At the 65th annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology,  in Washington, DC, Diane S. Berson, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and assistant attending dermatologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, discussed how consumers can look for the right ingredients in cosmeceuticals that suit their needs.

“Cosmeceuticals are cosmetics that may have pharmaceutical or druglike properties,” says Berson. “Like cosmetics, cosmeceuticals are applied just to the surface of the skin, but instead of only covering up a problem, they may be able to help fix it. They are commonly found in such products as eye creams, moisturizers, cleansers, and foundations.”

Products with antioxidants are beneficial for people who are concerned about fine lines and wrinkles, Berson says. The skin is constantly exposed to harmful environmental forces such as UV radiation, air pollutants, heat, and cold. The skin also has to cope with internal forces such as the aging process and free radicals that injure the skin’s cells, causing inflammation, increasing sun damage, and contributing to the development of skin cancer. Antioxidants can reduce the harmful effects of free radicals and protect the skin from additional stress and damage.

According to Berson, growth factors are compounds that act as chemical messengers between cells and play a role in cell division, new cell and blood- vessel growth, and the production and distribution of collagen and elastin.

Whereas the benefits of alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids have long been known, polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) are the next generation of hydroxy acids. The significant difference between PHAs and the older ingredients is that they have larger molecular structures, which causes them to penetrate the skin more slowly, decreasing sensitivity and discomfort without hampering effectiveness.

“If you have dull, rough skin, PHAs can make the skin brighter and smoother,” Berson says. “They also help draw moisture into the skin, which can minimize dryness and the look of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Berson notes that when considering a cosmeceutical product, it’s important to read the label and determine what ingredients the product contains. Look for products that reference clinical trials or show actual before and after photos. Also, patients  should not be fooled into thinking that a more expensive product from a high-end department store will be better than a less expensive one from the drug store.

[newswise.com, January 31, 2007]