The Benefits of Cosmetics/Toiletries

Date: 7th March 2013

Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists

The Benefits of Cosmetics/Toiletries – A Cosmetic Chemist’s View

Author: Henry King, Down Under Cosmetics-Technologies February 2013

Supercedes: “Benefits of Cosmetics” Position Paper published February 1988.

Prepared by: Jenny Karavotas; On behalf of Dr. K. Cirigottis

The impulse to look our best is age-old. The use of cosmetics is not a need created by the cosmetic industry but something that has arisen spontaneously in many cultures. The reason for their popularity is the important physiological and psychological benefit they impart to the user.

The benefits of cosmetics and toiletries are many and Cosmetic Scientists are skilled at developing products to meet these needs.

• Skin condition can be improved by application of preventative and treatment cosmetics. This includes moisturisation, tone, wrinkle and blemish reduction associated with skin ageing.

• Symptoms of acne can be reduced.

• Skin can be protected from sun damage by appropriate use of sunscreen products.

• Antiperspirants and Deodorants are effective in reducing perspiration and body odours.

• Skin Fragrance can be used to elicit strong positive emotion.

• Hair can be cleaned with shampoo conditioned and treated to enhance its appearance.

• Shaded Products – colour cosmetics such as foundation, lipstick, eye, nail and lip products are used to enhance the appearance.

• Dental products, such as toothpaste and oral washes work to clean and reduce odour.

• Soaps cleanse the skin and help to reduce bacteria.

Cosmetics impart benefits to an individual. Apart from the more often cited physiological benefits there are very real psychological and social benefits to be gained from the use of cosmetics. It is these benefits that ensure cosmetic products are, and will remain, an integral part of life.


A number of studies (1, 2, 3) have shown that using cosmetics to improve one’s appearance results in positive effects on perception by others. When we first encounter other people, their physical characteristics represent a salient source of information. People use this information to judge what the individual is like. This first impression is often important. Evidence has shown that people assign valuable social characteristics to those well endowed with physical attractiveness, conforming to the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype. This can be extended to “what is made beautiful is good”. Studies have shown that people of average attractiveness who use cosmetics can gain the advantages of positive personality attributes (13, 14).

Being physically attractive (whether through the use of cosmetics or otherwise) has other practical benefits. It is widely believed that attractive people are more likely to be hired, are offered higher salaries and are expected to be more competent than the physically unattractive. The unattractive employee is more likely to receive resistance when attempting to motivate, influence and elicit the cooperation of others. They are less likely to marry into a higher social class and more likely to be convicted in a court situation. Such differential treatment can affect personality development. It has been asserted that attractive people may actually possess greater interpersonal skills in relating to others with confidence, assertiveness and relationship building effectiveness.

Apart from making us more attractive, cosmetics enable us to project a certain image. The way in which we carry ourselves, care for ourselves and apply cosmetics can tell others how we want to be regarded.

The use of cosmetics to improve our appearance can affect our self-perception. When we feel good, our self-esteem increases and our performance improves which favourably affects what others think of us, and how they behave towards us. In the same way, negative feelings about our appearance can trigger self-doubt that leads to lower self-esteem, confidence and performance.

Each group of cosmetics can impart specific physiological and psychological benefit to the user. SHADED PRODUCTS (pigmented foundations, lipsticks, eye shadows, blushers etc.), apart from making the wearer look and feel more attractive, can have a psychologically therapeutic effect.

MOISTURISERS can induce a smoother feel and appearance to the skin and reduce the flaking associated with dryness. Certainly, the maintenance of a normally hydrated skin is a very tangible physiological benefit.

SUNSCREENS impart both physiological and psychological benefit. They help protect the skin from wrinkling, premature aging effects in general and skin cancer by screening out harmful ultraviolet rays. They also allow the wearer to build up a controlled tan if they so wish, which in our society represents vitality, health and attractiveness. There is a growing awareness (4) that tanning, even with the appropriate use of sunscreens, may still carry some risk of damage from ultraviolet rays.

