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AAD Suggests Key Items to Look for in Cosmeceuticals

Posted: December 11, 2008

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“The important thing to understand about combination products is that often the individual ingredients have been studied, but the combination of active ingredients has not,” said Farris. “More rigorous scientific studies are necessary to assure that biologic activity is maintained when ingredients are formulated together, and clinical studies should be done to determine if combination products really offer any added benefit.”

Consumer demand is high for cosmeceuticals containing “natural” or “organic” ingredients. However, Farris advised that the notion that these ingredients are safer than synthetic ones is a common misconception. In reality, there is no data to support the notion that natural or organic ingredients—derived from the root, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit of plants—are safer or even more effective than their synthetic counterparts.

“The problem with cosmeceuticals labeled 'natural' is that the labels themselves don’t mean anything because these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” said Farris. “In fact, 'natural' skin care products are less tested and scrutinized than synthetic products and pharmaceuticals.”

Farris noted that most compounds as they exist in their natural state cannot be formulated into skin care products. They must be chemically altered before they can be incorporated into cosmetics. For instance, compounds including retinol, vitamin C and soy are among those that require chemical alteration—after which they are referred to as enhanced natural ingredients. Enhanced natural ingredients tend to be more stable, penetrate better and have more long-lasting effects on the skin than unaltered plant extracts, which is the reason why most cosmeceuticals contain chemically altered ingredients.

“There are a number of cosmeceutical ingredients that are completely synthetic, such as collagen-boosting peptides and synthetic forms of vitamin A,” explained Farris. “These compounds are among the most potent anti-aging ingredients and have been used extensively by dermatologists. So, it’s important for consumers to understand that synthetic ingredients are not necessarily bad and, in fact, skin care products containing these ingredients are probably among the most effective in the marketplace.”