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a bottle of

youth, please

Are cosmeceuticals the elixir to staying young? Or are they just a clever marketing ploy? Allswell finds out.




is a combination of a using such products, cosmetic and pharmaceulooking ageless is tical product that contains now possible. active ingredients with Consumers spend claims of medicinal or billions of dollars each The term drug-like benefits. year on cosmeceutical cosmeceutical was Cosmeceuticals are also products in the hopes of introduced 30 years said to penetrate deeper reversing the ageing ago by the late into the skin, and to be process. In the United Dr Albert Kligman, more effective than States alone, the a dermatologist who cosmetics at improving cosmeceutical industry is invented the acne skin tone, texture and expected to grow at almost medication Retin-A. radiance while reducing double the average rate for wrinkles at the same time, the cosmetics sector at 5.8 or smoothing out superficial scars, per cent each year. This growth is redness or brown spots. projected to reach a value of US$8.5 Cosmetic companies have been billion (S$11.1 billion) in 2015, up churning out countless cosmeceutical from US$6.4 billion in 2010. products such as anti-wrinkle cream and sunscreen, and coupling these with aggressive advertising So do cosmeceuticals work? While campaigns to persuade women that by Dr David Loh of David Loh Surgery

did you


Too good to be true

PHOTOS: Getty Images, Istockphoto

t used to be that a simple cream or moisturiser was all that you would need for your skincare regimen. Not anymore. At any beauty counter today, you’ll see a mind-boggling array of skincare products promising amazing results for any skin problem you may have under the sun. So what exactly are in those jars of concoction that promise to regain lost youth? The answer: Cosmeceuticals. At Beauty Tips (, the author declared, “Cosmeceuticals are the new wave in skin care… Cosmetic skincare products only serve to cleanse and beautify. As opposed to cosmetics, cosmeceuticals will alter the structure and function of the skin”. That’s a huge claim, but what exactly is a cosmeceutical? Basically, it

believes that some cosmeceuticals work, he is quick to add that their benefits are quite limited. “The skin is a great barrier to anything you apply on it, and that includes the active ingredients in cosmeceuticals. Very little of it actually reaches the skin cells which they are supposed to work on.” Dr Anthony Goon, Senior Consultant Dermatologist at the National Skin Centre points out that the term 'cosmeceutical' has been coined as a ploy to convince consumers that these products are more pharmaceutical than an ordinary cosmetic. To boost their credibility, such products are usually backed by claims of clinical proof. “However, claims such as these are usually unsubstantiated and there are not enough studies to be really conclusive,” says Dr Goon. Even the US Food and Drug Administration does not recognise the term 'cosmeceutical'. It has expressed concerns over what it considers “outrageous claims” by companies selling anti-ageing creams, which they claim have the ability to 'help prevent cell destruction' or 'boost oxygen microcirculation'. In Singapore, cosmetics — unlike drugs — need not be assessed by the Health Sciences Authority to be effective before they are sold. But they need to be registered and meet certain safety standards before they go on sale.

For example, they cannot contain banned substances that can cause damage to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys, and preservatives such as parabens must also conform to specified limits. Parabens have been found in very low concentrations in breast cancer tumours. As with all things that you buy, know what you are paying for, and look out for side effects, especially if you have sensitive skin. Says aesthetics doctor Dr Georgia Lee of TLC Lifestyle, “The effectiveness and safety depends on what is placed in the product and the quality of the raw materials. More does not always mean better.” Dr Loh advises: “My first priority is to go for a trusted brand if I were to buy something over the counter. These companies spend billions on their R&D. There are too many charlatans claiming that they can do this and that.” Adds Dr Joyce Lim of Joyce Lim Skin and Laser Clinic: “Opt for a reputable source that has scientific studies to back their claims.” But if the claim sounds too good to be true even if they are said to be backed by scientific evidence, then it probably is.

Protection service PHOTOS: Getty Images, Istockphoto


If you want to look good, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that you wear suncreen during the day, choose products that contain antioxidants as these have sun-protection properties.

What’s in a label? Before you buy that cosmeceutical, know the ingredients. Here are some common ones:

Retinoids This vitamin A derivative is said to combat the effects of sun damage and stimulate the production of collagen, therefore decreasing fine lines and wrinkles. Studies suggest that its concentration in cosmetic formulation must be at least 0.025 per cent for it to be effective.

Niacinamide A form of Vitamin B3 that is said to function as an antioxidant, decrease skin hyperpigmentation, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, decrease redness or blotchiness and improve skin elasticity. A concentration between 2 per cent and 5 per cent is said to be effective.

Kinetin A plant growth hormone that influences cell growth. Kinetin concentration of between 0.01 per cent and 0.1 per cent is said to partially improve some mild-to-moderately photo-damaged skin, such as skin texture, fine wrinkles, skin colour and blotchiness, after 12 to 24 weeks of topical application.

At night, use products that contain retinoids, peptides, or growth factors for their repair properties.

Jan-Mar 25

A Bottle of Youth, Please  
A Bottle of Youth, Please