For many, a common goal is to maintain as youthful an
appearance as possible as we enter middle-age and
beyond. Certainly there are myriad topical cosmetic
products designed to do just that by reducing the
appearance of wrinkles. While such products are all
well and good, we should remember that what we put inside of
us is at least as important as what we put on the outside of us if
we want to reduce wrinkling. First and foremost, good nutrition
and eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidant-providing fruit
and vegetables is arguably the single most vital approach to
maintaining a youthful visage. In addition, there are two other
antioxidant nutraceuticals, which can also contribute to the goal
of reducing wrinkles. These are astaxanthin and coenzyme Q10.
Astaxanthin, a pinkish-reddish carotenoid derived from the
microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis and found in foods such as
salmon, trout, shrimp and lobster,1,2 has generated a great deal
of excitement due to the ongoing plethora of published research
validating a significant number of health benefits. Structurally
similar to beta-carotene,3 astaxanthin has tremendous
antioxidant activity. In fact, research4 has demonstrated that
the antioxidant activity of astaxanthin is approximately 10
times stronger than other carotenoids tested (e.g., zeaxanthin,
lutein, tunaxanthin, canthaxanthin, beta-carotene) and 100
times greater than those of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol).
This resulted in one researcher stating, “Astaxanthin has the
properties of a “super vitamin E.”5 Other research has also
demonstrated superior antioxidant activity of astaxanthin over
carotenoids and vitamin E.6
The cosmetic effects on human skin by four mg per
day astaxanthin orally were demonstrated in a single-blind
placebo controlled study7 using forty-nine U.S. healthy middleaged
women. Based upon dermatologist’s assessment and
instrumental assessment at week six compared to base-line
initial values, the results were more than a 50 percent reduction
in fine lines and wrinkles, about a 50 percent improvement
in the moisture content of skin, and more than a 50 percent
assessment of patients indicated a reduction of skin roughness
by more than 40 percent. The authors of the study also indicated
that astaxanthin may protect the fresh collagen in human skin
from oxidative stress such as singlet oxygen induced by UV
radiation (e.g. sunlight).
It is particularly notable that the study was performed
during winter and in Rockland, Maine, which is a harsh season and location that creates a very dry human skin condition.
Typically, this also makes it difficult to observe any significant
difference to the condition of the skin by using an oral dietary
supplement. The fact that astaxanthin supplementation
resulted in a noticeable and significant improvement in various
skin parameters, speaks well of the effectiveness of this
Similarly, the effects of six mg astaxanthin daily was
examined in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled
study8 involving 36 healthy male subjects for six weeks. The
results were that at week six compared to start, significant
improvements in two parameters, “Area ratio of all wrinkles”
and “Volume ratio of all wrinkles,” and there were also
significant improvements in elasticity of crow’s feet area and
transepidermal water loss.
Although structurally related to vitamin K, coenzyme Q10
(CoQ10) is not a vitamin, but rather coenzyme that helps to
utilize oxygen as part of its important role in cellular energy
metabolism. Research has also shown that CoQ10 functions
in a number of other beneficial ways including acting as an
antioxidant in scavenging free radicals which would otherwise
cause oxidative damage to body tissues.9 This reduction of
oxidative damage is especially important when considering that
this damage can extend to our DNA. Clearly DNA damage does
not bode well for maintaining a youthful appearance, and CoQ10
may help since clinical research has shown that this antioxidant
can help to reduce oxidative damage to DNA.10,11 In fact, CoQ10
is actually part of our skin’s strategy to protection itself.
Skin surface lipids (SSL) are a complex combination of sebum
and other materials, including small amounts of CoQ10, which
collectively act as the outermost protection of the body against
oxidative damage from external sources. CoQ10 levels increase
from childhood to maturity to decrease again significantly as
we age. In spite of its low in skin levels, CoQ10 helps to inhibit
the UV radiation (e.g., sunlight) induced depletion of other
important components of SSL,12 and positively influences the
age-affected cellular metabolism and enables to combat signs
of aging starting at the cellular level.13 Unfortunately, exposure
to increasing amounts of UV radiation was shown to lead to
lowering of CoQ10 levels by 70 percent.14 This makes a good
case for CoQ10 supplementation by people concerned with the
appearance of aging skin. My recommendation would be to
supplement with at least 100 mg of CoQ10 daily since various
studies have shown that this amount is capable of significantly
reducing oxidative damage.15,16,17
- Goodwin TW. Metabolism, nutrition, and function of carotenoids. Annu Rev Nutr 1986;6:273–97.
- Kobayashi M, Kakizono T, Nishio N, et al. Antioxidant role of astaxanthin in the green alga Haematococcus pluvialis. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 1997;48:351–6.
- Yuan J-P, Peng J, Yin K, Wang J-H. Potential health-promoting effects of astaxanthin: A high-value carotenoid mostly from microalgae. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2011;55:150–65.
- Miki W. Biological functions and activities of animal Carotenoids. Pure & Appl Chem. 1991;63(1):141–6.
- Naguib YM. Antioxidant activities of astaxanthin and related carotenoids. J Agric Food Chem. 2000;48:1150-4.
- Yamashita E. The Effects of a Dietary Supplement Containing Astaxanthin on Skin Condition. Carotenoid Science. 2006;10:91–5.
- Tominaga K, Hongo N, Karato M, Yamashita E. Cosmetic benefits of astaxanthin on humans subjects. Acta Biochim Pol. 2012;59(1):43–7.
- Pepping J. Coenzyme Q10. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 1999; 56:519–21.
- Niklowitz P, Sonnenschein A, Janetzky B, Andler W, Menke T. Enrichment of coenzyme Q10 in plasma and blood cells:defense against oxidative damage. Int J Biol Sci. 2007; 3(4): 257–62.
- Gutierrez-Mariscal FM, Perez-Martinez P, Delgado-Lista J, et al. Mediterranean diet supplemented with coenzyme Q10 induces postprandial changes in p53 in response to oxidative DNA damage in elderly subjects. Age (Dordr). 2012 Apr;34(2):389–403.
- Passi S, De Pità O, Puddu P, Littarru GP. Lipophilic antioxidants in human sebum and aging. Free Radic Res. 2002 Apr;36(4):471–7.
- Prahl S, Kueper T, Biernoth T, et al. Aging skin is functionally anaerobic: importance of coenzyme Q10 for anti-aging skin care. Biofactors. 2008;32(1–4):245–55.
- Passi, 471–7.
- Gül I, Gökbel H, Belviranli M, Okudan N, Büyükbaþ S, Baþarali K. Oxidative stress and antioxidant defense in plasma after repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise: the effect of coenzyme Q10. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2011 Jun;51(2):305–12.
- Sakata T, Furuya R, Shimazu T, Odamaki M, Ohkawa S, Kumagai H. Coenzyme Q10 administration suppresses both oxidative and antioxidative markers in hemodialysis patients. Blood Purif. 2008;26(4):371–8.
- Lee BJ, Huang YC, Chen SJ, Lin PT. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation reduces oxidative stress and increases antioxidant enzyme activity in patients with coronary artery disease. Nutrition. 2012 Mar;28(3):250–5.