In this interview with Mrs Taiwo Akinola, superintendent pharmacist of Thompson and Grace Pharmaceuticals Limited, she disclosed to Pharmanews why there is more to cosmetics than beauty. She also explained why her company engages in cosmetics distribution. Excerpts:
How would you define cosmetics?
Cosmetics, also known as make-up, are care substances used to enhance the appearance or odour of the human body. They are generally mixtures of chemical compounds, some from natural sources, and others, synthetic. Examples include body creams/lotions, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polish, deodorants, hair cream and relaxers, aftershave cream/gel, hair removal cream etc. This wide variety is generally divided into two types: decorative cosmetics and care cosmetics.
How are cosmetics different from over-the-counter (OTC) drugs?
Cosmetics are different from over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in that cosmetics are intended to be applied on the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or functions – as it is with drugs. Cosmetics are not used in the treatment or prevention of diseases. For example, taking paracetamol tablet for pain or headache.
Is there any relationship between cosmetics and health?
The skin is the largest organ of the body, weighing between 8- 10 pounds in the average adult, and has an area of about 22 square feet. It serves many functions, including protective, sensory, regulatory, communication, and metabolic functions. Most of the things we put on our skin get absorbed in the body. Some stay near the surface, while others get absorbed into the blood stream and travel throughout the whole system. Many scientists think that changes in our health – such as proliferation of terminal diseases like cancer, onset of signs of puberty at an unusually early age, and even reproductive problems in adult women may be partly caused by all of the chemicals that we are exposed to every day.
Studies have shown that an average teenager uses 15-25 cosmetics per day: shower/wash, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face toner, cream, lotion, hair food, lipsticks, nail polish etc. This continuous exposure affects our health, especially when products with harmful ingredients are involved. Someone experiencing itching or skin infection from sharing cosmetic brush which can transfer bacteria from skin to skin, or those with bloodshot eyes from mascara flakes cannot be said to be healthy since health is holistic.
What, really, are the benefits of cosmetics usage?
Cosmetics can hide blemishes, discoloured skin, scarring, etc. They help to enhance one’s complexion and beautify the skin. Moisturisers, for example, offer excellent protection against cold winds and act as lubricating agents. There are special sun protection creams/lotions that can protect you from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. These creams minimise the risk of skin cancer, which may result from exposure to sun rays.
Many cosmetics contain Vitamins such as A, D, E and K which are essential for healthy skin and hair.
To cope with body odour, one can use deodorants and perfumes. These help in making one feel fresh all through the day.
Some cosmetics can also be used to treat certain skin problems. For instance, dark spots and pimples can be treated with anti-pimple gel and coloured cream. While wrinkles can become less visible with the use of anti-aging creams/lotions.
Is every cosmetic safe for use? If not, how can consumers choose the best cosmetic for them?
No, not every cosmetic is safe for use. Consumers can determine the best cosmetics for them by first identifying their skin types. Either it’s oily, dry or normal. This will aid in the choice of cosmetics best suitable for their skin.
The average Nigerian doesn’t believe in reading labels and instructions before purchasing items from the store. This is not good enough as some serious damages could occur.
It is also advisable to always test a new cosmetic on a less visible part of the body, like the back of the hand, before using on the entire body, especially the face.
Are there some harmful components consumers should watch out for in cosmetics?
Fragrances and preservatives are the main ingredients in cosmetics. Fragrances are the most common cause of skin problems.
Preservatives prevent bacteria and fungi from growing in the products and protect products from damage caused by air or light. But they can also cause skin irritation and infection. Examples of these preservatives are paraben, formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol, Imidazolidinyl urea.
Cosmetics ingredients that can cause cancer or other serious health problems include Bithionol, mercury compounds, vinyl chloride, halogenated salicyanillides, chloroform, methylene chloride, and hexachlorophene.
What is the range of your company’s cosmetics and what benefits do they offer?
The range of our company’s cosmetics, Sebamed, are many and include Sebamed soap-free skin cleansers; skin care products; hair care; deodorants; anti-dry, anti-ageing, sun care products for adult and babies; baby Sebamed care range; Sebamed clear face range; and many others.
Regarding benefits of these products, I must duly inform you that Sebamed range of products are produced by Sebapharma in Germany with the support of leaders of dermatological research and development. All the products reflect quality through their careful, scientifically developed formulations, and consequently guarantee the highest skin tolerability.
Sebamed range of products are produced and maintained at PH 5.5. PH is the value of acid or alkali measured on a scale of 1-14, PH 7 being neutral. Lower numbers are increasingly acidic, while higher numbers are increasingly alkaline. A healthy skin has a slightly acidic PH value of 5.5.
Maintaining the skin PH or acid mantle is extremely important because the acid mantle supports the synthesis of barrier forming lipids within the stratum corneum. It stabilises the barrier structures of the stratum corneum lipids and the ecological balance of the skin’s micro flora. Also, the proliferation and differentiation of the skin cells is PH dependent.
Repetitive washing with soap leads to a permanent though slight increase of the skin surface PH. Sebamed products protect the skin’s barrier function through a PH of 5.5 They help protect against drying and irritation, provide efficient skin care, and are 100 per cent soap and alkali-free! They are widely recommended by dermatologists for the therapeutic cleansing of diseased skin.
We refer to our products as cosmeceuticals. The term has no meaning under the law but refers to products that are both cosmetics and drugs; an example of which is the anti-dandruff shampoo. While shampoo is cosmetic, the anti-dandruff properties make it a drug for treating dandruff. Also, the urea range of creams serves the purpose of moisturisers in treatment of extreme dry skin and psoriasis .They meet the standards for both cosmetics and drugs.
What is your advice to victims of harmful cosmetics?
Consumers should note that our skin type (light or dark) is genetically determined and should, therefore, stop the habit of bleaching, which damages the skin.
They should buy products with good label information – information is power! Products being purchased must also be sure to have the name and address of the manufacturers or distributors.
There is a need to check statements about a product’s alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA) and PH levels. Consumers should protect their skins with sunscreens, having SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Many Nigerians don’t believe in the use of sunscreen.
Lastly, be sure to stop any range of products once you notice a reaction or skin irritation.
It is very important to see a doctor or dermatologist if you have a problem with your skin after using a cosmetic product.