4th July 2011

Guest Post – Cosmeceuticals: Are We Expecting the Impossible?

By Get Lippie

This is the last of my guest posts for this year, and it’s from the ever-lovely and adorable Modesty Brown, whom I adore.  She’s brought us some more corking pics and some scientific know-how again this year …


Last year, I got the labcoat out for my guest slot on Get Lippie. I had initially intended this post to be a rant an informative chat about specific active ingredients but in sitting down to write, it has somehow morphed in to musing about cosmeceuticals and their promised benefits.

The skin care world is usually awash with amazing product claims and fancy active ingredients. ‘You too can return your skin to a baby soft state using collagen/growth factors/stem cells/the stolen tears of a lone weeping unicorn’…..ok, so maybe not that last one, but you catch my drift. Some of these claims result in major eye-rolling at the sheer scientific improbability.  I will also admit to shouting at the television, whenever I hear the lines “inspired by the science of genes”. I mean seriously, you want to have a read of Genes V, it’s a bit dry and low on the inspiration stakes…

At this point I was about to launch in to individual gripes about particular ingredients but on reflection I think that’s probably a little unfair. The sorts of products that cause the eye-rolling are those that probably fit best in the ‘Cosmeceuticals’ bracket. Cosmeceuticals fall somewhere between a cosmetic and a pharmaceutical, hence the catchy name. They usually contain biologically active ingredients that are supposed to have medicinal or drug-like properties. I think most anti-ageing ranges could be described this way.

Of course, because they don’t actually contain drugs or medicine, there’s no obligation to go through the same rigorous testing pharmaceutical drugs go through to get to market. I want to read the scientific backing for the active ingredients from laboratory research or patient studies, but often there isn’t any supporting evidence as it simply isn’t a requirement. The evidence for many active ingredients is purely anecdotal. Even when results have been published by the big pharmaceuticals, doubts are raised about bias or lack of statistical significance anyway. So, I wonder if some of my expectations are a little unrealistic. Is it fair to expect over-the-counter, easily available products to give exceptional results and still be reasonably priced? It may be a little ambitious of me to expect such things but at the same time, I’m not the one making the bold scientific claims!

So, how do you weed out the fact from the fiction? How to you decipher the real deal from the magic skin care pixies? Well, I’m coming around to the idea that you have to use your own common sense and sometimes you might just have to take an educated risk. Some ingredients are much better understood for their value in anti-ageing regimes; such as stable Vitamin C, Retinoids, AHAs and Nicacinamide. Consumers are already beginning to understand that Vitamin C in skin care needs to be in a stable form for it to be of value and that Retinoids require a good delivery system to reduce skin surface irritation and maximise the concentration delivered to the dermis. In terms of newer ingredients, I think it’s probably left to us as the consumer to sort the wheat from the chaff or indeed the Collagen from the penta-peptides.

I think that’s where beauty blogs come in. Done properly, skin care reviews can help us discover the products that really work and which products are pure hype. If you’d like an idea of which things you should be looking for in your anti-ageing treatments, there’s an excellent post on  The Beauty Mouth  that I urge you to read, if you haven’t already. In many ways it’s easy to forget the benefits of the basics too, keeping the skin clean and hydrated as well as using a good sunscreen is crucial in taking good care of your skin.

These days, I do try very hard to switch the science cynic off (maybe I need a lab-otomy?). It gets boring dismissing things and I would really like to appreciate the products and treatments for what they are and what they can do. Even if the benefits are purely superficial. I know I tend to gravitate towards skin care that is a mix of science and botanicals. I hated plant science so I can merrily join in with the claims without being any the wiser! I do think how a product makes you feel and what it does for you, even if it isn’t lasting, is the most important thing.

When all else fails, there’s always my magic wrinkle cream!

I do still refuse to subscribe to the idea that more expensive always equals better. If you have several hundred pounds to spend on a cream, then maybe that money would be better spent visiting a dermatologist privately for the more potent, concentrations found in prescription pharmaceuticals anyway? The pots probably won’t look as pretty on your shelf, but the results might actually be more satisfying.

I shall shut up now, as what I really want to know is how you feel about the scientific claims. Do you find it reassuring, does it make you more likely to buy a product or do you simply choose to ignore it all and buy things based on good reviews? Do the scientific claims and active ingredients entice you to spend more money? I’m fascinated to know how other people feel. 


Get Lippie says: Another thought provoking post from Modesty – care to share yours?

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