Pharmaceuticals in skin care

pharmacetutials for skin care
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In human development, the need to position oneself in the community was formed very early and in many ways. The current generation positions itself through education and ownership of assets. And no matter how society changes, humanity has never ignored health care or positioning itself through physical beauty.

The 21st century has witnessed many scientific achievements applied to the beauty industry. Modern beauty methods that can be mentioned include cosmetic surgery, GYM, YOGA, and most commonly, the use of cosmetics.

Originating from natural methods and ingredients passed down through generations, we have now discovered active ingredients that act very quickly and are not found in nature. In addition to cosmetics, humanity has created cosmetics and skin care pharmaceuticals.

1. What are Cosmetics, Cosmeceuticals and Skin Care Pharmaceuticals?

During my work from 2018 until now, I have noted the fact that quite a few people know these three concepts.

Customers are simply looking to buy products that are heavily advertised and reviewed by many KOLs. Actually, they only care about the results the products bring, but the problem they don’t know is whether the products are suitable for their condition and needs. The sellers themselves rarely explain those concepts to customers.

This problem is very common in the Asian market in general, where there are many loopholes in pharmaceutical management and regulations in product advertising. In this part 1, I would like to provide some basic concepts to help you distinguish between cosmetics, cosmetic pharmaceuticals, and skin care pharmaceuticals.

cosmetics cosmeceuticals and pharmaceuticals

a. function

Cosmetics focus on improving the appearance of the skin, often including cleansing, moisturizing, sun protection, skin brightening, reducing oil secretion, etc.

Skin care pharmaceuticals are essentially drugs designed to treat complex dermatological problems such as acne, melasma, aging, dermatitis, eczema, radiation damage, etc.

Cosmeceuticals have both beautifying effects and contain active ingredients in low concentrations used to treat common dermatological symptoms such as acne, melasma, and aging.

b. ingredient

Cosmetics often contain extracts from natural ingredients. There are also brands that focus on scientific ingredients and the application of new technologies.

Skin care pharmaceuticals contain high concentrations of active ingredients that have been tested and proven effective in dermatological treatment. They have the ability to deeply impact the skin structure.

Cosmeceuticals, in addition to the ingredients in cosmetics, will contain active ingredients, but in low concentrations.

c. using

Cosmetics are used every day to maintain effectiveness and best exploit the effects of the product.

Skin care pharmaceuticals are used according to the instructions of a doctor or pharmacist and can be used in combination with other treatments.

Cosmeceuticals are also used for a long time until dermatological problems improve. After that, you can stop and switch to regular cosmetics.

d. production process

Cosmetics are subject to the labeling and cosmetic safety regulations of each country or region.

Pharmaceutical skin care products are subject to stricter regulations for safety and effectiveness than drugs.

Cosmeceuticals are easier to manage than pharmaceuticals and also comply with regulations when producing cosmetics. Only certain active ingredients are licensed for use in this type of product.

e. management and consumption

Customers can easily buy cosmetics in stores and online without needing a doctor’s permission. The same is true for cosmetics; doctors only play a consulting role in product selection.

For skin care pharmaceuticals, they are often prescribed by doctors, and instructions must be followed to ensure effectiveness and safety. Normally, patients will have to have regular follow-up visits to have their treatment regimen adjusted.

2. Some popular pharmaceuticals in the beauty industry

2.1 The truth about Retin A

Many of my friends don’t know what retin A actually is. This is truly a paradox in an era where everything is connected, but people are impatient to find accurate information.

An absurd reality is happening on social networks, which is that consumers often buy products based on advice from KOLs. Every word of a KOL is more valuable than the research and degrees of a doctor.

Their purchasing behavior often happens very quickly, skipping the stage of researching and comparing information or seeking advice from experts. However, people should not rush to feel pessimistic about that reality. Next to ignorant customers, there are always a large number of knowledgeable customers.

To start, let’s talk about vitamin A, a common vitamin in nature and important for the body.

Vitamin A has a derivative called Tretinoin Retionic Acid, commonly known as Tretinoin1. Thanks to its acid form, this ingredient works well on the skin, promoting its full effect and bringing high efficiency. This means that it easily causes irritation and side effects, so it requires a doctor’s prescription and is usually only used continuously for 5–6 months.

The Retin A is just the name of a cream circulating on the market; the main ingredient is tretinoin. In addition to that cream, there are many other products containing tretinoin in pharmacies.

So when you buy acne cream, you don’t need to pay attention to the name of the product; just read the ingredient list containing tretinoin. Depending on the manufacturer, these creams are also supplemented with other substances.

So we will arrange it in order from original substance to commercial product, as follows:

Vitamin A > Tretinoin (Tretinoin Retionic Acid) > Topical creams (e.g., Derma Factory Retinal, Retacnyl Tretionin Cream, Retin A Erylik, Locacid, etc.)