The benefits of ANTIPERSPIRANTS and DEODORANTS are both physiologically and psychologically useful (5). Feelings of social inferiority, guilt or shame may be provoked by perspiration and body odour.

Because feelings predominate in matters of smell, the wearing of PERFUME enables a woman to create an image or set a mood. The same applies to after shave for men. Seldom are people emotionally neutral towards a fragrance (6).

Certain HAIRCARE PRODUCTS have obvious physiological benefit. Anti-dandruff preparations fit into this category as do shampoos. Shampoos remove the lipids from the hair which, when they accumulate, make the scalp feel itchy and uncomfortable. Conditioners, perms and hair colours improve the overall aesthetics of the hair and allow the individual to convey different messages. For example, certain hairstyles and colours maximise credibility in the workplace.

DENTAL CARE has both physiological and psychological benefit. Teeth cleaning removes dental plaque and helps inhibit dental caries. The use of fluoride has dramatically reduced dental problems (18). Increasing professional dental hygiene and cosmetic dentistry is improving dental health.

In summary, cosmetics impart very important benefits to an individual. Apart from the more often cited physiological benefits there are very real psychological and social benefits to be gained from the use of cosmetics. It is these benefits that ensure cosmetic products are, and will remain, an integral part of life.

The Benefits of Cosmetics/Toiletries - A Cosmetic Chemist’s view

Since man’s inhabitancy of planet earth, there have been many reasons to apply some form of adornment to the body in the form of ochres, clays, mud, herbal extracts, animal extracts and foliage in the act of performing cultural, ceremonial, religious and war associated ceremonies. These highly variable adornments also provided an opportunity to impress a mate to cohabit with them.

The Egyptians had a highly advanced civilisation that recognised the importance of these extracts for health and beauty. They used them in everyday life and placed great value on them. They also used them to keep their skin supple in the hot, dry environment by adding base oils such as sweet almond and olive oil. In the reign of Rameses, the monument builders even went on strike because, as they wrote, “we have no ointment”. (17)

Hippocrates (Greek. 460 – 370 BC), the father of medicine, said that “the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day”.

Famous for his prophecies is Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus). His book ‘The Cosmetics Manual’ was written in 1555 in which he says of observing various women “during my stays in many countries, even those where the women because of the swiftly passing years contrived secretly and by means of a subtle skill to hide and conceal the principal part of the body, namely the head, in order to show clear evidence that substances applied to the face have succeeded in deceiving the eyes of onlookers.”

In looking at the ageing progress of human beings, it is easy to see that during the teen age period we try to use cosmetics to enhance our age but as we move into the twenties and beyond in the majority of cases, we endeavour to do the reverse by trying to make ourselves look younger, more radiant, healthier and even more interesting and attractive to ourselves and each other.

Humans are vain and/or self concerned and we therefore endeavour to look good, feel great, look younger, be healthy, and enhance or highlight our body features where possible. We endeavour to cover or minimise any blemishes, scars or imperfections. The quest for youth and beauty has never been more evident. It has become a societal norm proving that appearance is increasingly valued in much the same way as health. Looking good is considered to be a requirement for a happy and successful lifestyle. This is where the benefits of cosmetics and toiletries come into play and can often assist us.


After reviewing a wide range of international definitions, and to minimise confusion, the ASCC has agreed to base the definition of a cosmetic on the NICNAS Cosmetic Guidelines 2007 with the added inclusion that “...a cosmetic should not be intended to be systemically absorbed”.

These Guidelines, in general, state that cosmetics must meet the following criteria or requirements:

The product must meet the definition of cosmetics in Australia under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (7), namely:

Cosmetic means: (8)

(a) a substance or preparation intended for placement in contact with any external part of the human body, including:

(1) the mucous membranes of the oral cavity; and

(2) the teeth

with a view to

(3) altering the odours of the body; or

(4) changing its appearance; or

(5) cleansing it; or

(6) maintaining it in good condition: includes controlling through, for example, cleansing, moisturizing, exfoliating, and or drying: or

(7) perfuming it; or

(8) protecting it; or

(b) a substance or preparation prescribed by regulations made for the purposes of this paragraph;

(c) a substance or preparation that should not be intended to be systemically absorbed

But does not include:

(d) a therapeutic good within the meaning of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989


The product must NOT be for preventing, diagnosing, curing or alleviating a disease, ailment, defect or injury in persons. However, this does not preclude use of words -prevent/preventing/prevention for general cosmetic purposes.


