The Skincare Ingredient Japanese Women Swear By (That You Haven't Heard Of)

Updated 09/03/19
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The hunt for firm skin is fervent, and it's one of the most sought-out side effects when looking for a good skincare product. Many ingredients claim to increase cell turnover rate and improve skin's elasticity, but as of late, we've been noticing a certain name popping up more and more when it comes to our skin's firmness: CoQ10. According to Refinery29, CoQ10 is nothing new. In fact, it's been a hero ingredient in Japanese beauty for years. So what exactly is it?

We asked Kayo Body Care co-founder Christine Bullock; Union Square Laser Dermatology dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD; HiQ Cosmetics owner Patrick Pickens; and plastic surgeon Michelle Yagoda, MD, to break it down for us. Here's what they had to say about CoQ10.

  • Type of ingredient: Antioxidant
  • Main benefits: Evens skin tone, reduces sun damage, improves skin hydration.
  • Who should use it: Generally, CoQ10 is safe for most everyone to use. However, those with vitiligo should consult their dermatologist before use.
  • CoQ10 can be used during your morning and night skincare routines. Apply it before you apply any heavy moisturizers.
  • Works well with: Aloe vera, vitamin C, vitamin B3, hyaluronic acid
  • Don’t use with: No known interactions.

What is CoQ10?

According to Bullock, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 for short) is a naturally produced bodily enzyme and one of the most fundamental antioxidants. "It produces around 95% of your body's energy, neutralizing free radicals that age the skin and keeping cells health," she says. When we're younger, she explains, we're able to produce as much CoQ10 as we need for energy. As we got older, aging and stress slow down the CoQ10 creation process, and our supplies diminish. Yagoda explains that as an antioxidant, CoQ10 neutralizes free radicals and reduces the effects of external stress factors like sunlight and pollution.

The ingredient has been around in the U.S. for a while, actually, but is having its moment now because consumers are getting smarter about skincare. "Many ingredients initially gain popularity in Japan prior to achieving the same status in the U.S. because Japanese consumers demand more research and development from manufacturers and lawmakers, they are more educated about products' effects, and consumers are more confident about efficacy at the time of purchase," says Yagoda.

"Asian markets tend to be on the cutting edge of skincare, with star ingredients being more readily accessible, earlier on, as the Asian consumer is better versed when it comes to skincare and the ingredients that go into their routines," says Idriss. "As a matter of fact, Asian beauty brands invest heavily in research and development alone, allowing them to come up with innovations faster than their U.S. counterparts."

Benefits of CoQ10 for Skin

While naturally occurring CoQ10 can be digested for energy, it can do a number of things in skincare products. In terms of skincare, it's usually in toners, moisturizers, and under eye creams, helping to even skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

  • Energizes cell activity: "This energy is needed to repair damage and make sure the skin cells are healthy," says Bullock. "Active skin cells get rid of toxins easily and can make better use of nutrients. When your skin ages, all these processes slow down, causing dull and sallow, wrinkled skin." CoQ10 can keep your cells active and energized, helping your cells rid themselves of toxins.
  • Reduce sun damage: "The skin is damaged by exposure to the sun's UV rays, which provides a source of free radicals, which can be damaging to the cells' DNA," says Pickens. "The potent antioxidant function of CoQ10 helps it to protect the skin at the molecular level from the damaging effects of the sun and from damage by free radicals."
  • Even out skin tone: CoQ10 works to block tyrosinase, which helps with the production of melanin. This means that CoQ10 can help fade and prevent dark spots.
  • Stimulate collagen and elastin production: "CoQ10 supports the bodies ability to produce collagen and elastin," says Bullock.
  • Replenishes skin cells: More energized skin cells means healthier skin cells! Adding CoQ10 to your skincare allows your cells to better utilize other nutrients, leading to healthier skin overall.
  • Helps reduce damage of free radicals: Since CoQ10 aids in cell activity, it also means that your cells are more efficient in flushing out toxins like free radicals and healing the damage they cause.
  • Helps soothe skin: While toxins are being flushed out, your skin is silently thanking you. CoQ10 works to help your cells remove what's irritating cells and your skin.
  • Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines: This ingredient helps your body produce collagen and elastin, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Side Effects of CoQ10

