Cosmeceuticals in cosmetics

A reader asked me why there weren’t more high performance cosmeceutical ingredients in cosmetics. I think there are a few reasons you don’t see many of them used.

1. Cosmeceutical claims are limited.

In the US (and elsewhere) cosmetics are not allowed to actually have an impact on the body’s biochemistry. They are only allowed to superficially “change the appearance.” So, you can’t legally claim things like “increase collagen production” or “stimulates superoxide dismutase” or claims like that. So, even if the cosmeceutical ingredient had some great effect, it is not legal to tell people. Arguably, it is not legal to actually use the ingredient in your formula either.

2. Consumers can’t tell a difference.

Perhaps the biggest reason is that consumers are terrible at noticing performance differences. This is especially true for products that are supposed to provide a long term benefit. If someone buys a product that has Vitamin A in it and they use it for 2 weeks, it is highly unlikely that person would notice any difference whether they were using a “high performance” vitamin A or one of the readily produced, less expensive vitamin A.

If you were a manufacturer of a product and you could make something for less money where consumers can’t tell a difference, it would make no sense to use a premium ingredient.

3. It’s difficult to demonstrate real differences.

While consumers can’t tell differences you might say that showing lab differences are at least worth it for claims. But showing a real difference between a standard Vit A and a “high performance” one would be really hard. Then when you put the ingredient in a formula, showing differences are even more difficult. And the differences that you mentioned like irritation, solubility & stability, they are easily overcome through formulating or they don’t matter to the consumer.

I think the bottom line answer is that these ingredients aren’t used more often because they haven’t been shown to be worth the added cost. If you can prove a difference that matters to consumers they would be used more.

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