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Skin – The New Obsession

“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.”

These are the words of Charles Revlon, pioneering cosmetics industry executive and founder of Revlon. He died in 1975. At the time, his often quoted description of an industry providing primarily women with lip sticks and rouge rang all too true – they delivered hope. Indeed. But little did anyone think at the time that a mere 35 years later a completely new approach would have been established, the era of expectation that the unattractive elements of skin aging could actually be reversed rather than just concealed or disguised.

Sagging and wrinkling skin, commonly the signs of earlier times spent on the beach or the golf course, are often the visible manifestations of the inevitability of aging. As Americans get on in years – the baby boomers in particular – they become increasingly determined to Renew, Replenish and Rejuvenate their skin in order to maintain a youthful appearance. A corresponding increase in anti-aging formulations, accompanied by a seemingly endless number of new ingredients and their associated claims of reversing the signs of aging has been the result.

A combination of media hype and consumer interest has driven the fledgling cosmeceuticals industry to develop safer, more naturally derived products. This bodes well for all of us.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is also the organ most affected by again, in which age changes are most noticeable. The dramatic increase in patient demand for information about products and treatments that will improve the appearance of their skin is no accident and hardly surprising.

Skin ages with the passage of time – all tissues do – it is called chronologic aging, the passing of years and the toll we pay. As well, photo-aging – the influence of an outside agent, specifically the sun,- takes its own toll as manifested by wrinkling, fine lines, pigment changes, skin lesions and the like. A 3rd type of aging – over which we currently have little or no control – is known as genomic aging or gene expression aging – what happens to us as a consequence of our inherited genetics – sadly, this currently non-alterable form of aging extracts similar but far more severe changes than either chronological or photo-aging. Additionally, any good skin care program takes into account lifestyle and behavioral changes as essential to its success, addressing issues of sun behavior, nicotine use, and nutrition. Finally, skin aging has an emotional aspect we recognize as stress, which we know to have profound psychosocial consequences. How many of us experience skin break outs at times of extreme stress. The skin is hardly immune to the emotions.

Strong evidence exists that wrinkling, sallowness, roughness, and mottled hyper-pigmented skin – characteristics of habitually over-exposed skin of middle-aged and elderly individuals – can be significantly improved. Cosmeceuticals are at the forefront of the effort.

The perceived potential value of a new breed of biologically active cosmetics spawned a new era in skin care and even gave rise to a new word: “COSMECEUTICAL” = a blending of the word cosmetic (something designed to beautify the body by direct application) and pharmaceutical (of or by drugs). Cosmeceuticals are defined as a substances marketed as cosmetics but which contain biologically active ingredients that effect something specific, specifically the skin.

At the top of the list of cosmeceuticals are the antioxidants; second are the specialty chemicals; then come the acid, alpha, beta and poly; then the natural extracts; and finally the proteins and other compounds.