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What is a cosmeceutical?

Cosmeceuticals (a portmenteau for “cosmetic” and “pharmaceutical”) are over-the-counter skin care products that claim to contain biologically active ingredients with “drug like” properties. These ingredients, when added to moisturizers, serums and creams, claim to have pharmaceutical grade effects, such as preventing DNA damage, reversing skin aging, or increasing the amount collagen and elastin in the skin (collagen and elastin are critical components of the second layer of the skin and, when damaged by ultraviolet radiation (sunlight), result in wrinkling, sagging and abnormal texture).  Cosmeceuticals used to be the domain of skin care products targeted towards women, however there are increasing amounts of serums and lotions geared toward men.  So, before you spend a small fortune buying these products, Dana Point Dermatology wants you to please consider the facts.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is the federal government organization that makes certain medicines are safe and effective for human use, does not legally recognize cosmeceutical products.  To be approved by the FDA, a medicine is intensely reviewed, tested and required to scientifically prove that it works and is safe.  In addition, any chemical or substance that alters the structure and function of the human body must be approved by the FDA before it can be marketed and sold in the United States.  In other words, if a product has drug-like properties, it must be approved as a drug.  Cosmeceuticals are not required to prove that their claims, such as wrinkle reduction or age spot removal, are true.  In fact, the scientific research done by cosmeceutical companies are usually not published in legit, peer-reviewed medical journals, such as Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology or Dermatologic Surgery. If they were, they would be subjected to intense scientific scrutiny by the dermatological community.  Also, remember that any product with sunscreen in it can legally claim that it is “anti-aging”.  Why?  Because sunscreen (which, by the way, is classified as an over-the-counter drug and is FDA approved) is proven to help prevent accelerated skin aging by means of its sun-blocking properties.  The anti-aging benefits of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals using valid scientific methods.  Therefore, sunscreen (and other sun protective measures) is the single most important thing a man can do to fend off skin aging and skin cancer.  Don't be misled by clever marketing; cosmeceuticals do not come close to the proven benefits of sunscreen. 

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