Cosmeceuticals are nonprescription skin care products that are thought to improve the function of skin and provide a more youthful appearance. The word is a combination of two words; “cosmetic” and “pharmaceutical”.
Cosmetics alter the surface of the skin by changing the color (mascara, blush) or the appearance of the skin. Cosmeceuticals, in contrast, are reported to alter the way that the skin cells grow and perform
Commonly used ingredients may fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Retinoids, such as prescription-strength tretinoin, are derived from vitamin A and can be applied directly to the skin. Topical retinoids are one of the most well-established and effective treatments to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles due to aging skin. Retinoids cause the skin cells to turnover more rapidly. Less potent cosmeceutical forms of vitamin A include retinol, retinaldehyde, retinyl palmitate, and retinyl propionate. Retinoids may cause skin irritation, dryness, and peeling.
- Hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid. These remove older skin cells (exfoliation) and make the skin appear younger and softer. Hydroxy acids can be added to daily-use moisturizers or can be incorporated into solutions used in dermatologists’ offices, such as chemical peels.
- Botanicals. These are active ingredients from roots, fruits, seeds, leaves, and other parts of a plant. These are sometimes referred to as “phytochemicals”.
- Antioxidants may be derived from many sources, including botanicals. Antioxidants help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamins C and E are the primary antioxidants in the body. These must be orally from fresh fruits and vegetables. Some cosmeceuticals include antioxidants, such as green tea, coffeeberry, pomegranate juice, chamomile flowers, and licorice root. Idebenone is a another antioxidant added to some brands of cosmeceuticals.
- Vitamins, such as biotin, vitamin E and derivatives of vitamin A (retinol)
Any product applied to the skin can cause possible side effects, including contact dermatitis. Allergic reactions occur most commonly in response to fragrances and preservatives.
Your dermatologist can recommend skin care products best suited to your skin type and personal needs.
Keep in mind that sunscreens remain the most important skin care product for maintaining healthy and beautiful skin.