By thewe
March 20, 2019
4 min read

“The FDA defines a drug as an article that intends to change the function or structure of an organ- in this case, the skin. As a drug, the product must get premarket FDA approval and prove safety and efficacy. A cosmetic however, cannot intend to actually change the skin but rather change the appearance of the skin.” said Dr. Fayne Frey, A Dermatological surgeon in West Nyack, New York.

Frey cites that products that increase water content make the skin more hydrated – or rather, makes the skin appear more hydrated. “Increasing water content temporarily improves the appearance of skin. The FDA considers products that temporarily increase water content of skin or moisturizes do not require FDA approval and do not need to prove safety or efficacy. Frey says that the things you buy to moisturize or reduce wrinkles, hide dark circles, or reduce sun damage- are cosmetics- and as such cannot legally claim to change the skin. For this reason, marketing products is limited to phrases like “decreases the appearance of fine lines’ rather than “gets rid of fine lines.”

For the average consumer, the first step is knowing what they mean, says Dr. Manish Shah, a board certified plastic surgeon in Denver, Colorado, “ As with marketing, if the customer can identify with a problem, and the product claims to improve the problem, sales will increase. “ These claims aren’t lies but they aren’t truths either. Some patients will see intended improvements”.


Below are the most used marketing claims and what they really mean:


“Maximum strength refers to products that provide a higher concentration of the active ingredient than the regular strengths,” says Dr. Erum IIyas a board-certified dermatologist in Pennsylvania. “However, this is not necessarily referring to buying the highest strength available.”

Ilyas says this claim can be misleading for people looking to get more efficacy from high strengths.

“After trying a ‘maximum strength’ without a response, there can be an assumption that even that didn’t work,” she said.



This claim means one or more of the ingredients comes from a plant, in addition, it could also means the product is synthetic but behaves closely to a plant based ingredient. “Natural” ingredients may imply where the ingredients come from but discloses nothing about the safety of the ingredient. Frey says “ while most consumers can apply personal care products that claim to be all natural, without ill effects, some plant derived ingredients can cause devastating reactions in people with allergies.



Dr. Susan Bard, a board certified dermatologist says, “This is a way to show that their product is unique, however unique doesn’t necessarily mean better or more effective.”



Products that yield temporary boosts of moisture or claim to have “fast acting” effects may fade shortly.

You want products with long term results



Mature customers may purchase a night cream with claims of “firming” or a tauter look, but this claim really means nothing.



This is essentially the most common marketing term Fey says “Science is yet to discover any ingredient or product that can reverse or slow down the aging process”.

These products may increase hydration and temporarily reduce fine lines but once the product is stopped, the lines may return. If they could change the structure of skin, these creams would be classified as drugs which would require FDA Approval.



The FDA ONLY approves products that are drugs and make claims to change the structure of the skin, The FDA approves no element or claim of skincare products before they are sold, they stipulate that the product being sold is safe to use in the manner in which the manufacturer says,

FDA approval is not a credential that shows the superiority of results says Shah.



“Rarely anything is for all skin types, but as with any product, tiral and error is key” says Bard


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.