Vitamin A also has many other derivatives. They have a strong impact on increasing collagen production, filling wrinkles, brightening skin, and treating acne.

I list a few other derivatives that have the same effect below.

2.2 Retinol2

This is also a derivative of vitamin A in ester form, so it needs many steps of conversion to become acidic (the state that brings the highest effect). This feature makes it safe, less irritating, and classified as a non-prescription drug.

You can use products containing retinol for a long time and maintain them daily to have smooth, supple skin while still avoiding unwanted side effects.

retin a and adapalene
The cream contains Retin A and Adapalene

2.3 Adapalene

This is also an active ingredient in the retinoid group. Its main function is to treat mild-to-moderate acne. It should not be used to treat eczema. It is recommended for people with dry and light skin.

This active ingredient is packaged in cream form. Has a topical treatment effect, that is, applied to acne spots. Adapalene has a low rate of absorption through the skin, rarely causing side effects.

3. Competition between the laboratory and nature

If you are a smart customer, you may notice a slight differentiation between the European and Asian cosmetic markets (including India and Korea).

This differentiation is caused by differences in perspectives between brands. This entails differences in products, differences in usage, differences in promotion, and differences in consumer habits in the two markets.

One side promotes scientific research and the application of new technology; the other side is loyal to what is purely natural and considers human intervention in creation to be blasphemous.

We must agree that the biomedical industry in general and the cosmetic industry in particular take advantage of materials available in nature. With later advances in science, people have researched and synthesized active ingredients that cannot be found in nature and have very strong activity.

Modern biomedicine has proven its superiority throughout human history, for example by producing drugs to fight epidemics, successfully treating serious diseases, and increasing human lifespan.

In the face of the above advancements, there are still manufacturers and customers who are loyal to natural products.

natural and clinical cosmetic
Natural And Clinical Cosmetic

Faced with those two opinions, you should ignore emotional views and focus on learning about large-scale experiments and proven research projects.

You can see a study in part 3 of the following article: Who Should Use Calendula Extract (Chrysanthemum) ?

Then we will see the truth: there is no clear border between the two streams of thought mentioned above. They are just two sides of the same problem and complete each other; the person who benefits the most (in terms of health) is the customer. Specifically:

For those who have healthy skin, do not have many dermatological problems, and just want to have healthier, more beautiful skin, they can prioritize using products containing natural extracts (usually from Asia). for a long time. These products focus on providing moisture and nutrients to the epidermis, creating a sustainable foundation to help skin become healthier over time.

For people with diseases such as eczema, rosacea, and severe inflammatory acne, skin care pharmaceuticals will be the right choice. Dermatologists will analyze and come up with a reasonable treatment regimen to fix the problem. After a period of treatment, if the condition progresses well, the patient can switch to using pharmaceuticals or cosmetics to strengthen the skin and maintain the effectiveness of the previous treatment.

IngredientOften use natural ingredients such as green tea extract, snails, ginseng, flowers, and beansOften use scientific ingredients such as retinol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C… and often apply new technologies.
FunctionFocus on moisturizing, brightening skin, and anti-aging.Focus on treating dermatological problems such as acne, melasma, freckles…
PriceDiverse price segments, from affordable to high-end.Usually priced higher than Asian cosmetics.
OpinionEmphasize step-by-step skin care, using multiple products.Emphasis on using multi-purpose, fast-acting products. Provides in-depth solutions to complex skin problems.
The difference between European and Asian thinking

4. Innovation of brands

In 2024, I see many changes in the industry, specifically a change in product development thinking and resulting changes in the market and potential customers.

The most practical example is that Amorepacific Group, in the second half of 2023, has profoundly changed its brand identity. In the US market, they have transformed into AP, redesigning the product labels in a simple, luxurious direction (in contrast to the previous variety and colors).

Sub-brands such as Innisfree and Sulwhasoo have also been redesigned in a Western-style minimalist direction.

The formulas in both old and new products are also improved; they focus on powerful active ingredients, bringing the breath of modern science in parallel with traditional plant extracts (most notably green tea).

It seems they want to position AP as a clinical brand associated with dermatologists, in line with what’s popular in the luxury sector in the West.

Why did a very large corporation in Korea like Amorepacific, with 80 years of development and loyalty to the use of natural extracts, have such a surprising change?

I make two assumptions, as follows:

  1. They want to avoid dependence on the Chinese market as their main source of international revenue. They accept changes to better suit the demanding markets in the US and Europe. Customers in these two markets are highly demanding and prioritize products containing a lot of proven scientific and technical content. Transitioning to a clinical and luxury brand image seemed like the right move.
  2. An 80-year-old corporation will have many internal problems; pressure to innovate may be one of the reasons for this shift.

Through discussions on Reddit, there are quite a few people who are not interested in this innovation. However, we should wait and see if the results these new products bring are worth it. And will European and US customers return to natural products in the future?

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