What are Cosmeceuticals?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Cosmeceuticals refer to cosmetics that have been combined with pharmaceutical-type ingredients. Any cosmetic that claims to have medicinal properties can be placed within the cosmeceutical category. The term itself was coined by advertising agencies that wished to make some type of connection between regular cosmetics and the healing benefits of prescription drugs known to consumers.

Due to the origin of the word cosmeceutical, there is some controversy surrounding these products. Some claim that the term itself is misleading, since these products do not go through the vigorous testing that all other pharmaceutical products go through. Others believe that the term is appropriate, and that it is up to individual consumers to determine the effectiveness and usefulness of a product.

Within the United States, cosmeceuticals are not recognized by the Food and Drug Administration. While these products are tested for safety purposes, they are not tested to compare manufacturer's claims with the actual effectiveness of a product. This is in contrast to pharmaceuticals that are tested both for safety and effectiveness. Therefore, any claim by a cosmetics company may, or may not, be accurate.

Whether or not the name given to cosmetic-pharmaceutical hybrids is misleading is debatable, though many dermatologists claim that cosmeceuticals have added benefits that regular cosmetics do not. Cosmeceuticals are often applied topically, much in the same way that prescription drugs are applied. In addition, these products do contain various ingredients that many prescriptions products also contain.


Some of the most popular cosmeceutical ingredients include various teas, pomegranate, grape seed, soy, green tea, Vitamin E, and numerous others. While cosmeceuticals are quite popular within North America, they are not as popular elsewhere. Moisturizers, retinoids, hydroxy acids, antioxidants, and anti-cellulite creams are some of the most sought-after cosmeceutical products on the North American market.

The main issue facing those within the cosmeceutical industry today is proof of effectiveness. Consumers, cosmetology experts, and other concerned parties insist that cosmetics companies prove that cosmeceuticals actually work. Those demanding evidence are worried that consumers may purchase expensive cosmeceuticals based upon misleading advertising campaigns.

However, various cosmetics companies have met this demand by publishing product success reports. Essentially, it is up to each consumer to understand and read all product labels. Cosmeceutical products do not need to list active ingredients separately from other ingredients, which may make deciphering a product's label somewhat difficult. Still, research into the effectiveness of a product can be conducted by reviewing reports, comparing ingredients, and staying informed.


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