While topical application is generally suitable for all skin types, you might want to take caution if you have certain skin conditions. "If you have a history of vitiligo, approach topical CoQ10 products with caution," says Idriss. "CoQ10 has been shown to block an enzyme known as tyrosinase, which is necessary for creating pigment. By blocking it, it may lead to worsening of depigmentation in those who suffer from vitiligo."

When it comes to side effects from ingesting CoQ10, they're rather mild. Some people might experience upset stomach or heartburn, but to be safe, always consult a doctor before you add a CoQ10 supplement to your diet.

How to Use It

The good news is that it is pretty safe to mix with other ingredients. "We have found that CoQ10 works great with a lot of other ingredients and products," says Pickens. "We have countless clients that apply our CoQ10 facial serum after prescription retinoids (Retin-A, etc.). In addition, as aforementioned, we believe it is great to apply before and after sun exposure." You can find it in toners, moisturizers, and under eye creams, and it's even a great ingredient for overall body creams and lotions.

Yagoda says to mix with similar ingredients for best results. "Because CoQ10 is fat-soluble, it mixes best with like ingredients," she says. "It may be broken down more quickly when combined with retinol or glycolic acid."

The Best Products With CoQ10

Coq10 skincare benefits
Eucerin Sensitive Skin Experts Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Face Creme $8
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"It's fragrance-free, alcohol-free, non-comedogenic, and gentle enough for sensitive skin," says Idriss. Plus, it's packed with vitamin E and beta carotene for softer, smoother skin.

Kayo Body Beautiful Creme
Kayo Better Body Care Body Beautiful Creme $56
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Made with CoQ10 an açaí, noni, mangosteen, and pomegranate extracts, this will not only make your skin feel super nourished, but also make a noticeable difference in complexion.

Coq10 skincare benefits
HiQ Cosmetics Facial Serum $125
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"Our HiQ CoQ10 Anti-Aging Facial Serum is actually the most concentrated CoQ10 anti-aging facial serum on the market," says Pickens. Mixed with organic green tea extract, vitamins, and other antioxidants, it protects the skin from free radical damage while also healing skin from it.

CoQ10 skincare benefits
Gold Bond Ultimate Restoring Lotion $8
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"It's a good option for the neck, décolletage, and even body, as it's a little thinner and spreads easier," Idriss says about this Gold Bond lotion. While most people want to smooth and hydrate the skin on their face, it's always a good idea to treat the rest of your body, too.

Body Merry Super C-22 Moisturizer
Body Merry Super C-22 Moisturizer $20 $19
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This moisturizer is lightweight, but it's filled with tons of super ingredients. CoQ10 is the star ingredient, but it also boasts vitamin B3 and B5, aloe vera, and jojoba oil. Not only does it help fade hyperpigmentation, but aloe and jojoba moisturize and smooth skin.

Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner
Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner $34
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A cult-favorite, this Indie Lee toner contains no alcohol and soothing ingredients like aloe, chamomile, and cucumber. It also has hyaluronic acid to help keep skin moisturized. To incorporate this into your routine, simply wet a cotton pad with the toner, swipe it on, and then apply your serums or moisturizers as you normally would.

Herbivore Phoenix Facial Oil
Herbivore Phoenix Facial Oil $88
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Byrdie editors love this lightweight facial oil from Herbivore, which has a base made of rosehip oil and sea buckthorn oil. It's on the pricey side, but a little bit of this oil goes a long way. Three to four drops makes your skin look glowy AF, and it also moisturizes and evens out your skin tone.

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