Both Geeks and Beauty-Buffs alike have no doubt heard of common anti-ageing ingredient that is coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10 from now on), but how much do we really know about how it works? Also known as ubiquinone or ubidecarenone (we’ll stick with CoQ10 thanks!), coQ10 is an oil-soluble substance and is found in most animal cells, usually in the mitochondria (energy houses of the cells). Due to its chemical formula C₅₉H₉₀O₄, CoQ10 is known as an organic molecule (one that’s packing a lot of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen), and takes part in a process known as the electron transport chain, the major pathway by which chemical energy is generated within cells.

This energy created within cells is vital for their growth and maintenance, making CoQ10 particularly important for cells in the body with a high energy demand. CoQ10’s extra job as an antioxidant also makes this mighty little molecule key in processes that protect against cellular damage. Deficiency in this crucial molecule arises as the result of autosomal recessive mutations (that require the inheritance of abnormal gene types from both parents) and can increase the risk of several diseases including cardiovascular diseases, mitochondrial disorders, diabetes and cancer. As a treatable condition, diagnosis of CoQ10 deficiency is key to providing early treatment via oral administration, where several scientific studies have shown correlations between CoQ10 supplementation and improvements in most of its associated diseases. Because of this, CoQ10 supplements at doses between 30-200mg can be taken by those who suffer such diseases to boost levels of that friendly coenzyme and alleviate symptoms.

Of particular interest in the cosmetic industry however, is CoQ10’s role as a skin-protecting antioxidant that can help to fight both visible and non-visible signs of ageing. It does so by buffering the damaging effects of free radicals which are unstable and harmful molecules that can result from normal metabolic functions, but are most commonly associated with exposure to those unfriendly UV rays (to learn more about how free radicals and anti-oxidants work, check out our past feature here!). Whilst we all love a bit of sunshine, the fact that too much sun is a fast track way to prematurely aged skin is inescapable in today’s society, and the word ‘antioxidant’ seems to feature in most popular age-defying products.

It is scientifically proven, however, that CoQ10 levels do in fact naturally decrease as we age, and this decrease can be partly blamed for both intrinsic and extrinsic ageing (this just means ageing that occurs as the result of both our genetics and our lifestyle). As we’ve mentioned, exposure to sun in particular can be bad news for ageing skin, with large amounts of exposure depleting our natural levels of CoQ10 as it tries to deal with all those free radicals, and so keeping CoQ10 levels in check is crucial for opposing signs of photoageing such as skin blotchiness, roughness and fine wrinkles. So what’s the solution? Well, studies at the University of Maryland Medical Centre found that – unlike sunscreen molecules – topical application of CoQ10 can cause a build-up of this antioxidants in the skin over time, making its protective effects potentially longer-lasting than some popular SPF-containing everyday products – ah so this is why we get face creams enriched with CoQ10; clever little coenzyme!

The natural decrease in this antioxidant as we age is also thought to be one of the key reasons that older people develop chronic diseases, and the fact that CoQ10 plays roles in many other cellular processes means that providing cells with sufficient levels of this molecule is vital for maintaining cellular health in older people, a reason why older people can take CoQ10 as a supplement to support overall health.

So there we have it – from medical to anti-ageing benefits, there’s no denying that CoQ10 is one molecule we can’t get enough of! So next time you’re looking for age-defying sun protecting products, check out the bottle and see if our little friend is inside!


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