The product must not be scheduled by S2, S3, S4 or S8 of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons (SUSDP)


The product must be marketed as a cosmetic taking into account the labelling, packaging, advertising and/or the label statements:

The product must have full ingredient disclosure in accordance with the Trade Practices (Consumer Product Information Standards) (Cosmetics) Regulations 1991;

The product may be presented as being explicitly for cosmetic purposes only; and

The product name would NOT by itself make the product a therapeutic good, unless that name makes a reference to a disease, ailment, defect or injury in persons.


The product must meet any applicable condition detailed in the new Cosmetics Standard (made under section 81 of the ICNA Act). The Cosmetics Standard sets out the standards (or conditions) that apply to certain product categories.


The product must NOT contain chemicals prohibited for use in cosmetics or meets restrictions specified for chemicals used in cosmetics.


A toiletry is an article or preparation e.g. toothpaste, shaving cream or cologne, used in cleaning or grooming oneself.

Personal Care or Toiletries is the industry which manufactures consumer products used for beautification and in personal hygiene.

COSMETICS AND TOILETRIES are used in the following areas:


Skin Aging is a complex process associated with dramatic and significant changes in both skin structure and its chemistry. It is a natural consequence of chronological aging (simply getting older) and is accelerated by external insults, such as excessive UV irradiation from sun exposure which leads to photoaging (premature skin aging) (9). The clinical changes to skin associated with photoaging are age spots (freckles or ephelides, solar lentigines and solar keratoses), skin dryness, wrinkles and a general loss of skin elasticity, softness, smoothness and firmness. Similar changes in chronologically aged skin (non-UV exposed skin) can also occur but skin atrophy (skin thinning) plays a more important role. Reductions in endogenous hormone (oestrogen) levels can also contribute to the chronological aging process during menopause. Optically, the skin lacks radiance, luminosity and takes on certain dullness. Makeup can help improve the quality of life in elderly woman by providing the appearance of smooth, even –toned skin, in turn improving their emotional well being. One example targeting this psychological effect is makeup therapy, which is being used more often in hospitals and nursing homes. However, there is still a lack of scientific data for the physiological effects of makeup. There is a programme of “Look Good- Feel Better” (10) supported by the Cosmetic industry that has assisted many cancer patients. Lifestyle factors (e.g. habits, diets, smoking), diseases (e.g. diabetes) and the effect of gravity also further exacerbate the changes in appearance associated with aging. What has been known intuitively is that wearing the right makeup leads to brain improved activation.

Skin moisturisation is essential to support key enzyme activity in the skin. Water is critical for maintaining skin aesthetics. The stratum corneum needs to maintain a hydration level of more than 10% to prevent it from becoming brittle and cracked. With inadequate moisture content, the skin can appear dull and less radiant: a problem of both young and old. Scaling is a key symptom, with skin whitening also occurring especially around the dermatoglyphics (microtextural lines).

Moisturisation is achieved via emolliency, occlusivity and humectancy.

Symptoms of sensitive skin can include stinging, burning, itching, redness and dryness as well as “breakouts” such as spots and pimples. Whole body health, psychology and skin physiology all influence the perception of skin sensitivity. The barrier properties of the skin are a key influencing factor contributing to the presence of, or lack of, skin sensitivity. The physical properties of the stratum corneum can thereby influence the deeper layers of the skin. Hence when the stratum corneum becomes drier, it also becomes stiffer leading to the perception of “tight” skin especially on the face.

