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Wrinkle Reduction & Skin Protection With Astaxanthin & CoQ10

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.Moreover, 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,3astaxanthin has tremendous antioxidant activity. In fact, research4 has demonstrated that the antioxidant activity of astaxanthin is approximately 10 times stronger than other carotenoids tested 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 on 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 nutraceutical.

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.

Coenzyme Q10
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.13Unfortunately, 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