Cosmetic Skin Care: Cosmetics, Cosmeceuticals, or Drugs?
The answer to this question is to ask “What is the product intended to do”? This is the criteria FDA uses when classifying a product as a “cosmetic” or “drug”. The term “cosmeceutical” is not recognized by FDA and therefore there are no standards by which these products are manufactured and evaluated.
Cosmetics—these products are intended to effect the “appearance” of skin and the majority of moisturizing cosmetic skin care products fall in this category. When skin is well hydrated, there are fewer superficial wrinkles; when the barrier is healthy, there is less sensitivity to external irritants. When cosmetic skin care products are discontinued, the skin will return to its previous state.
Cosmeceuticals—this term was created in the 1980’s when many doctors and cosmetic skin care specialists discovered that certain ingredients (peptides, antioxidants, growth factors, vitamins, retinol, kojic acid, AHAs, BHAs, etc) had profound beneficial effects that went beyond moisturizers. Many clinical tests have shown the benefits of cosmeceuticals; however, they are still considered cosmetics with no FDA regulatory guidelines for manufacturing or testing. This does not mean they are not effective; in fact, cosmeceuticals are a major part of advanced, clinical and cosmetic skin care. It’s important to know the “intended” use of the product and how the “active” ingredients penetrate and accomplish the benefits. Healthy skin has a barrier that slows and/or prevents penetration of ingredients so many products will simply sit on the surface and render no beneficial results other than moisturizing. Beware of any products that claim to effect or change deep structures such as fat and muscle cells; these products are drugs. Cosmeceuticals can indirectly effect skin function and/or structure. For instance, exfoliants remove the outer layer of dead skin causing faster renewal that results in a clearer, more even toned complexion; antioxidants help protect cell membranes from deterioration; retinol may convert into a weaker form of beneficial retinoic acid; and kojic acid can help reduce excess pigment without affecting the pigment cell. The science behind cosmeceuticals changes almost daily as newer and more effective ingredients are discovered. The key to any cosmeceutical is to purchase products from a trusted source.
Drugs—these products directly effect structure and/or function of the skin, are controlled by FDA guidelines, and most are prescribed by a physician. All labels must list active ingredients and concentrations separate from non-active ingredients. The most common drug is OTC sun protection which does not require a prescription. Another common topical that does require a prescription is Tretinoin (retinoic acid), or Retin-ATM and its derivatives, which changes the structure and rate at which cells differentiate (or mature). Another drug is hydroquinone used to lighten skin and directly effects the pigment cell (melanocyte). Many studies have found this ingredient causes cytotoxicity and its use should be under doctor supervision; in fact, all drug related topicals should be under supervision since misuse can lead to permanent damage to the skin; however, when used properly, can be part of a successful cosmetic skin care regimen.
So the bottom line with skin care products is to have a professional help you determine what is best for your skin type and make sure you have a reputable source for cosmetic skin care products.
Jilleen Hoffman, our Clinical Aesthetician, with over 25 years of medical aesthetics experience provides complimentary consultations as does Dr. Mike Majmundar, our board certified facial plastic surgeon, to determine the right combination of cosmeceuticals and drugs that may be right for your skin. Call 770-475-3146 for your consultation today.