Cosmeceuticals is a term derived by the fusion of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. These are products between cosmetics like lipstick or rouge and pure medications like corticosteroids.
Aggressive marketing with promises of a glowing and permanently young skin drive this industry. Since the products are mild, they are exempt from approval by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).
They have a good effect on various components of the skin when tested in the laboratory. But very few cosmeceuticals are subject to intensive scrutiny compared to placebos in humans.
Often the benefit in texture and fine lines is due to the moisturisers which the products contain. We now have a wide array of ingredients vying for space in the next soft-squeeze tube you plan to buy.
Sunscreens: The focus now is on agents that block UVA rays. UVB protection and SPF values are passé.
Nutraceuticals: Nutrients like vitamins A, B, C and E are added for good measure.
Botanical agents: Grape seed extract, green tea, soy, coffee bean and the like are in vogue.
Antioxidants: Co-enzyme Q 10 and idebinone are supposed scavengers of free radicals that are supposed to make the skin age.
Anti-inflammatory agents: Believed to cool down inflammation in the skin. Lycopene, tea tree oil and mango stem are examples.
Collagen repair: Include various peptides and kinetin.
Argireline: This one is hot new kid on the block. This peptide inhibits the reactions that cause muscles to contract. It is promoted as ‘botox in a tube’ that wipes out deep lines and wrinkles in a manner similar to botox. What appeals is its low cost. Also the process requires no injections. Of course, this is a milder agent and the result is not nearly as dramatic as botox.
Pigment lightening agents: A host of these agents promise a fairer skin and are hungrily lapped up by the Indian populace. They are quite mild and claims are often not adequately substantiated. Kojic acid, arbutin, niacinamide, chamomile and azelaic acid are contenders.
Exfoliants: They remove the superficial layers dead skin.. imparting a smoother, polished look. Various alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acid are examples.
Hydration repair: Dry skin looks aged. Moisturisers help retain water in the skin and contribute to fuller, glowing skin.
Nanotechnology: This is the in thing. It utilises nanoparticles that are 1-100 nanometres in size and allow easy penetration of molecules into the skin. The concern is that the small size may risk absorption into the body with potential side effects.
Green and herbal products: Adding some herbs to a regular product and giving it a tag is another trend. Don’t expect magic in a bottle. The basic regime of a good moisturiser, sun screen and application of vitamin A-based cream is time-tested and best.