Cosmeceuticals are a constant area of interest and controversy. They are the promise of the future of skin care. They are the magic dream every consumer hopes to realize. They are the continuing intellectual challenge for research dermatologists, myself included. Industry and medicine both are searching for the cosmeceutical connection. How can cosmeceuticals connect and deliver something meaningful and unique to the aging face?
The skin is an amazingly complex organ with the ability to expand during growth, protect from environmental injury, heal when wounded and signal immunologic problems. It is the essence of the image we portray to our family, friends, and co-workers. Our skin says much about who we are: old vs. young; fair vs. dark; male vs. female; healthy vs. sick. But what function can a cosmeceutical fulfill when addressing a particular skin need?
As a dermatologist, I look at cosmeceuticals from a functional viewpoint. Table 1 lists 10 basic mechanisms of action for cosmeceutical ingredients in the current marketplace.
Ideally, a completed cosmeceutical formulation should incorporate as many of these functions as possible into a single product, since most consumers need help in all of these areas simultaneously and multiple product application is cumbersome. Each of these mechanisms of action is worthy of brief discussion.