Vitamin C; Retinol; and, of course, Hyaluronic acid – when it comes to addressing the typical skin changes (e.g., wrinkles, fine lines, or dark spots) associated with aging, no other skincare ingredients hog the limelight like these three do. But it appears that there may be a (somewhat) new kid arriving on the block: Coenzyme Q10.
Why the “somewhat”, you ask? Well, while Coenzyme Q10 may seem like a novel ingredient that’s popped out of nowhere, the truth is that it’s been heavily featured in Japanese beauty for years. Then again, though … that probably still doesn’t answer the many questions you have about it. For instance, just what, exactly, is it? And more importantly, what benefits are there in using Coenzyme Q10 for skin? Keep reading to find out.
What is Coenzyme Q10?
Be honest: isn't it tiring to read "Coenzyme Q10" repeatedly throughout the text? The whole experience may even dredge up snippets of chemistry lessons for you. Thankfully, the compound goes by a shorter name: CoQ10.
So, back to business. What you need to know about CoQ10 is that it’s a naturally occurring nutrient present in almost every cell of your body. As a result, CoQ10 plays several critical roles in the body. One of CoQ10's primary functions is energy production; more specifically, CoQ10 is involved in making adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which you can think of as an "energy-carrying" molecule. And another crucial role of CoQ10? It also serves as an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from oxidative damage (1).
But wait a minute – something doesn’t quite add up here. What’s the point of adding CoQ10 into skincare products when the body is already capable of producing it naturally? Good catch. Yes, your body produces CoQ10 naturally. Unfortunately, though, research shows that levels of CoQ10 in the body begin to decrease with age (with life’s daily stressors playing a significant, contributing role, too) (2). This explains the need for you to supplement through products to reap all that CoQ10 skin benefits.
Benefits of Coenzyme Q10 for skin
Which would then … help you do what, exactly? As you’ll come to see in a while, tons.
#1: Protects skin against oxidative stress
Before talking about what “oxidative stress” is (and what it does to your skin), it helps to dive into the meaning of another term: “free radical”. Free radicals are any molecules in your body that contain an unpaired electron – which makes them very unstable (i.e., highly reactive) and keeps them looking for other compounds (e.g., cells) to bind to.
It's worth noting that free radicals aren't necessarily destructive on their own. In fact, it's perfectly normal for you to have at least some level of free radicals in your body because they are natural by-products of metabolic processes like eating and exercising. In addition, free radicals can play essential roles in the body, such as inter-cell signaling.
The problem only arises because exposure to environmental stressors – including UV rays and air pollution – can also generate free radicals in the body. Over time, these “excess” free radicals can start to break down cellular structures, including DNA and cell membranes.
This is what we know as oxidative stress – which, unfortunately, spells disaster for your skin. Specifically, a prolonged state of oxidative stress can contribute to the loss of collagen and elastin fibers, resulting in fine lines, sagging, and textural changes. And that’s where using CoQ10 for skin comes in.
As an antioxidant, CoQ10 helps neutralize these damaging free radicals; working against accumulated oxidative stress (3). Thus, explaining the following CoQ10 skin benefits: a more youthful-looking complexion that comes complete with plump skin.
#2: Promotes an even skin tone
Can’t wait to get rid of those dark spots on your face? CoQ10 could be the next skincare ingredient to add to your routine. But here's what you need to know first: dark spots (or hyperpigmentation) are due to the overproduction of melanin – a dark pigment primarily responsible for your skin color – by melanocytes. This extra melanin can be triggered by several factors, including sun exposure, skin irritation, and even the natural aging process.
So … where does CoQ10 come into play for your skin? On a biological level, CoQ10 works by inhibiting an enzyme called tyrosinase, which aids in the production of melanin (4). And naturally, lower levels of tyrosinase translate into less melanin. Bye-bye, dark spots; hello, even skin tone.
#3: “Energizes” the skin cells
As mentioned earlier, CoQ10 helps cells produce energy for growth and maintenance. That includes your skin cells. Meaning? Getting more CoQ10 can help replenish your body's ability to make healthy and strong skin cell membranes, which can then protect against various environmental damage – including harmful UV rays, artificial blue light, and air pollution – by restoring the skin barrier.
