Cosmeceuticals and the Practice of Dermatology

Published on 15/03/2015 by admin

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Last modified 15/03/2015

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Chapter 1 Cosmeceuticals and the Practice of Dermatology


America’s 78 million baby boomers have settled into a collective state of anxiety about aging. The 45 + age bracket is set to grow at three times the rate of the general population, and it is expected that ‘antiaging’ products and services will grow in parallel over the next two decades. While the demand for aesthetic medical treatments such as Botox, soft tissue augmentation, and laser or chemical resurfacing is considerable, many people prefer a more economical or less invasive approach. Cosmeceuticals, or cosmetic products promoted as having ‘biologically active’ ingredients, are increasingly being used in place of or in addition to medical procedures and feature ever more prominently in the practice of dermatology. As our profession’s involvement in this area grows, so does the need for a unified, best practices approach.

• Medical marketing

Tremendous hype surrounds cosmeceuticals and consumers are exposed to products from a variety of sources. Editorials or advertisements in the popular press and interactions with personnel at retail stores, spas, and salons are the primary distribution channels. Increasing use is being made of print advertorials, or sponsored editorials, which are essentially advertisements designed to resemble editorial content. Cosmeceuticals are featured on commercials, talk show beauty segments, news programs, home shopping networks, and infomercials, an advertisement vehicle with a prolonged and highly detailed sales message. The internet is an expanding source for information, editorial advertisement, and product sales. Chat rooms and message boards devoted to health and aesthetic concerns frequently feature discussions on the latest skin care products, widening product exposure.

In all these venues, savvy marketers capitalize on every possible scientific angle to promote cosmeceutical products. While the concept of scientific skin care and medicinal cosmetics is nothing new, therapeutic positioning has increased in recent years, and its appeal has firmly taken hold in the minds of marketers and consumers. Claims are made for efficacy based on ‘scientific studies’ and consumers are led to believe that products are backed by solid medical evidence. Such claims are rarely distributed through scientific channels, purportedly because manufacturers are concerned about protecting proprietary formulations but mostly due to fear of negative results. Clinical props like sales clerks in white lab coats, pharmaceutical-like bottles and packaging, and even black doctors’ bags are employed to enhance the impression of scientifically formulated products.

Corporate consulting by dermatologists, sponsorship of research, and now corporate sponsorship of academic centers has further blurred the lines between cosmetic and medical practice, providing the possibility of conflict of interest, undermining of patient trust, and public perception of dermatology as a medical rather than an aesthetic specialty.

Complicating the situation for consumers as well as physicians, many of these claims have some foundation in scientific plausibility. Most consumers, however, do not have the knowledge to judge an advertisement’s veracity and may not understand that cosmetics, unlike drugs, have no pre-market requirement for proof of safety or efficacy.


• Growing demand

Points of sale for cosmeceutical products include department stores, specialty stores, apothecaries, chain drugstores, mass volume retailers, home shopping networks, internet sites, spas, beauty salons, and, increasingly, doctors’ offices. It is estimated that as many as 40–70% of dermatologists are currently dispensing products from their offices (Ogbogu, Lamberg), and doctors of every other specialty are increasingly involved, as well.

In 2003, the total US cosmetics market was valued at $45.5 billion, with skin care products accounting for $15 billion alone. Table 1.1 depicts a further breakdown of spending by category. Within skin care products, antiaging and sun protection products are at the top of the demand and drive the overall industry. Cosmeceuticals are growing faster than any other sector. The US cosmeceutical market reached $5.4 billion in 2005 with skin care products accounting for up to 60–80% of cosmeceutical sales according to the Fredonia Group, an industry market research firm. US demand for cosmeceutical products is projected to grow by 11% per year to $7 billion in 2010, with demand for antiaging agents expanding at twice the rate of other skin care cosmeceuticals.

Table 1.1 US spending on beauty products, 2003

Category $ billions
Color cosmetics $15.2
Skin care $15
Body and bath products $6.4
Women’s fragrances $6.2
Men’s products $2.6


With an aging population that is also increasingly affluent, the demand for high-end products has grown exponentially. Products priced at more than $70 made up 14% total skin care sales in 2003, a nearly threefold increase from 5% in 2000, and further growth is anticipated, according to the retail tracking firm NPD Group. As consumers increasingly associate natural products with safety and luxury, the natural-products market, a subset of cosmeceuticals and antiaging products, has seen growth in consumer demand, particularly in the high-end and niche markets. The increased demand for natural products including botanical extracts and oils, proteins and minerals in beauty and personal care products is reflected in retail sales totaling $6 billion in 2006 according to the market research firm Packaged Facts, and is projected to increase to $8 billion by 2012.

• Regulatory issues and product development

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