Cosmeceuticals: medicinal products or perfumery and cosmetic products?

Cosmeceuticals (active cosmetics, therapeutic cosmetics) are a category of goods at the junction of medicines and cosmetic products. Cosmeceuticals include various biologically active substances that are not medicinal in certain concentrations. Cosmeceuticals have functional, measurable therapeutic and preventive properties. This is what distinguishes them from products strictly cosmetic.

The term “cosmeceuticals” was proposed by Dr. Albert Kligman in 1984 while working on the study of the anti-age effect of tretinoin (a compound close in structure to vitamin A). Kligman concluded that the product developed by him cannot be fully described as cosmetic, as it is capable of having a therapeutic effect. A decade later, British doctors Lavrijsen and Vermeer also stated the need to separate category of products called “cosmeceuticals”. They believed that such products were subject to stricter control due to possible systemic side effects.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the term is widely used in literature and academic discussions, at the legal level cosmeceutical products as a separate category of goods do not exist either in the United States or in EU, not in Japan. In the US, such products are a “subclass” of drugs, while in the EU and Japan cosmeceuticals belong to cosmetic products.

There is no such term in Russia as well. Circulation of cosmeceuticals on the market is regulated by the Customs Regulation of the Customs Union 009/2011, in which the term “cosmeceuticals” /“therapeutic cosmetics” is not found.

In terms of classification, as with the PCP, there are different approaches. By the degree of aesthetic correction of skin problems, therapeutic cosmetics can be divided into traditional, cosmetics of intended end-use, transepidermal and membrane cosmetics, as well as cellular cosmetics.

The main purpose of traditional cosmetics is to provide aesthetic effect. The biological effect of traditional cosmetics on the skin is limited to the effects on the keratinous layer of the epidermis. Target cosmetic products are addressed to consumers who have a particular dermatological pathology. Cosmetics with transepidermal effect provide nutrient penetration through the horny layer of the epidermis, the ultimate goal of which is the germ layer of cells. Cellular cosmetics provide delivery of active components directly to target cells, which perform various functions in the skin.

The main sector of cosmetics, which uses cosmeceuticals is skin care products. Primarily these are agents for the treatment of acne and anti-aging products. The most widely used in formulations of cosmeceutical products contain vitamin A, E and C, due to their antioxidant activity. Vitamins neutralize free radicals and have a protective effect against skin photoaging.

In addition, cosmeceuticals often include enzyme/coenzymes that stimulate cell regeneration, affect collagen and elastin, and regulate cell metabolism. The best-known coenzyme Q10 is a strong antioxidant and is used in skin creams to neutralize free radicals.


  1. TR CU 009/2011
  2. Polyanskaya Irina Lvovna, Tsvetkova Anna Borisovna The role of the Internet in the promotion of medical cosmetics//Bulletin of REA im. G.V. Plekhanov. 2012. №11 (53).
  3. Lavrijsen, A. and Vermeer, B. (1991), Cosmetics and drugs Is there a need for a third group: cosmetics?. British Journal of Dermatology, 124:503-504. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.1991.tb00636.x