The sheer number of cosmeceuticals and drugs available to treat and augment therapy for the aging face is intimidating and somewhat overwhelming. For this and other reasons, patients frequently express have misperceptions and anxieties about their use. Yet it is vitally important to know how to maximize their benefits while at the same time minimizing their side effects. Providing guidance and advise in this arena is a role that trained medical personnel serve very well. We encourage you to ask questions, become involved in essence become your own best advisor regarding you skin care.
Research and Development in the area of cosmeceuticals is booming. Substances are being extracted from a number of sources – botanical, animal and chemically synthesized sources – and are being presented as active ingredients in skin care products. But the practical application of the science is not that simple. The interactions between cosmeceuticals and skin are complex and depend upon a number of factors: the specific composition of a given product, the condition of the skin, the general health of the patient, and the environment where the interaction occurs. All of which calls for careful clinical evaluation of the efficacy (effectiveness) and safety of both the active and the inactive ingredients.
As well, a thorough knowledge of the properties (benefits, limitations, complications) of the ever expanding numbers of new products is essential. An understanding of skin care ingredients is key as well. Here is why:
Perhaps first and foremost, we need to know if Product XYZ has the ability to actually do what we intend for it to do to our skin. In other words, are any of the ingredients biologically active? Second, is there enough material in the formulation to do the job? And are the key materials biologically stable over time so that our product will still work next month? Do they break down when exposed to air or heat or some other potentially harmful exposure? Third, will the product penetration into the skin well enough to be effective? Fourth, do all of the ingredients mix peacefully with one another – there are both active and inactive ingredients in any formulation and we need to be sure they are all compatible. Fifth and finally, do any of the elements of the formulation have the potential to harm the skin say by causing allergic reactions, irritating or dehydrating the skin, clogging pores, etc.
These criteria are a tall order to meet. Finding a product that fits your particular needs and goals is easier if you have some understanding of the ingredient list – an optimal formulation contains one or more actives ingredients, contains an effective concentration, has inert inactives, is well-absorbed, is well preserved, stabile and delivers what it promises – all in the absence of any potential to cause skin injury or damage.
In summary, patients with photo-damaged skin need guidance in selecting treatment plans that optimize outcomes, minimize downtime, and reduce adverse effects. Physicians are in a good position to help patients learn about these newer concepts and products. As an informal team, Physicians and Patients have the potential to render cosmeceuticals use understandable, whereby cosmeceutical users come to personally understand the benefits and realistic limitations of anything they intend to put on their skin.