Cosmetics deals with those aspects of the skin related to beauty. This profession concentrates
on skin care, protecting the skin, and improving its appearance. The word “cosmetic” is derived
from the Greek kosmesis (adorning), from kosmeo (to order or arrange).

Acosmetician is a person engaged in the field of cosmetics, whose work is directed toward the care, protection, and improvement in the appearance of the skin. Dermatology refers to the medical specialty of diagnosing and treating diseases of the skin, hair, and nails.

A dermatologist is a physician specializing in the various aspects of skin disease.
The term cosmetology is relatively vague and cannot always be found in dictionaries. It refers to the scientific and investigative basis of cosmetics, with its biological, chemical, and medical ramifications.

The term cosmetologist is derived from the term “cosmetology.” In its broad meaning, it refers to someone who specializes in the investigative aspects of cosmetics: he/she can be a chemist, a biologist, or a physician. However, this definition varies from one country to another.

In some countries, such as the United States, it is a formal title subjected to the regulations of each individual state. To become a cosmetologist, one has to graduate from a school of cosmetics.
In other countries, however, there is no recognized medical/professional specialty of cosmetology so, in practice, the title of “cosmetologist” may be used by anyone who decides to call himself/herself as such.

The U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FDC) Act defines cosmetics as:

(1) Articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance; and
(2) Articles intended for use as a component of any such articles except that such a term shall not include soap.

There is a significant difference between cosmetic products and drugs (including drugs intended for application to the skin), which the reader should be familiar with. Drugs are defined in the FDC Act as including:

articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease in man . . . articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man.

It follows from the above that a cosmetic product (not being a drug) is not meant to affect the structure or function of the skin. However, nowadays this strict definition is becoming more and more blurred.


Cosmetic preparations are classified in accordance with their function:
  • those that improve appearance and beautify  
  • those related to skin care  
  • those related to skin protection 
Improving Appearance and Beautifying
The aim of beautifying products is to impart a pleasant and attractive appearance by emphasizing
those areas of the face or body that look better, in order to focus the observer’s gaze on them. At
the same time, an attempt is made to camouflage less attractive areas and correct skin lesions,
if necessary. This category of cosmetic products includes various makeups, hair dyes, and nail
polishes, etc.

Skin Care
Cosmetics are used to obtain and retain a smooth, soft and supple skin. Moisturizing and cleansing
preparations belong to this category. Some have a protective effect.

Skin Protection
The aim of protective products is to shield the skin from the external effects of the sun, wind, cold, etc. Sunscreen preparations belong to this category. Moisturizers also have a protective effect on the skin. Soaps that contain antibacterial substances are also included in this category, since they do provide a certain degree of antibacterial protection to the skin.


In the past, the division between cosmetic products and drugs was clear cut. Nearly all cosmetics
were no more (and did not usually claim to be anything other) than simple moisturizing, cleansing, or coloring products.

Currently, the boundary between drugs and cosmetic products for skin care is becoming blurred. Many cosmetic products are marketed with statements such as: “Accelerates the renewal of cells” “Builds up supportive tissue in the skin” “Repairs sun damage to the skin” “Repairs skin aging”
All of the above effects can only be achieved by drugs, since they relate to changes in the function and structure of the tissue.

Sometimes the difference between a cosmetic product and a drug lies in the concentration of the active ingredient in the product. For example, in low concentrations, -hydroxy acids function essentially as moisturizing agents; it is only in higher concentrations that they have any significant effect on the epidermis.

Not only the border between cosmetic products and drugs is hazy but there is also a gray area between cosmetic treatments and dermatology. A cosmetician’s treatment can alter the structure and function of the skin—for example, in the treatment of acne, or in the application of permanent makeup, etc. Therefore, some modern cosmetic products lie in an increasingly gray area and can almost be defined as medications. This fact confers a serious responsibility on those involved in cosmetic treatment, requiring them to have a fairly deep knowledge of the subject, and to exercise careful judgement when using the cosmetic products at their disposal.


The term “cosmeceuticals” was first popularized by the dermatologist, Professor Albert Kligman, in the mid 1980s. This term comprises a combination between the terms “cosmetics” and “pharmaceuticals” and refers to preparations between these two groups. The need to reclassify the traditional approach originates from the FDC Act, defining drugs as compounds that affect the structure of the skin or its function, as opposed to cosmetic products.

According toFDCAct definitions, a cosmetic product is not supposed to change or affect the structure or function of body tissue.With the accumulation of more and more knowledge in the physiology and pharmacology of the skin, it has become evident that every cosmetic preparation and every compound, even the most simple, may alter the skin up to a certain extent. The degree of alteration merely depends on the concentration of each material and duration of exposure. It is clear, however, that not every cosmetic product can be regarded as a drug. There is an area between what can be considered purely a drug or purely a cosmetic.

The term “cosmeceuticals” (or “active cosmetics”) serves to define those products which may exert some beneficial effect on the skin but cannot be regarded as having a clear biological therapeutical effect, which would require them to be classified as drugs. The classical products which may be regarded as cosmeceuticals are retinol preparations, which are less potent than tretinoin (the latter being a drug). Other products that may be regarded as cosmeceuticals are, for example, -hydroxy acids, -hydroxy acids, and certain bleaching agents.

The term “cosmeceuticals” remains controversial. It has not been accepted by all researchers. For the time being, it has no legal standing in most countries and has not been recognized by the FDA. In the cosmetics industry, it is used to indicate products thatmayhave beneficial effects due to certain physiological activities. The term, therefore, has an additional marketing value.

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