Besides, healthier skin cells are also more "willing" to soak up all the goodness found in your skincare products, which means you'd be getting the most out of them. Bottom line: CoQ10 can help promote a healthy, glowing, and firm complexion by enhancing your skin’s natural ability to operate as a protective barrier.
Side effects of Coenzyme Q10
The topical application of CoQ10 is generally suitable for all skin types. This means you’re most likely ready to reap the whole host of CoQ10 skin benefits. That said, individuals with a history of vitiligo (a long-term condition where pale white patches develop on the skin) should consult a dermatologist before using CoQ10-containing skincare products. Due to its tyrosinase-blocking action, CoQ10 can lead to a worsening of depigmentation in people with vitiligo.
Of course, as with any skincare ingredients out there, results and reactions to CoQ10 may vary. Thankfully, there’s a simple way to gauge whether you can tolerate using CoQ10 for your skin.
It's called the spot test or the patch test. Apply it to a less noticeable, small patch of skin, and observe what it does with your specific skin's chemistry. If you don't experience any pain, burning, or itching after 24 hours, you're all good.
How to use Coenzyme Q10 for skin
CoQ10 can be found in nearly every type of skincare product: cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, and even under-eye creams. But … will CoQ10 “play nice” with other active ingredients found in your existing skincare routine? The answer is a resounding yes.
In fact, CoQ10 may even enhance the collagen-boosting, brightening, and revitalizing effects Vitamin C (another potent antioxidant) has on the skin (5, 6). You can also choose to pair it with other antioxidants, including Retinol (i.e., Vitamin A), Niacinamide, and Vitamin E.
With that concern out of the way, here comes another: when, exactly, should you fit CoQ10 into your skincare routine? That depends on the specific type of product you’re using. When applying skincare, the rule of thumb is to apply the lightest first and the heaviest last, which explains the following order:
- Cleanser: Remove your makeup and wash your face with a non-stripping cleanser (like our Kangaroo Paw Cleansing Gel).
- Toner: Apply your toner of choice after cleansing. For a refreshing skin boost, give Reset + Refresh Kangaroo Paw Toning Mist a go.
- Serum: Massage a few drops of serum (e.g., our Hyaluronic Acid + Collagen Serum) into your face.
- Eye cream: Since eye creams tend to be lighter and thinner than moisturizers, make sure to apply them before you slather on your creams and oils. If you’re still looking for a suitable eye cream, why not try our Age Defying Lemon Aspen Botanical Eye Cream?
- Moisturizer: Be sure to use a moisturizer – always. Use Kangaroo Paw + Vitamin C Moisturizer during daytime; then pamper your skin with our Midnight Recovery Kangaroo Paw + Vitamin C Overnight Cream as you catch your beauty sleep.
- Sunscreen (daytime): Sunscreen acts as a shield against the outside world (so you don't end up applying all those products on your face for nothing).
Coenzyme Q10 for skin FAQ’s
Is CoQ10 vegan?
CoQ10 can be produced via three methods: 1) extraction from biological tissues (typically from animal meat), 2) chemical synthesis, and 3) microbial fermentation (7). But growing environmental awareness has made the first two CoQ10 production methods less desirable because of the inherent uses of solvents and chemicals in the process. So that leaves us with microbial fermentation – which means that most of the CoQ10 you see in skincare products would be vegan.
Although … it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The best way to tell if your selected skincare product is vegan is to scan its label and packaging. Look for the “Certified Vegan” logo. And just so you know: all of Terrakai Skin’s products are formulated with vegan CoQ10. In fact, all our products are vegan.
Is CoQ10 good for anti-aging?
Yes, anti-aging is one of the best CoQ10 skin benefits. As a potent antioxidant, the topical application of CoQ10 for skin helps to neutralize the effects of oxidative stress, which can then do everything from smooth fine lines to fade dark spots to tighten the skin.
What is the best form of CoQ10?
The form in which CoQ10 comes in (i.e., serum, lotion, or moisturizer) doesn’t nearly matter as much as its concentration. While there aren’t many studies done on the best concentration of CoQ10 for anti-aging, a handful of trials suggest that you’d do best with products that contain at least 0.3% of the active ingredient (8).
Can CoQ10 be combined with other ingredients?
Yes, it’s safe to use CoQ10 for skin with other ingredients (i.e., no known interactions). In fact, it's known to work great with a whole host of other ingredients and products. Just make sure to always let your products dry completely on the face.