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If you’re interested in some of the new skin creams containing idebenone (pronounced “e-d-be-known”) and want to know how much science is behind this “new” ingredient, the short answer is “a lot”.
Idebenone is a synthetic chemical analog of ubiquinone, more commonly known as Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10. Both are powerful antioxidants.
In the 1970s, researchers were studying the potential of CoQ10 to reduce risk of heart failure and free radical damage, as well as to slow progression of some neurological diseases. The results were so encouraging that they began synthesizing analogs of CoQ10 to see if they could boost its effectiveness. Thus was born idebenone.
Taken internally, idebenone is currently used to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke. It increases: brain and physical energy levels; mental clarity; and brain levels of serotonin and nerve growth factor. It protects cells and inhibits inflammation. It acts to protect the heart and the brain’s myelin sheath and mitochondria. It has no toxic side effects.
It was decades before cosmetic companies began looking at antioxidants’ effectiveness in topical applications. Clinical trial after clinical trial showed them to be very effective in stopping and even reversing free radical damage to the skin caused by the sun’s UV rays, as well as by the body’s own internal processes.
In short, as we age and accumulate exposure to UV rays and other environmental stressors, the body loses its capacity to fight off free radicals.
Its natural defenses are simply overwhelmed. Antioxidants can replace some of the lost defenses. They function by disarming marauding free radicals. This not only prevents further damage but allows the skin to put more resources into cell regeneration.
Not all antioxidants are equal. They vary in potency. Some have negative side effects. Some are pro-oxidant as well as antioxidant. Idebenone is the current darling of antioxidants because it is more powerful than other known antioxidants; it has no known negative side effects; and it does not develop oxidative activity with continued use.
Results of a clinical trial of various antioxidants were presented at the February 2004 annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. The results rank-ordered the six antioxidants tested from most effective on down. Heading the list was idebenone, followed by vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, kinetin, and alpha-lipoic acid.
One cream containing idebenone is Idebenol (pronounced “ee-deb-in-all”) developed by Sövage Dermatologic Laboratories.
Sövage conducted a clinical trial on a group of 20 women whose average age was 67. After three months of use, their average skin renewal rate was equivalent to that of a 29-year old. The skin thickened. Lines and wrinkles diminished significantly. Texture improved and the skin retained more moisture.
If you decide to go shopping for idebenone creams, be sure to check the ingredient list. Various ads and websites tout products as having idebenone which do not. Some contain its analog, ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10).
Others contain more common antioxidants, such as vitamin C or E. This is truly puzzling because some of the offending products contain other excellent and state-of-the-art antiaging ingredients. Yet their marketers have apparently decided to try to falsely latch onto the “idebenone craze”.