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New Wave in Skin Care Products: Cosmeceuticals!


  • Combining the benefits of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, cosmeceuticals contain ingredients that help improve ’s appearance by aiding in the delivery of essential skin nutrients
  • Retinoids are derivatives of the skin care vitamin A and are often used in many anti wrinkle skin care cosmeceutical products
  • Hydroxy acids like alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid are the second most popular ingredients in cosmeceutical products and are effective as anti aging skin care treatment because of their skin tightening properties
  • Antioxidants, vitamins C and E, panthenol and coenzyme Q are other popular cosmeceutical ingredients

Cosmeceuticals are the link between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, uniting properties from both. The FDA does not recognize cosmeceuticals and the term “cosmeceutical” has no meaning under the law. However, many pharmacuetical companies are manufacturing cosmetic products that have the benefits of standard cosmetics and the properties of some drugs. By doing so, the business of cosmeceuticals has been widely accepted and is growing rapidly.

Several products are being manufactured today with the use of cosmeceutical ingredients, such as moisturizers and anti-aging treatments. Cosmeceuticals are likely to contain active ingredients like vitamins, enzymes, phytochemicals, essential oils and antioxidants. In addition to the pharmacuetical ingredients, these products are also composed of certain ingredients that help in influencing the biological functions of our skin. These ingredients are a great aid in improving the appearance and delivery of essential nutrients to the skin that help maintain the skin’s vitality.

Cosmeceuticals are now one of the leading segments of natural skin care and the customer base is expanding. This could be that people have realized the difference between standard cosmetic products and cosmeceuticals, which offer many benefits.

Some of the widely used cosmeceutical ingredients are as follows:


Retinoids are widely prevalent in the skin care business. Found in most living organisms as carotenoids or preformed vitamin A, retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A. Retinol (another form of vitamin A) is an essential ingredient and is the prototype of all existing retinoids. The effects of retinol are that it helps in proper growth, bone development. Retinol also helps strengthen and maintain the integrity of the epithelial surfaces and the mucosal surfaces.

Hydroxy Acids

Hydroxy acids are second to retinoids in being the most sought-after cosmeceutical products. Hydroxy acids are normally formulated in lower concentrations and are widely available in the mass market of cosmesceuticals. Hydroxy acids are organic forms of carboxylic acids and can be classified into two acid categories – AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxyl acids). This classification is based on the molecular structure of the compounds.

Alpha Hydroxy acids can vary between simple aliphatic compounds to more complex molecules. Commonly known to be fruit acids, they can be derived from natural resources. There are various AHAs including: lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid and malic acid.

AHAs are often used for anti-aging treatments. By helping the skin appear more uniform and also maintain smoothness, AHAs have been shows to help the signs of aging to decrease. With such healing properties, the AHAs not only cause the decrease signs of aging, they also enhance epidermal shedding. It has been claimed that AHAs promotes the synthesis of GAGs, while also promoting elastic fiber’s quality and increasing collagen density. However, this supportive evidence reached by scientists is still incomplete and debateable.

Beta Hydroxy acids are aromatic compounds. A reference of beta hydrocyl acid is salicylic acid, having dermolytic properties and aids in several ichthyotic and xerotic disorders. Some other types of BHAs are: B-LHA or beta-lipohydroxyacid, tropic acid and 2-hydroxy-5-octanoyl benzoic acid.

Though these are very popular products available in the market, their accurate mechanisms and actions of these hydroxyl acids are not yet known and controversies prevail. Yet, there is one facet of biological activity that attributes to the inherent acids and the compounds’ strength. Studies have revealed that AHAs are likely to promote sensitivity towards UV rays of the sun and a sunscreen application is highly recommended when using these products.


Our skin is vulnerable and is exposed to continuous attacks caused by exogenous and endogenous agents. These assault forces are the UV rays of the sun, air pollutants, drugs, extreme temperatures of hot and cold to name of few. Not only are there external agents to factor in but also endogenous (internal) agents or mitogens such as free radicals and ROS or reactive oxygen species. Such species are being generated continuously during the physiological metabolism of the cells. In order to prevent such damaging effects of ROS, the skin is endowed with a system of antioxidants that helps in the equilibrium maintenance between the damage causing agents, or pro-oxidants and the protective agents or antioxidants. During the protective process, the antioxidants will intervene at various levels. Many of the antioxidants used in the cosmeceutical formulations on the market today include:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a known antioxidant and is a very necessary element for life. Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, was discovered in the early 1930s and it has numerous roles. Vitamin C is essential for the hydroxylation of procollagen, lysine and praline. A deficiency in this vitamin can cause keratotic follicles, bleeding gums and purpura. As an antioxidant that is water soluble, Vitamin C helps in capturing the free radicals and also regenerates vitamin E. It also regulates the stimulation and promotion of collagen synthesis. A depletion of vitamin C on the skin has been shown through studies to be caused by the irradiation of UV rays. Additionally, the cells altered by photodamage are normalized and improved with vitamin C. By incorporating vitamin C, the results show a reduced effect of photoaging on the skin and can also be used to stimulate collagen repair.

Vitamin E

The major lipophilic anti-oxidant in plasma, tissues and membranes is Vitamin E or alpha- tocopherol. Vitamin E is compiled of 8 naturally occurring molecules consisting of 4 tocotrienols and 4 tocopherols. These each exhibit vitamin E activities. Vitamin E should be topically applied before the skin is exposed to UV rays in order to diminish edema, erythema, sun burn cells, DNA adduct formation and immunosuppression from sunlight.


Panthenol is a water soluble humectant often used in the commercially made products such as skin creams, lotions, lipsticks and hair care preparations. Panthenol is the alcohol analog of vitamin B5.

Lipoic acid is fat and water soluble and uniquely protects against free radicals. Once this acid goes beyond the membrane of the cell, it breaks down into dihydrofolic acid, also an antioxidant. Vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione are other anti-oxidants that are recycled by lipoic acid.

Ubiquinone / CoenzymeQ

This is a derivative of quinone and is lipid-soluble. It can be found in the mitochondria and used for adenosine triphosphate or ATP generation, which boosts energy.

There are several other helpful antioxidants that enhance the skin quality. These include: Niacinamide, Dimethylaminoethanol, Spin traps, Melatonin, Catalase, and Glutathione, Superoxide dismutase, Peroxidase, Glucopyranosides, Polyphenols, Cysteine, Allantoin, Furfuryladenine, Uric acid and Carnosine.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

One Response to “New Wave in Skin Care Products: Cosmeceuticals!”

  1. 1
    Faye Says:
    Do any of these 'cosmoceuticals' have any harmful side effects - or is it safe to just slap on as much as you want on your skin?