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Cosmeceuticals, the science of beauty

Cosmeceuticals are a combination of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. There is a large population of aging people that are living longer and are willing to pay good money for proven ways to lift their sagging skin and remove their wrinkles.

Cosmetics alter the surface of the skin by changing the color or appearance of the skin. Cosmeceuticals in contrast alter the way the cells of the skin grow and perform. This is the primary difference. Cosmetics are purely topical application that affect the outer layer of the skin in appearance. Cosmeceuticals penetrate the skin and influence the functioning of the skin’s cells to enhance your appearance.

Cosmetics have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. Both men and women have been applying plant-derived topicals to their skin to make themselves look better. But it has only been for the past 30 or 40 years that scientists have understood what is going on in the deeper layers of the skin.

Interestingly, the cosmeceutical industry owes its birth to advances in `wound healing’ by biotechnology companies. It was found that the same skin recovery principles that caused wounds to heal also apply to anti- aging and other skin care treatments.

When an open wound heals, several different layers of the skin have to be regenerated. When the skin ages, it deteriorates and the skin cells along with the supporting structure of the skin needs to be regenerated. Collagen is perhaps the most important substance in the supporting structure of the skin. It is also the most abundant protein in our bodies and is responsible for the structure and volume of our skin. By studying how the body naturally produces collagen, cosmeceuticals try to mimic this process and improve our skin.

Following are some common ingredients in cosmeceuticals that act at the cellular level of the skin. Look out for these when buying skin care products.

Retinoids – these are derived from vitamin A and increase the turnover of skin cells thus creating newer stronger skin cells. They can come in several different forms such as retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde andretinyl proprionate.

Hydroxy Acids – such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid. These promote exfoliation of dead skin cells to make the skin look younger and feel softer.

Antioxidants – when the skin ages or gets damaged, it is called oxidation and this is obviously not good for the skin. Antioxidants prevent some of this damage by binding with the harmful molecules called free radicals which are hydrogen atoms with one missing electron. By doing this, antioxidants protect the skin cells. They are mostly derived from natural sources like green tea, pomegranates, chamomile flowers, and licorice root.

Botanicals – these are active ingredients from fruits, seeds, and flowers of plants. They are also known as phytochemicals.

Peptides – these are different combinations of amino acids that can be from natural sources or made synthetically. They are meant to interact with different processes the skin cells undergo and to enhance your appearance.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recognize the term cosmeceutical and thus does not regulate these products unlike pharmaceuticals which are heavily regulated. The term cosmeceutical has no meaning under the law of the United States. Pharmaceuticals on the other hand must undergo intensive testing and approval before being released into the market place. Cosmetics and cosmeceuticals are not reviewed by the FDA at all prior to their being available for purchase.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing