What exactly is C60? 

Carbon 60 (C60) was an exciting find when it was discovered back in 1985. In fact, the scientists who first found it were awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry(1)

C60 is a generated nanoparticle that has a hollow structure similar to that of a football. The official name of C60 is buckminsterfullerene, but it’s also casually referred to as a “buckyball” because of its round shape–which is way easier to wrap your head around. It has a closed structure, similar to that of a cage. But- it is completely human made: so how did it come to exist? 

In 1984, three scientists were trying to understand the unique structure and behaviour of carbon in red giant stars in interstellar gas clouds. Just another day in the office...In their experiment, they used lasers to vaporise graphite to form carbon clusters. During their experiment, significant results emerged: the team found a previously unknown molecule of pure carbon, which–when vaporised–formed a peak of sixty carbon atoms.  

The scientists discovered that this unknown molecule (C60) formed very readily, without the use of any other element to bond it together, and exhibited extraordinary stability in that it didn’t react with any other molecules(2).

The team worked hard to replicate this structure: carbon molecules stacked in hexagonal sheets to form a cage-like structure with no dangling bonds. Sixty, it turned out, was the only number of atoms that could form a nearly perfect sphere, just like a football.  

So, whether you know it as buckminsterfullerene, ‘’buckyballs’’, carbon 60, Fullerene C60 or just C60, one thing’s for sure: it’s a very interesting little compound for medical researchers. Because of its shape and stability, C60 has been used as a vessel for delivering compounds or genes, and in 2011, it was even used as a cage for the HIV virus, inhibiting the virus from replicating(3).  

C60 is made up of 60 carbon molecules–hence its name. You can’t find it in foods or other matter, it’s manufactured in a lab by vaporising carbon (a natural molecule) in highly specific conditions. These conditions enable the carbon molecules to break apart so they can re-bond together to form C60.  

Antioxidant activity of C60  

The presence of free radical species in the human body is natural, but their overproduction may be harmful and cause serious diseases. There has been extensive research on the development of free radical scavengers for biomedical applications. One such scavenger is the fullerene, which is known for being considerably more effective than conventionally used antioxidants at mopping up free radicals(4)

Fullerene is a form of carbon, a large spheroidal molecule consisting of a hollow cage of sixty or more atoms, of which buckminsterfullerene C60 was the first known example. 

Studies have found that C60 hunts down free radicals to protect cells from oxidative stress caused by factors like ultraviolet light(5); when it accumulates in the cell’s mitochondria, C60’s activity increases as it sweeps away any unstable atoms(6).  

Fullerenes (like C60) have also been found to get to tissues quickly, making them great for carrying compounds to certain “tricky” tissues, such as the liver, which repels water. In addition, the ability of fullerenes to effectively scavenge unstable atoms within a living organism is a huge bonus with drug transfer, meaning that fullerenes can also protect the organism from any unwanted side effects of the administered drug(7).  

C60 also helps the body replace four critical antioxidants that decrease through the ageing process—Glutathione, Catalase, COQ10 and Superoxide Dismutase—all of which are crucial for the production of energy in cells(8).

In fact, C60 is known to be much stronger than vitamin C when it comes to reducing inflammation. It’s for this reason that C60 has become a bit of a hero ingredient in the supplement industry, with brands taking advantage of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functionality.  

One such brand is Wizard Sciences, the pioneers behind Evolve Rx–a supplement designed to support cellular health and reduce oxidative stress in the body. Wizard Sciences’ products are specially formulated by inventor, biochemist and pharmaceutical developer Ian Mitchell, who has worked with NASA astronauts and Olympic athletes, helping them to level up their performance. All the products are of the highest quality and bioavailability to ensure they are absorbed by the body and delivered to precisely where they need to go.  

Another carbon-based product is Carbon60 Plus, formulated by 360 Health. This supplement too is created from a patented proprietary that binds C60 with cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil for double the antioxidant power.  

Why bind it with olive oil, we hear you cry? 

Binding C60 with a fatty oil like olive oil helps prevent it from dissolving in water and enables it to pass through your small intestine, where it is distributed throughout the rest of your body and somatic cells to help manage inflammation.  

In short, it’s just a more effective way of getting it to where it needs to go in the body.  


There have been several clinical studies into the aesthetic effects of C60. In one study, conducted with twenty-three Japanese women in their thirties, the women were enrolled in an eight-week trial assessing the anti-wrinkle efficacy of squalane-dissolved C60 fullerene.  

The blended cream was applied twice daily on one side of the face. Researchers discovered that the cream reduced skin roughness by a significant margin, and that the percentage of wrinkled area was significantly reduced in the fullerene/squalene cream-treated area compared to the placebo-treated area(9)

In another scientific review published by Biomedical Research International, researchers discovered that C60 travels between the inner and outer membranes of a cell’s mitochondria, ultimately acquiring a positive charge and reducing the intensity of free radical production. This antioxidant action suggests why C60 is gaining hype as a hero molecule in skin care products: by mopping up the free radicals causing inflammation–which impedes the skin’s renewal process–the skin can more effectively repair itself(10).

In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, C60 fullerene has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activities. A 2016 study published by the Journal of Nanobiotechnology observed the therapeutic effects of a water-soluble form of fullerene C60 in ROS (reactive oxygen species)-dependent inflammation.  

A C60 solution was administered to mice suffering from atopic dermatitis, and the results showed that C60 was able to restore functionality of the skin barrier, shifting immune response from Th2 cytokine production to increased Th1 cytokine production(11).

The takeaway 

Since C60 was discovered in a lab 30 something years ago, it’s been studied for its potential use in a variety of medical and scientific purposes, but most research hasn’t yet included humans–aside from a few anti-aging studies. Here’s what we do know:  

1. C60 is a manufactured nanoparticle, made purely of vaporised carbon clusters.  

2. In 1984, three scientists discovered it when trying to understand the unique structure and behaviour of carbon in interstellar gas clouds. A few years later, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their breakthrough. 

3. Its official name is buckminsterfullerene, but it’s nicknamed “buckyball” for short, because its circular, closed structure is similar to a football ball.  

4. It’s also known as Fullerene C60. Fullerene is a form of carbon, a large spheroidal molecule consisting of a hollow cage of sixty or more atoms (hence the name C60), of which buckminsterfullerene was the first known example. 

5. The cage-like shape makes C60 ideal for transporting compounds and DNA into tricky-to-reach tissues, like the liver, but it’s also a powerful antioxidant.  

6. Numerous studies have found that C60 scavenges harmful free radicals to protect mitochondria from oxidative stress, caused by factors like ultraviolet light or environmental stressors.  

7. C60 also helps the body replace four critical antioxidants that decrease through the ageing process—Glutathione, Catalase, COQ10 and Superoxide Dismutase—all of which are crucial for the production of energy in cells. 

8. It’s an even more potent antioxidant than vitamin C, making it a sought-after molecule in skincare and inflammatory skin treatments.  

There’s still plenty more research needed to fully understand its benefits, but we have a feeling it’s going to be a key player in the future of ageing, inflammation, and the treatment of inflammatory diseases. If you want to supplement with it, we suggest checking out Wizard Sciences Evolve Rx, where it’s dissolved in extra virgin olive oil for easier use and to enhance its transportation.  

Keep an eye out on the Functional Self, as there’s a high chance you’ll start to see C60 popping up in some of our skincare partner brands too.  

Want to know even more? Wizard Sciences have a great podcast all about C60 and mitochondria. Check it out here