Coenzyme Q10 is a nutrient similar to a vitamin that is found naturally in the human body. Vital to human life, coenzyme Q10 plays an important role in the cellular respiration process, which generates 95 percent of the energy used by the body to support life. Coenzyme Q10 is found in all organs in the body and is most concentrated in the heart, liver and kidneys.
During its natural manufacturing and use in the human body, coenzyme Q10 undergoes molecular changes and exists in three different states, each of which has its own name (ubiquinone, ubisemiquinone and ubiquinol). Sometimes, coenzyme Q10 is referred to by one of these names or by its other nicknames Q10 and CoQ.
The discovery of coenzyme Q10 occurred in 1957 with the work of Professor Fredrick L. Crane and his team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A year later Dr. Karl Folkers properly identified the chemical structure of the nutrient. Inquiry into the health benefits of coenzyme Q10 did not widely occur until the 1980s, and as a result, the nutrient did not begin appearing in skin care products until the 1990s and early 2000s.
Studies of coenzyme Q10 have concluded that the ingredient has antioxidative properties. This means that the nutrient helps protect the body from the damaging activities of free radicals. These particles are present in ultraviolet light and throughout the air and cause cellular damage when they come in contact with the body. Previous research has found that the damage caused by free radicals (sometimes called oxidative stress) is what drives the aging process in the body.
Coenzyme Q10 is one of the body's natural defenses against oxidative stress. Studies have found that orally supplementing the body's supply of coenzyme Q10 can offer numerous health benefits for heart health, eliminating migraine headaches, easing the suffering from cancer treatments, lowering blood pressure and even extending one's lifespan. Investigations have also concluded that topically applying coenzyme Q10 to the skin can be beneficial as well.
One recent study into the skin benefits of coenzyme Q10 occurred in the labs of Beiersdorf AG in Hamburg, Germany. The team of researchers there found in 2011 that the topical application of the ingredient helps to delay the appearance of expression lines on the complexion and can prevent premature aging. The study also showed that coenzyme Q10 helps to reduce the loss of the skin structural protein collagen that occurs naturally as we age, suggesting that products that contain the ingredient may make the skin firmer and tighter.
Coenzyme Q10's antioxidative benefits have led to its inclusion in many anti-aging skin care products. The ingredient is used widely in skin systems intended to prevent aging and to make existing wrinkles less noticeable. The nutrient is also used in stand-alone skin care treatments, such as masks, serums and lotions. Most skin care experts agree that in order for a product to offer real benefits it must contain a concentration of at least.5 percent coenzyme Q10. Consumers should carefully read the labels of anti-aging products that reportedly use the nutrient as an active ingredient to ensure that they contain at least this amount.
Numerous studies, including one completed at the ReGenera Res Group for Aging Intervention in Italy in 2012, have also found that coenzyme Q10 offers sun protective benefits. In particular, coenzyme Q10 helps to prevent cellular damage caused by ultraviolet A energy waves, which cause skin discoloration, damage that results in wrinkles and some forms of skin cancer. The nutrient does not absorb the energy like a sunscreen, but instead, acts like a cellular shield, making it a useful supportive ingredient to boost the effectiveness of the active ingredients in sunscreen formulations.
Skin care companies are working to improve the effectiveness of anti-aging and sun protective products that contain coenzyme Q10. One recent advance in skin care science that has helped to improve coenzyme Q10 products is nanotechnology, the practice of creating extremely small particles of the nutrient that have the same potency as standard size molecules. Skin care products that contain these nanoparticles are more easily absorbed by the skin tissue. As a result, they often deliver more coenzyme Q10 to the middle layers of skin, where the healthy living cells that require the nutrient are located.