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The Genie in a Bottle: Making Sense
(press release from AAD)
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."
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 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 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."
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
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
Knowledge is Power.
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