants pumped into the skin are now getting to the cells, because we’re not just letting them sit on the surface. This particular combo of antioxidant and vitamin is going to boost energy and the life of stem cells by stopping radical damage to the cells.”
Though increasingly available in over-the-counter products, CoQ10 does some of its best work in the hands of knowledgeable estheticians. Cecilia Wong of the eponymous holistic skincare spa and product line in New York City offers an indulgent Omega and Vitamin C Treatment ($170, 60 minutes) that she recommends clients experience once a month. It features a potent antioxidant serum containing omegas 3, 6, and 9 and CoQ10. This nourishing cocktail helps reverse sun damage and brightens the complexion. While CoQ10 does its work under the skin’s surface, there are immediate visible results. “The skin is suppler, firmer, and just looks more awake,” says Wong. Julia March of Julia March Skin Care in New York City, who has been working with CoQ10 for nearly a decade, was sold on the ingredient after trying Luzern Laboratories’s hydrating Force De Vie Pure Oxygen Crème Luxe and Lotion. Since she began using it in her treatments, she says her clients have fewer visible lines and a brightened epidermis. “I look at their skin and think, gosh, they haven’t aged since I started seeing them almost 10 years ago,” says March.
CoQ10 is another step toward unveiling the power of antioxidants in anti-aging skincare. “Skincare is not like it used to be,” says Zillmann. “It’s very scientific and results-oriented. The technology now is incredible. I think this is the stepping stone of what you’re going to see CoQ10 in—more complex anti-aging routines.”—Brooke Showell
Jump on the antioxidant bandwagon with these products that showcase the anti-aging benefits of coenzyme Q10.
Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts Advanced Recovery Cream: Featuring natural and organic blended ingredients, this cream contains CoQ10, r-lipoic acid, and plant extracts that offer valuable antioxidant protection. (800) 689-0499; www.arcskincare.com
Biotone Facial Therapy MicroRefiner: With gentle crystals and micronized buffing beads to remove damaged surface cells, this formula includes CoQ10, which aids in firming and toning the skin. (800) 445-6457; www.biotone.com
Dermaesthetics Moisture B5 Serum: A concentrated moisture formula with a high concentrate of CoQ10, this hydrating serum boosts skin repair and reduces free radical damage. (213) 545-1266; www.dermaestheticsusa.com
Éminence Organic Skin Care Firm Skin Acai Moisturizer: This moisturizer nourishes skin with rich shea butter and skin-plumping hyaluronic acid. It features CoQ10 as part of its Biocomplex booster, which increases skin’s elasticity. (888) 747-6342; www.eminenceorganics.com
Christina USA Wish Night Cream: Containing a Q10 derivative that lightens skin and scavenges free radicals, this formula maximizes the enhanced rejuvenating environment of resting skin during sleep. (888) 604-6268; www.christina-usa.com
G.M. Collin Retinol Advanced: Working with the skin’s natural repair cycles to restore and hydrate, this cream is enriched with matrixyl and CoQ10 to help reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. (800) 341-1531; www.gmcollin.com
GloProfessional Peptide + Defense: This facial treatment contains ubiquinone, also known as CoQ10, as well as a blend of peptides and natural protectants to help revive the appearance of stressed and fatigued skin. (800) 232-0398; www.gloprofessional.com
HydroPeptide Face Anti-Wrinkle Repair and Prevent Treatment: Visibly reducing wrinkles with a potent blend of seven patented peptides and proteins, this treatment protects across a broad spectrum with a range of 16 antioxidants. It hydrates with plumping hyaluronic acid and brightens with natural licorice. (800) 932-9873; www.hydropeptide.com
Ilike Organic Skin Care Q10 Serum: This rejuvenating herbal oil concentrate is full of antioxidants and vitamins. Besides the alpha-beta-gamma carotene, bioflavonoids, and selenium, the Q10 coenzyme contains alpha-beta-gamma-delta tocopherols that serve as healing and regenerating agents. (888) 290-6238; www.szepelet.com
Image Skincare Ormedic Balancing Lip Enhancement Complex: Adding up
to 40 percent more moisture, this ultra-hydrating polypeptide lip complex dramatically enhances the appearance of lip contours with repeated use. (800) 796-7546; www.imageskincare.com
Lotus Moon Hyaluronic Intensive: This new formula is packed with alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, hyaluronic acid, and more to help reverse the damage caused by environmental factors. (888) 762-2667; www.smbessentials.com
Osmosis Pur Medical Skincare Replenish Antioxidant/Repair Serum: Replenish the skin and its army of free radical fighters with liposomal delivery of the most proven and potent antioxidants available. (877) 777-2305; www.osmosisskincare.com
Rhonda Allison Satin Peptide Serum: This formula blends a unique sequence of biomimetic peptides and CoQ10 to signal the skin to produce more collagen, reducing the signs of aging and free radical damage. (866) 313-7546; www.rhondaallison.com
SAIAN Amino-Lift Leave-On Mask: A potent anti-aging treatment that plumps the skin and improves skin’s elasticity, texture, and tone, this mask contains argireline, hyaluronic acid, and CoQ10 to protect the skin from free radicals and reduce and prevent fine lines. (800) 291-1130; www.saian.net
Sanítas Skincare Rejuven-A: This treatment combines retinol, CoQ10, and vitamin C to improve skin elasticity, tone, texture, and appearance. In addition, it’s safe for sensitive skin. (888) 855-8425; www.sanitas-skincare.com
Sesha Skin Therapy Optimum Cream: Ideal for hydrating normal to dry skin
in the winter months, this anti-aging cream relies on five antioxidants—
alpha-lipoic acid, CoQ10, and vitamins A, C, and E—to keep the skin youthful and healthy. (610) 355-2454; www.seshaskin.com