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Drugs in Cosmetics

Stephen Rothman, M.D.
JAMA. 1961;178(1):38-42. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040400040008.
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Cosmetic materials and procedures are aimed at beautifying appearance and promoting attractiveness. This is satisfactorily achieved by nonmedical measures as devised by modern cosmetic chemists. Incorporation of pharmacologically active ingredients into cosmetics which are sold across the counter is objectionable because no absorbable drug should be given without control of dosage. Drugs in very low concentrations may be "safe" but then they are usually biologically ineffective. None of the recommended drugs, vitamins, and hormones in permissible low concentrations have ever been shown to improve appearance. Antibiotics are effective in combating axillary odor, but their indiscriminate use is fraught with danger. Improvement of appearance of diseased skin is a medical task requiring diagnostic procedures and individualized treatment. Therefore, proprietary topical preparations with fixed concentrations of drugs are of little value.


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