A synthetic antioxidant similar to coenzyme Q10. Idebenone got a lot of press as the best antioxidant going when Allergan launched their Prevage product. The study that showed idebenone has the antioxidant muscle to surpass others involved only 30 subjects, and compared idebenone to vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, and kinetin. The study did not, however, compare the effects of idebenone to many of the hundreds of other potent antioxidants that commonly appear in other skin-care products, nor did it compare the effects of idebenone with the effects of a combination of antioxidants. Perhaps a cocktail of antioxidants would far surpass idebenone—we don’t know. Interestingly, a study comparing the protective effect of idebenone on sun-exposed skin found it ineffective compared to topical application of vitamins C and E with ferulic acid, but this study was conducted in part by Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, whose Skinceuticals line sells an antioxidant serum with those very ingredients (Source: The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, May 2006, pages 1185–1187). Other published studies compared the red grape antioxidant compound reseveratrol and L-ergothioneine to idebenone and found both superior to idebenone (Sources: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 2-7 and September 2007, pages 183-188).

The world of antioxidants is far more complex than the mere handful that Allergan compared to idebenone. To date, there are still no published, peer-reviewed studies that support idebenone’s alleged superiority. This does not mean idebenone is not a valid antioxidant for skin. Given what we know about how ubiquinone performs in the body, it is definitely not a throwaway ingredient. What is fairly certain, however, is that it is neither the best nor most potent antioxidant around.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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