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TRUE COSMETICS BEING TRUE


The Genie in a Bottle: Making Sense of Cosmeceuticals

(press release from AAD)

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NEW YORK (October 18, 2006) * Cosmeceuticals seem to be the fabled genie in the bottle  able to grant almost any wish that you may have for your skin, whether you want it to be smoother, more radiant or younger-looking.  In a market that gives consumers more and more choices, how can you decide whether the ingredients in that bottle are right for you?

Speaking today at the American Academy of Dermatology's (Academy)   Academy, dermatologist Diane S. Berson, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and assistant attending dermatologist at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, discussed how consumers can find the right ingredients for their specific needs.

"Cosmeceuticals are cosmetics that may have pharmaceutical or drug-like properties," Dr. Berson said.  "Like cosmetics, cosmeceuticals are applied just to the surface of the skin, but instead of only covering up a problem, they may be able to help fix it.  They are commonly found in such products as eye creams, moisturizers, cleansers and foundations."

Antioxidants
The skin is constantly exposed to harmful environmental forces such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation, air pollutants, heat and cold.  Besides these external factors, the skin also has to cope with internal forces such as the aging process and free radicals.  Free radicals are molecules that injure the skin's cells, causing inflammation, increasing sun damage and contributing to the development of skin cancer.  
Antioxidants can reduce the harmful effects of free radicals and protect the skin from additional stress and damage. 

Common examples of antioxidants include vitamins A, B, C and E, co-enzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), idebenone, polyphenols and flavonoids such as green tea and soy extracts, and kinetin, a synthetic hormone derived from plants.

"Products that contain antioxidants can be particularly beneficial for people who are concerned about fine lines and wrinkles," Dr. Berson said.  "To get the best results, consumers should look for a product that combines antioxidants."

Peptides
Peptides are small proteins that stimulate the production of collagen and thicken the skin.  "They can be helpful for someone who wants to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," Dr. Berson said.

Growth Factors
Growth factors are compounds that act as chemical messengers between cells and play a role in cell division, new cell and blood vessel growth, and the production and distribution of collagen and elastin.

"Growth factors have been used extensively for treating wounds," Dr. Berson said.  "Research has shown that they can improve elasticity, so these ingredients can be beneficial for someone who wants to firm loose skin."

Anti-Inflammatories/Botanicals
There are a variety of botanical, or plant-based, ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties.  Among these are licoclalcone A (licorice extract), lycopene, pycnogenol (pine bark extract), silymarin (milk thistle), quercetin, allantoin (comfrey root), chamomile and aloe vera.  All reduce inflammation, while some, like lycopene, also have antioxidant properties and may help prevent the development of skin cancer.

"Botanicals are helpful for people with rosacea, sensitive skin or sun damage since they can reduce redness and swelling," said Dr. Berson.  "Some, such as lycopene, also offer the benefits of antioxidants without the drawbacks of irritation."

Hydroxy Acids
While the benefits of alpha and beta hydroxy acids have long been known, poly hydroxy acids (PHAs) are the next generation of hydroxy acids.  The significant difference between PHAs and the older ingredients is that their acids have larger molecular structures, which allows them to penetrate the skin more slowly, decreasing sensitivity and discomfort without hampering effectiveness.

"If you have dull, rough skin, PHAs can make the skin brighter and smoother," Dr. Berson said.  "They also help draw moisture into the skin, which can minimize dryness and the look of fine lines and wrinkles."

Beyond the Hype
Although cosmetics and cosmeceuticals are tested for safety, testing to determine whether beneficial ingredients actually live up to a manufacturer's claims is not mandatory.  In general, vitamins, herbs, oils, and botanical extracts may be used in cosmeceuticals, but the manufacturer may not claim that these products penetrate beyond the skin's surface layers or that they have druglike or therapeutic effects.  For cosmetic labels, all ingredients are listed together and the active ingredients are not noted. 

"When considering a cosmeceutical product, it's important to read the label and determine what's in the product," Dr. Berson said.  "Look for products that reference clinical trials or show actual before and after photos.  Also, don't be fooled into thinking that a more expensive product from a high-end department store will be better than a cheaper one from the drug store."

Dr. Berson cautioned that some cosmeceuticals make claims that they do not back up with clinical trials.  "No cream or lotion can do what a prescription medication or dermatological procedures like botulinim toxin, fillers or laser/light treatments can," Dr. Berson said.  "Cosmeceuticals can be combined with dermatological treatments, but they do not replace them.  If you have concerns about your skin's appearance and are not sure what to use, it's best to consult a dermatologist before purchasing a cosmeceutical."

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations.  With a membership of more than 15,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails.  For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org


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