This Antioxidant Lays The Groundwork For Healthy Skin — Why You Should Be Using It
Your skin is a very impressive, resilient thing. It creates its own collagen, hyaluronic acid, squalene, ceramides, fatty acids—yes, all those things we love to apply to the epidermis via skin care products. However, there can be value in applying these back on the skin: The hard truth is that we slowly lose our natural supply of all of these nutrients as we age.
Well one underrated nutrient your body makes naturally is the antioxidant coenzyme Q10. Yes, your skin makes its own antioxidants1 to help fight off free radicals, support the barrier function, and relieve inflammation. And one of the most important that it produces is CoQ10, as it plays a vital role in cellular energy; just like other parts of our skin barrier makeup, it also declines with age.
It's becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in skin care products for of these reasons. In fact, I'd argue that it's one of the most important healthy aging ingredients on the market. Why? Well, CoQ10 lays the foundation for healthy aging skin. Allow me to explain.
CoQ10 is essential for healthy skin — what that means for your skin care routine.
As far as popular skin care antioxidants go, vitamins C and E tend to be some of the most famous. And over the past few years, niacinamide made a major name for itself as the new buzzy ingredient (even if it's nothing new in formulas). Well, CoQ10 is not as well known as these other ingredients but certainly deserves an esteemed place in formulas.
The coenzyme is a fat-soluble compound that's found in all your cells, skin cells included! It has a few functions in the body, including its role as an antioxidant. Antioxidants, as we've discussed, support the skin by neutralizing free radicals and helping stave off damage. They are one of the most important things you can use in skin care to prevent premature aging (this is why almost every skin care expert will encourage you to find yourself an antioxidant serum). And CoQ10 is distinct in the fact that it also protects against lipid peroxidation2, a process by which free radicals damage cell membranes.
However, that's not its only role—in fact, its other function is perhaps even more critical for youthful, thriving skin. Cells need the coenzyme to produce energy3. Here's how: It's used in the mitochondria, or the "powerhouse" of the cell, where it transports electrons along energy-producing pathways. The energy produced by these pathways is then used for normal cellular functions. Essentially: Your skin cells cannot do their jobs without CoQ10—it's a fundamental part of healthy skin.
As we noted, CoQ10 decreases with age, and with it mitochondrial activity and energy formation3 declines as well. Essentially, with time our cells become less capable of doing the things that keep skin thriving—such as producing collagen, elastin, keratin, and more—so it will sag, appear dull, and show other signs of aging.
However, research shows that applying it topically as part of a formulation significantly improved levels found in skin cells3—while also boosting the skin's free-radical-fighting abilities.
When we talk about skin rejuvenation, we really need to look at it at the cellular level. How can we support our skin cells with nutrients to help them function at their best, now and in the long term? CoQ10 is one of the most important ingredients to look for in skin care products, as it is the foundation for the rest of skin health to build on.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.