What Is Cosmeceutical? Does Cosmeceutical Differ From Any Other Cosmetics?

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Cosmeceuticals are essentially cosmetics, have been shown to demonstrate potential benefits for skin rejuvenation. They are called cosmeceutricals because even though they are cosmetics they do show some mild activity similar to that of a pharmaceutical cream so, Cosmetic + Pharmaceutical = Cosmeceutical.

But some doctors believe that Cosmeceuticals fall into the gray area between a product with no active ingredients (like plain old mineral oil) and a prescription drug that must be regulated by the FDA.

The term ‘Cosmeceutical’ is used by many skin-care companies, especially for products sold or endorsed by dermatologists, to give the impression that the products have more effective or more biologically active ingredients that just ordinary cosmetics. As more and more doctors get into selling or endorsing skin-care products, you will hear more and more about cosmeceuticals.

If the products were classed as pharmaceutical prescription creams, they would then be required to undergo extensive and expensive research and testing. However, there are many ingredients in cosmeceuticals that are at best confusing for shoppers and despite the new rules relating to the labeling of all important ingredients, it is very difficult for even the informed consumer to be aware of what the different substances do, are supposed to do, or in many instances fail to do.


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The FDA doesn’t recognize the cosmeceutical category, and this is where the extravagant claims come in. The term ‘cosmeceutical’ is not in any way regulated or controlled, and anyone can slap that label on their products to promote them as being more ‘medical’. Cosmeceutical is nothing more than a marketing term with illusions of grandeur. Even the FDA says cosmeceuticals don’t exist, and considers these products to be merely cosmetics with clever marketing language attached.

Although cosmeceuticals are not drugs, they can include ingredients that do really work. The difference is that manufacturers cannot claim that the cosmeceutical product in any way alters the structure or function of the skin. So you’ll see ads that say ‘may reduce’ or help reduce the appearance of fine lines’. Any claims more specific than that, such as ‘effectively repairs the skin’, would change the classification from unregulated OTC cosmeceutical to FDA-regulated drug.

Examples of cosmeceuticals

- Creams containing 5-10 per cent glycolic acid
- ‘Rejuvenating’ creams containing retinol or retinaldehyde e.g. Roc Retinol products
- ‘Rejuvenating’ creams containing vitamin C ingredients that probably increase collagen production, e.g. SkinCeuticals C

Do cosmeceuticals really differ from any other cosmetics? The answer is NO. It is because no matter how a product is labeled and marketed, as a cosmeceutical or otherwise, many skin-care treatments contain ingredients that affect the biological function of skin. The biologically actives ingredients to look for include antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, exfoliants, skin-lightening ingredients and intercellular substances (ingredients that mimic skin structure).

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