As we now know from my previous blog entry, the main difference between a cosmetic and a cosmeceutical is that a cosmeceutical has actives in the product that create a physiological difference in the skin. Now this is talking about actually changing the way your skin cells behave, yeah, not just some fluffy cream that makes your skin feel smooth for a few minutes and smells good, these products are actually changing the cells behaviour.
For example, using specific versions of Vitamin A (retinol) to stimulate the fibroblasts (a type of cell) in the dermis to produce more collagen and elastin proteins.
Now at the moment in Australia, any and all ‘Cosmetics’ defined by Product Safety Australia (retrieved on 11/4/16, www.productsafety.gov.au) as:
cosmetic products are substances or preparations intended for placement in contact with any external part of the body, including the mouth and teeth, for the purpose of:
Whether these products have actives or not, they follow the Trade Practices (Consumer Product Information Standards) (Cosmetics) Regulations 1991 for labelling laws. This mainly just requires a full ingredient list, no false credence claims and must not be presented as preventing, diagnosing, curing or alleviating a disease, ailment, defect or injury in people (https://www.nicnas.gov.au/chemical-information/cosmetics/marketing-requirements, retrieved 11/4/16). And all other cosmetic product related regulation is undertaken by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) which created a new framework (Cosmetics Standard 2007) for the regulation of cosmetic products in September 2007, which consists of 6 categories, of which 3 are related to skincare, however they only cover SPF products, Anti-bacterial products and anti-acne products, which are only a small portion of skincare product types.
Now the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) states that it “only assesses products that make therapeutic claims” (http://www.tga.gov.au/cosmetics) and it describes therapeutic goods as:
In relation to the evaluation, assessment and monitoring done by the TGA, therapeutic goods are broadly defined as products for use in humans in connection with:
So aren’t all products that are claiming to be cosmeceutical or cosmedical grade products making therapeutic claims as they are claiming to influence, inhibit or modify a physiological process in the skin? But does the Therapeutic Goods Administration treat these ‘cosmeceutical skincare claims’ as therapeutic claims? As far as I could find, no, it doesn’t class cosmeceutical or cosmedical grade claims on skincare as therapeutic claims, mainly because no doctor is needed to prescribe these.
Pictured above is an example of an incredibly potent salicylic acid and retinol peel that has been used incorrectly on skin that is not ready for it. These burns will probably have taken weeks if not months to heal and could have caused unpleasant side effects, such as pigmentation or scarring.
Some of these products out there though are really potent and active compounds encapsulated with proteins and phospholipid bilayers to make the skin accept the product more readily and grant it access past the protective acid mantle of the skin in the epidermis and grant access down to the basal layer of the epidermis which is where the skin’s stem cells are located. These products, in the wrong hands, can cause some serious damage to a persons’ skin health and integrity, yet as far as I could find, they go pretty unassessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, therefore avoiding the stricter clinical trial regulations that go with therapeutic goods. Some products undergo strict testing and there are scientific peer reviewed studies on the effects certain enzymes, proteins or molecules can have on the skin, backing up and proving that these products do what they claim they do.
That for the benefit of the wider community I think that products claiming cosmeceutical or cosmedical grade quality should be treated as therapeutic goods in regards to its stricter regulation and clinical trials (as currently for skincare products these trials are very lax and quite optional), therefore also deterring products from falsely claiming to be of that high quality and potency, therefore avoiding consumer misinformation helping to improve the ethics in the marketing of skincare and general safety and appropriate education for consumers.