Medicine for beauty

Take care of your skin by using medicine-like cosmetics and having skin-enhancing drugs

Medicine for beautyThe word “cosmeceuticals” is made up of two words – cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It is believed to be coined in 1980 by Scientist Dr Albert M. Kligman. Cosmeceuticals are substances which fall in the category between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals [drugs]. They can be considered as a hybrid of cosmetics and drugs. In other words, we can say that “cosmeceuticals” are products which are cosmetics containing biological active ingredients causing functional and/or structural changes in the skin. Like cosmetics, cosmeceuticals are products which are used for topical applications, either for skin care or hair care.

Though the word clearly interprets the products which are to be locally applied, nowadays, oral substances like certain food and drinks, beneficial for the beauty, for example Soy products or pomegranate juice are also put in this category of cosmeceuticals. Ideally such oral products fit in well under the category of “nutricosmetics” – the nutritional substances which are meant for the cosmetic purpose.

How the cosmeceuticals function

Cosmeceuticals are indicated for both skin and hair care, as local applications. The most common indications which are targeted for skin care are wrinkle reduction, anti-aging, skin lightening, skin darkening or skin tanning, collagen enhancement, cellulite reduction, alleviation of skin irritation and antioxidant protection; whereas for hair, the common indications are dandruff management, hair thickening and hair growth .

Unlike cosmetics, cosmeceuticals not only camouflage the problems, but with the virtue of their ingredients, they also try to fix the problem resulting in healthy and beautiful skin and hair.

The most commonly used bioactive ingredients in cosmeceuticals are vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants, essential oils, enzymes and last but not the least, the botanicals [of plant origin]. These substances exhibit their unique properties for the benefit of the skin – in terms of antioxidants, anti-wrinkling, anti-aging, collagen-enhancer, and for hair health in strengthening hair structure, and improving its texture and quality.

Some important ingredients used in cosmeceuticals

Some of the key ingredients which have gained reputation in the area of cosmeceuticals have been listed below:

  • Vitamin E – A potent antioxidant, it keeps the skin in good condition and increases blood circulation. It also helps in the growth of new skin cells.
  • Vitamin C – Being essential for the synthesis of collagen – a key structural protein of the skin – it is effective against wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Vitamin A – It improves the density of the dermal collagen, skin elasticity, tone and texture.
  • Bromelain – It is isolated from the stems, leaves and the skin of pineapple. It cleanses and nourishes the skin, promotes blood circulation, and improves the skin’s functioning.
  • Coenzyme Q10 – This is a powerful antioxidant and is believed to improve elasticity of the skin.
  • Lycopene – It is a carotenoid found in foods such as watermelon and tomatoes. Topical application of lycopene aids in maintaining healthy skin levels.
  • Resveratrol – This is found from the skin of red grapes, it is useful as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, for skin lightening and brightening, and for sun damage repair.
  • Pycnogenol – An unique extract from the bark of French maritime pine trees, it protects the skin from accelerated aging due to exposure to sunlight. It also reduces dark spots due to hyper pigmentation.
  • Hyaluronic acid – Also known as a glycosaminoglycan, it is often talked about for its ability to “reverse” or stop aging.
  • AHA [Alpha Hydroxy acids] – Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from fruit and milk sugars. These acids are believed to improve wrinkling, roughness, and mottled pigmentation of photo-damaged skin.
  • Peptides – Peptides are effective in preventing wrinkles.

Precautions while using cosmeceuticals

The demand for cosmeceuticals is increasing continuously, thus driving their rocketing sale. But, what can be seen from this growing trend is that, either the manufacturers categorise the products under this category to escape from the clutches of the stringent rules and regulations for the drug by the FDA [Food and Drug association], or use this tag as a marketing tool, selling the products at a higher price, claiming that these products offer much more than the normal cosmetics.

Due to the suffix “ceutical”, the consumer may interpret that the product is regulated in the same manner as drug, and that it should not have any quality and efficacy issues. But, the end consumer should be aware that several times the manufactures neither guarantee the product’s activity nor its effectiveness. Hence, the customer should not accept the product blindly without checking whether the product has been clinically tested or not. One should not forget that no cosmeceutical can act as effectively as a drug.


Nutricosmetics are oral products having nutritional properties for cosmetic purposes. These products contain ingredients such as –

  • Biotin: It is often recommended for strengthening hair and nails. Sources are milk, liver, egg, and vegetables.
  • Niacin: This is necessary for healthy skin and is found in enriched and fortified grain products, legumes, poultry, fish, peanut butter, and meat.
  • Zinc: Zinc reduces hair loss and improves fine and brittle hair. Sources are walnuts, beans, cashews, almonds, whole grains, and oysters.
  • Magnesium: Deficiency of magnesium accelerates aging. Ample in peanuts, tofu, broccoli and spinach.
  • Collagen: It keeps our skin supple and elastic. Sources are fruits and vegetables with vitamin C, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and chicken.
  • Green tea: Its polyphenols are potent antioxidants having beneficial effects on skin cell rejuvenation.
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids: They are known to benefit the health of the scalp. Sources are flaxseed, salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and tofu.
  • Beta-carotene: They protect the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and thyme.

You can also consider the following to take care of skin:

  • Tomatoes: Being a good source of vitamin A, C, iron, calcium and lycopene, tomatoes help skin.
  • Cucumber: It is an excellent source of silica, beneficial for strengthening the connective tissue in the skin.
  • Fish: Fish promotes younger and healthier skin.
  • Pomegranate: This wonder fruit contains potassium, fibre, vitamin C and niacin, which help in improving the skin and body from inside out.

Some botanicals that have drug-like activities

  • Curcuma longa [Turmeric]: It is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Also, its property as a complexion improving agent is known since ages.
  • Soy and its Isoflavons: They help improve facial and hand condition; recover and reinforce skin elasticity and provide structure and firmness of the skin.
  • Gingko biloba: In addition to exhibiting good anti-oxidant qualities, it increases the creation of fibroblast, and collagen.
  • Chamomile: It has antiseptic and healing qualities, and is helpful in relieving skin congestion. Thus, it is an effective ingredient in any anti-aging cosmetic product.
  • Aloe vera: It is a well know plant which has contributed a lot in the field of skin and hair care. It exhibits moisturising effects on the skin; is beneficial to prevent aging and also decreases the intensity of pigmentation and lightens dark spots on the face.
  • Licorice: It inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase – the enzyme in the skin pigment cells [melanocytes] that make melanin – and thus, is beneficial in skin-whitening products.
Shubhangee Satam
Dr Shubhangee Satam, M.D [Ayurveda], has around 10 years of rich experience in healthcare industry in international markets. She has been practicing Ayurveda since 10 years, focussing more on weight management and skin and hair care [beauty and therapeutic].


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