Acne - Traditionally acne has been associated with the teen years, mainly affecting the skin of the face, back and chest, areas that are rich in sebaceous glands. Teenage males typically suffer from the most severe expression of adolescent acne. Post –adolescent acne mainly affects females premenstrually and periorally. Increasing stress levels and blood circulating androgen levels are associated with the outbreaks. Lesions include whiteheads (closed comedones), blackheads (open comedones), papules and pustules.

Androgens cause an over activity of the sebaceous glands, resulting in the generation of more sebaceous lipids, commonly known as sebum. However, the presence of increased sebum alone is not sufficient to induce the formation of acne. Bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes, secrete enzymes that degrade sebum to by-products that induce localised inflammation. Once the sebaceous duct is completely blocked additional bacterially derived inflammatory products cause overt inflammation and erythema leading to pustules and papules. Cosmetics can be used to alleviate many of these conditions.

Pigmentation - Caucasians with light skin tones generally want to minimise age spots on the hands, while subjects with more highly pigmented skin, want to not only reduce the presence of facial age spots but also have a more even and lighter skin tone overall. The natural pigment in skin, melanin, is produced by epidermal melanocytes and after being packaged into melanosomes, is transferred into the keratinocytes. Here the melanosomes aggregate over the nucleus of keratinocytes to protect it from UV damage. After photo-oxidation or through the dispersion of melanosomes an even skin colouration develops. The base level of skin pigmentation is a function of genetics which can be intensified by UV exposure. Inhibition of tyrosinase, melanosome transfer pathway and inflammation will reduce epidermal pigment and give a more even skin tone. Colour cosmetics are applied to the skin to produce a more even appearance.

Sun protection - In many populations, a suntan has become synonymous with a healthy, youthful appearance. In some cases, the tan is achieved via solar UV exposure, in others it is an artificial tan. Different wavelengths of solar radiation can cause different problems in skin. Although some exposure is necessary for the production of Vitamin D and bone health, the cumulative effects of this UV exposure, whether from the sun or tanning booths, lead to premature skin aging. Sunburn inflammation and tanning are the early visual responses of skin exposed to UV radiation; non –visual responses include epidermal hyperplasia and skin immune suppression (15, 16).

When consumers use sunscreens, they often use insufficient amounts, or apply the product improperly. When used as directed, that is, generously applied and then re-applied every two hours or after swimming, sunscreens are efficient and beneficial personal care products.

Skincare products traditionally work on the skin rather than in it: creams sit on the surface and create a barrier to prevent skin from drying. Alpha hydroxyl acids or abrasives help slough off the scaly outer layers to leave skin smoother. Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, urea or glycerol, attract water and can plump up the outer layer of skin. Since these products do not affect the body’s inner structure or function, they are cosmetic and do not have to meet the requirements that pharmaceuticals do.


Consumers want to control perspiration and, more importantly, the resultant body odour problems. Both are perceived negatively, especially the latter. Perspiration is a natural process and is part of the body’s cooling mechanism, occurring over the whole of the body. Malodour problems however, occur primarily under the arms. Due to the unique environment of the underarm, bacteria flourish especially around the openings of the glands. Some of these bacteria, such as Cornynebacteria, can transform non-odourous lipids in the aprocine-sebaceous lipid mixture to malodourous substances such as volatile fatty acids and steroids. The bacteria induce the malodour as our bodies provide them with both water and food. There are three primary options to control the problem. One is to reduce the secretion of the watery sweat by antiperspirancy, typically using a chlorohydrate derivate. It is thought that a “physical occlusive plug” is formed in the outer layers of the skin at the opening of the sweat duct and as a consequence the secretion of eccrine sweat is blocked. The second route is to address body odour emanating from the surface of the skin by deodorants. Deodorants are in general antimicrobial ingredients which reduce the growth of, or metabolism of, resident skin microflora. Fragrances obviously mask the odour but some of them also act as biotransformation inhibitors reducing bacterial metabolism of sweat components. Finally odour absorbants can reduce the body’s malodour by physically binding the bacterially derived volatile malodourants.


“Smell” is a sense of major interest to the cosmetics industry. We make judgements about what we smell, where odour certainly influences the proximity of our relationships with others. