Skin Care and the Cosmaceutical
The skin care business is, like many other businesses, steeped in and dependent on consumerism and marketing. Rather than having real effects, products have come to rely much more on sizzle. Many purchases are the result of nothing more than hype, and buying decisions are often functions of ignorance and advertising. The world of cosmetic products, as we know it today, was birthed in the late 19th and early 20th century. At the same time business enterprises were beginning to understand Freudian psychological theories of human motivations and buying behaviors, and how to use them to exploit and manipulate consumer minds and emotions. No business has leveraged human desires and vulnerabilities via sales and advertising more than the business of beauty. We are endlessly manipulated and contorted into spending our hard earned cash via celebrity sales pitches and the recommendations of dubious department store “advisors”.
But that all changed with the active ingredients dubbed “cosma-ceuticals” which worked as powerfully as prescriptions but were only regulated as cosmetics. The father of the cosmaceutical, Dr. Albert Kligman coined the term to distinguish inactive and superficial ingredients from those that went “…beyond mere camouflage…” and could achieve real and often long-term results. While it’s true that everything including water will inevitably alter the skin in some way, only true cosmaceuticals can provide the kind of performance most consumers expect, and are (mis-)led to believe, they’ll get when they purchase and apply their cream, lotion, toner and treatment skin care preparations and products.
The retinoids, Vitamin A molecules, were the first cosmaceutical substances and, to this day, are the most effective. These were followed by alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are low pH extracts from fruit and plant materials that can achieve dramatic anti-aging and skin re-texturing effects. Then, most recently, a class of actives called peptides which affect the structure of the skin like a “-ceutical”, but that were intended to beautify like a “cosma-“, have become all the rage. The most important and the gold standard of peptides is a substance called “Matrixyl”.
The bottom line is, if you’re looking for skin care that works, look for cosmaceuticals. While the vast majority of products that you put on your skin are ineffective and inactive, using real cosmaceutical actives will allow you to bypass the standard, “extract-from-a-melon-that-grows-of-the-coast-of-France” type ingredients that you hear about on infomercials and promoted by movie stars. Retinoids, (retinol and retinoic acid primarily) and alpha hydroxy acids are cosmaceutical elements that really work. And Vitamin C, in its fat-soluble (the proper term is “lipophilic”) format, is one of the most effective topicals you could ever use. In fact, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids, (which include glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, and acetic acids), are the most important active ingredients and ones that everyone over the age 40 (or even 30) should be applying on a regular basis. I call them “The Big 3”: lipophilic Vitamin C, Vitamin A and AHAs, and they should be the core ingredients of any anti aging skin care program. And for the consumer who wants everything, consider adding in a peptide containing product, ideally one that contains proven and time-tested ingredient like Matrixyl.