Cosmeceutical products aim to do more than moisturize skin. Depending on their active ingredients, cosmeceuticals can help rejuvenate, regenerate, exfoliate, lessen inflammation, heal skin and more.
Cosmeceutical categories, based on important ingredients and their mechanisms of action, can help aesthetic physicians match cosmeceutical products to ideal patient candidates, according to dermatologist Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., who practices in High Point, N.C., and founded Dermatology Consulting Services, a company that works with cosmeceutical firms to develop formulations and conduct product testing.
According to Dr. Draelos, seven of the most popular cosmeceutical categories are:
- Moisturizers, including emollients, occlusives and humectants, help to RELIEVE dry aging skin, atopic dermatitis, pruritus, and more.
- RETINOLS have been shown to have a diminished but real retinoid effect on skin without the irritation associated with prescription topical retinoic acid (tretinoin) use, Dr. Draelos says.
Boston, Mass., dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, M.D., adds retinoid-containing cosmeceuticals are vitamin A derivatives with many uses in dermatology practice. They can help patients with acne to aging concerns.
- Exfoliants include products with salicylic acid, glycolic acid or lactic acid—things that peel off the outer layer of skin, according to Dr. Draelos.
“These are best matched to specific skin concerns. Beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) is well suited to help with breakouts, while alpha hydroxy acids are very useful to brighten skin and help with mild discoloration,” Dr. Hirsch says.
- Anti-inflammatories encompass cosmeceutical products that contain allantoin, aloe vera or bisabolol, a chamomile extract, among others.
Anti-inflammatory cosmeceuticals are a good match for many patients, especially those prone to sensitive skin and irritation, according to Dr. Hirsch.
- Antioxidant cosmeceuticals include products with turmeric, vitamin C, beta carotene and botanical extracts that contain antioxidant flavonoids, like resveratrol, Dr. Draelos says.
Antioxidant-containing cosmeceuticals overlap into other categories, as antioxidants are in many cosmeceutical types. These ingredients, according to Dr. Hirsch, can work synergistically with sun protection products to reduce environmental skin damage.
“This is a category we try to incorporate on some level into the majority of regimens from a preventative standpoint,” Dr. Hirsch says.
- Barrier repair, including products with high levels of glycerin or that contain dimethicone and cyclomethicone.
These agents help with dryness and restoration of the skin barrier and tend to be useful for those with dry skin and eczema, especially when those patients experience seasonal skin changes, Dr. Hirsch says.
- Stem-cell containing cosmeceuticals, a burgeoning category, features products that include stem cell conditioned media with growth factors or cytokines, for example. Dermatologists often turn to those to regenerate skin.
Cosmeceutical use in real-world dermatology practice
Example 1: A female patient is looking for an antiaging product to improve the appearance of her skin that she can purchase over the counter. She tried tretinoin but finds it far too irritating for her skin. What does the dermatologist do? The dermatologist could recommend a moisturizer that contains retinol. Many cosmeceuticals include this vitamin A type in products. In general, these products have been shown in the literature to have a small but noticeable retinoid effect on the skin, without much if any skin irritation, according to Dr. Draelos.
Example 2: A patient with very sensitive skin has been applying a prescribed topical corticosteroid for too long. The dermatologist is concerned that the patient is becoming steroid addicted and her facial skin is thinning at the application sites. Stopping the topical corticosteroid is important, but so is offering the patient something to ease itching, stinging, burning and redness. That something could be cosmeceutical products containing allantoin and bisabolol, two of the strongest anti-inflammatory ingredients in the cosmeceutical market. These products offer some symptom relief without corticosteroid-associated side effects, according to Dr. Draelos.