What Are Cosmeceuticals?

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Cosmeceutical is a term derived from the merger of the two words – cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. In simple terms, cosmeceuticals are cosmetic products possessing bioactive ingredients with medical benefits. Cosmeceutical products act both as cosmetics and medicines. The bioactive ingredients in these products are beneficial to humans in some way. Currently, cosmeceuticals have taken over the personal care industry.

History of cosmeceuticals and their regulations
The term cosmeceuticals was popularized by Dr Albert Kligman of the University of Pennsylvania. The aim of coming up with such a term was to describe a hybrid category of cosmetic products that offer pharmaceutical as well as aesthetic benefits. The aptness of the term gained status as it represented a specific breed of cosmetics that provided effects beyond simple cosmetic enhancement. However, it fell short of qualifying for a pharmaceutical or drug. With the discovery of new active ingredients, the scope of cosmeceuticals has been expanding.

Though the United States FDA doesn’t recognize cosmeceuticals as a separate category of products, these are accepted in many countries as unique skincare products. Even the European Union doesn’t recognize cosmeceuticals as a separate category of cosmetic products. Thus the cosmeceutical brands must comply with the product standards as per the local regulators to sell the products in American, European, Australian, and Asian countries.

Cosmeceuticals and its ingredients
Cosmeceutical products are composed of essential minerals, vitamins, and proteins. The products fall into one or more application categories, i.e. antioxidants, sunscreens, retinoids, peptides, botanicals, proteins, skin-brightening agents, and hydroxyl acids.

Most cosmeceuticals share several common ingredients including antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, sunscreens, botanicals like green tea extract and aloe vera, and several other essential oils. Moreover, all cosmeceuticals and cosmetics contain similar ingredients for creating the texture of the products. The common ingredients include emulsifiers (for liquid products), water, lipid or mineral-based thickeners, and pigmentation products like beet powder, charcoal, and iron oxide.

Cosmeceuticals and their function
Cosmetic products are topical products applied directly to the skin. These cosmetics are applied on the epidermis- the top layer of skin. These products don’t promote long-term change. The cosmetics are formulated to alter the skin’s appearance for the short term and in the particular applied area.

However, the cosmeceuticals act on multiple layers of the epidermis. The cosmeceutical products are applied topically on the skin by rubbing. The active ingredients are absorbed by the second layer of the skin, the dermis. These products typically contain high amounts of active ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. Moreover, cosmeceutical products contain active ingredients that target different layers of the skin. These active ingredients work effectively for reducing healing scars, and signs of aging, removing wrinkles, protecting from sun rays, preventing acne, and keeping the skin moist.

Cosmeceuticals contain multiple minerals and vitamins along with several other active ingredients which are similar to pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products. Though cosmeceutical products are not prescribed, many dermatologists recommend these for people struggling with different skin conditions.

Though not recognized by the FDA, the cosmeceutical industry relies on skincare and beauty demands. The cosmeceutical industry occupies a significant share between cosmetics and medical-grade skincare products. An array of cosmeceutical skincare products containing active ingredients is available in the marketplace offering visible effects for everyone without any prescription.

Classification of cosmeceuticals
A wide variety of cosmeceuticals are available in the market. The products emphasize their ingredients. Apart from the ingredients, the function or effect categorizes the products. Cosmeceutical products may contain different active ingredients or ingredients that are formulated to be gentle on the skin. The active ingredients or ingredients selected for sensitive skin types tend to be different from the regular ones used on cosmeceutical products. The selected ingredients undergo rigorous screening to ensure the formulation of safe products. The increasing screening of ingredients has led to an increase in formulations of different new products catering to the rising need for safe cosmeceutical products.

Cosmeceuticals and their usage
Cosmeceutical products are for everyone and don’t need a doctor’s prescription for usage. However, people need to avoid using products with certain ingredients or need to use products containing certain active ingredients to keep their skin healthy. Such specialized products need to be selected considering the skin condition. In such cases, a doctor might recommend the right product. The specialized cosmeceutical products include moisturizers and cleansers for people with cystic acne.

Moreover, specialized cosmeceuticals are not limited to skincare products. A wide array of hair care, makeup, lip care, and nail care products are also available. People with chronic skin conditions must remain more concerned about selecting the products to avoid increased risks of infection. However, cosmeceuticals hold more importance than just skincare products. Cosmeceuticals are predominant in lotions, exfoliators, toned sunscreens, cleansers, and moisturizers over similar products in the cosmetic industry.

Cosmeceuticals have emerged as a new form of dermatological medicine. However, the products must meet several regulations regarding their production, sale, and use. Though not fully regularized, it remains safely regulated. Meanwhile, the potential toxicity of some crucial chemical components used in cosmeceuticals can’t be ignored.

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