You’ve heard the saying ‘you are what you eat,’ well now beauty experts are touting the amazing anti-aging benefits of cosmeceuticals. Patients are always looking for cost-effective ways to enhance their appearance and many have turned to cosmeceuticals to quench their thirst for younger, healthier looking skin.
According to Albert Kligman who coined the term ‘cosmeceutical’ in 1984 to refer to substances that have both cosmetic and therapeutic benefits, in order to be considered a true cosmeceutical, a product must satisfy three main benchmarks:
Does the active ingredient penetrate the stratum corneum (first layer of skin) and reach its intended target within the skin with sufficient concentrations?
Does it have a specific biochemical mechanism of action to target skin cells?
Can the results be mimicked on different patients to substantiate the efficacy claims (double-blind, placebo controlled study)?
Due to the lack of FDA regulations of the cosmeceutical industry, these questions may leave the aesthetic layperson confused as to what really works and what is simply snake oil. To ensure you are taking the correct cosmeceuticals, you need to make sure that the product is clinically tested to validate the claims of having benefits to the skin.
Cosmeceuticals are designed around active ingredients that are thought to have benefits to skin health. There are many different conditions that cosmeceuticals claim to improve including increased radiance, improved texture and tone, and the reduction of acne and pigmentation. But do they really work?
Peptides, antioxidants, growth factors, and stem cells, are all examples of cosmeceutical ingredients. To explain:
Peptides are short amino acid chains that are the building blocks of the protein collagen. There are different types of Peptides, carrier, signal, enzyme-inhibiting, and neurotransmitter peptides, all of which have been shown effective at diminishing wrinkles and reducing signs of aging when applied topically twice daily. They are included in many anti-aging products for their ability to increase skin elasticity and firmness. To help fight the good fight against aging, it is important to incorporate peptide creams and peptide serums in order to help encourage the skin to rebuild lost collagen.
Antioxidants are the most popular ingredient in cosmeceuticals as the oxidation of cells is a major cause of skin ageing. Antioxidants are natural substances made up of vitamins and minerals which are found in most plants in varying amounts. They can counter “free radicals” that damage DNA helix. Damaged skin cells can speed up aging with wrinkles, dry skin, dark circles under eyes, dull skin, and more. Antioxidants include Caroteniods, Flavonoids, and Polyphenols. Antioxidants are useful in two ways: they prevent degradation of natural ingredients (proteins, sugars, lipids) in cosmetic products, they also protect the skin cells from being damaged and slow down the aging process. Antioxidants have been shown to boost the skin’s radiance, minimize age spots, sun spots, and fine lines.
Growth factors are proteins that are present in our bodies that help to regulate cellular growth, proliferation and differentiation. Growth factors play an important role in maintaining healthy skin structure and function. They are secreted by all cell types that make up the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and dermis (the layer of skin between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissue) of the skin including keratinocytes, fibroblasts and melanocytes. Growth factors stimulate the formation of collagen and elastic fibers which give the skin its softness and suppleness. They also provide synergistic interaction with other proteins in the epidermis and dermis that results in skin repair and regeneration. (One of my personal favorite ingredients in my beauty regime.)
Lastly, and most controversial are stem cells. Multicellular organisms (plants, fruits, animals, humans) all have stem cells. They are found throughout our bodies, where they play an essential role in tissue renewal. The stem cells in skincare products are obtained primarily from fruits and plants that can stay fresh for a long time, i.e. like Swiss apples, edelweiss, roses, and date palms. Extracts of these stem cells—not the live cells—are added to skin-care products. This unique and precise extraction technology is why the cost of products containing stem cells are very expensive. Although stem cells are a sexy story, the jury is still out on their topical power, researchers are still unclear as to whether or not they will improve the appearance of your skin with continued use.
Before purchasing a a cosmeceuticals make sure they are medical grade products that have undergone stringent clinical testing, improper stabilization of any of these products will nullify their benefits and waste your money. Bottom line, be an educated consumer when shopping cosmeceuticals and be mindful to still eat your fruits and veggies, this will ensure you skin is receiving vital minerals and nutrients to keep your cells fresh, young, healthy, and radiant.