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Some cosmeceuticals are no joke



Dr. Adam Friedman offers tips for dermatologists when recommending cosmeceuticals to patients. (sitthiphong - stock.adobe.com)

Dr. Friedman

As an academic medical dermatologist and physician scientist, one might assume Adam Friedman, M.D., thinks the role of cosmeceuticals in dermatology practice is a joke.

Not necessarily so, says Dr. Friedman, who presented “Cosmeceuticals: Naturally absurd?” during the Monday, March 4, Hot Topics panel at the 2019 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

“There is some solid science and, even more importantly, real opportunities for translational research to answer this very question [about whether cosmeceuticals are naturally absurd],” says Dr. Friedman, professor and interim chair of dermatology and director of translational research, dermatology, at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “Just because a company did not feel like spending $17 to $20 million and 18 years to bring an active ingredient from bench to bedside doesn’t mean these over-the-counter products don’t have biological activity. They just can't say they do. But I challenge them to show the science!”

Dr. Friedman offers these tips for dermatologists when recommending cosmeceuticals to patients:

  • “If the claims are too good to be true, they probably are.”

  • “When asked, ‘Which product should I use, Doctor?’, my answer is: ‘Bigger name brands have the resources, funding and networks to conduct the research that supports the over-the-counter claim. Try a couple and pick the one that’s right for you.’”

  • “When in doubt, sunscreen; an oil-free, humectant/emollient/occlusive-containing moisturizer, and a retinoid will (wait for the corny rhyme) help you out.”

Retinoids will never go away, plain and simple, Dr. Friedman says.

“[Retinoids’] delivery and stabilization are what will likely be improved upon over time,” he says.

Dermatologists should keep their eyes on a few cosmeceutical trends that might not be absurd, according to Dr. Friedman: Microbiota reconstitution, DNA repair enzymes, stabilized/viable antioxidant and peptides, as well as hormonal manipulation.


Dr. Friedman has consulting, speaking and other ties with AbbVie, Aclaris Therapeutics, Allergan, Amgen, Bayer, Biogen, Dermira, Eli Lilly and Company, Encore Dermatology, Exeltis, Galderma USA, Hoth Therapeutics, IntraDerm Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Biotech, Johnson and Johnson Consumer Products Company, La Roche-Posay Laboratorie Pharmaceutique, Medscape, Menlo Therapeutics, Novartis, Oculus innovative Sciences, Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic & Clinical, Ortho Dermatologics, Pfizer, Promius Pharma, Regeneron, Sanova Works, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International and Valeant Pharmaceuticals North America.

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