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Did you know what cosmeceuticals are all about?

Wrinkles disappear, eyelids are tightened, crow’s feet fade – with these promises, so-called cosmeceuticals raise the age-old question: What can cosmetics really do? Do they really work in the deeper layers of the skin? And where does the line to pharmaceuticals actually run? Tikbow asked Dr. Derendorf, a specialist in dermatology and venereology.

The term cosmeceuticals is a combination of cosmetic and pharmaceuticals. In Germany, we also speak of dermaceuticals, dermacosmetics or medical cosmetics. This always refers to care products such as creams, serums and toners that contain active pharmaceutical ingredients in the highest permissible dosage so that they can just be declared as cosmetics and not as medicines. The products thus fall into the borderline area between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

What are cosmeceuticals?

There is no clear legal definition for cosmetic ingredients with pharmaceutical effects, but they are subject to the EU Cosmetics Regulation. This means that, unlike pharmaceuticals, they do not promise a cure and are not allowed to enter the bloodstream. While conventional cosmetics only have a superficial effect and do not bring about any physiological change in the skin, cosmeceuticals overcome the skin barrier,” explains dermatologist Dr. Derendorf. Scientific studies show that cosmeceuticals penetrate deeper into the skin and thus have a lasting effect on the skin structure;

A cosmetic anti-wrinkle cream only visually reduces visible wrinkles by temporarily plumping up the skin surface with the silicones it contains. Cosmeceuticals, on the other hand, can reach the cell layer where the wrinkles are formed in the first place and thus even have a prophylactic effect. However, each of these promised effects must be proven in studies.

How can I recognize cosmeceuticals?

Corresponding products are not easy to recognize at first glance, since not all manufacturers advertise the active medical ingredients clearly visible on the package. Typical active ingredients for dermacosmetics are vitamins A (retinol), C and E, but also proxylan, resveratrol, glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Just as with flavonoids, isoflavones, peptides and caroteniods, these are skin-identical or skin-similar substances which, due to their composition, can penetrate deeper into the skin than conventional cosmetics.

Typical areas of application

Cosmeceuticals focus on reducing the signs of skin aging. Thus, the typical areas of application are skin damage caused by UV radiation, wrinkles, wrinkles, age spots, pigmentation and hyperpigmentation. But also enlarged Äderchen, skin impurities, acne, pimples and blackheads can be reduced.

Risks and side effects of cosmeceuticals

Since the substances themselves are not dangerous, there is no need to worry about serious side effects when using cosmeceuticals. Nevertheless, the instructions for use in the package insert should be strictly adhered to. An overdose can, for example, result in the skin reacting strongly, feeling unpleasant and becoming dry and flaky.

Although the products are freely available in stores and without a prescription, Dr. Derendorf strongly recommends a visit to a dermatologist or a comparable specialized practice that performs a professional skin analysis. In this way, a suitable product can be found for the respective skin structure and needs, an individual care routine can be determined and possible application errors can be avoided. A patch test, a form of allergy testing, is always recommended. To do this, a small amount of the product is applied to an area of skin that is easily covered. It can be performed even at home and shows a possible hypersensitivity of the skin.

Professional advice is also advisable with regard to the costs: manufacturers are willing to pay for their highly concentrated, pharmaceutical active ingredients and the sometimes time-consuming production process.

For whom are the products suitable?

Cosmeceuticals are suitable for anyone who wants to do something against the aging process and wants long-lasting, visible results. However, the use of these products should be treated with caution, because they are not suitable for everyone,” explains the expert. Young skin under the age of 25 is quickly overwhelmed by overly concentrated active ingredients and can react irritably. Only a professional skin analysis can really ensure safe application and visible results. For allergy-prone people with sensitive skin, the products are also less suitable;


Cosmeceuticals can minimize signs of aging and counteract future skin damage. They are therefore a genuine alternative to conventional cosmetics, provided that appropriate advice is sought and the instructions for use are followed. As a general rule, skin diseases should always be professionally examined and not treated on one’s own.

With expert advice from Dr. Derendorf, specialist in dermatology and venereology (dermatology practice at St. Anna Platz in Munich).

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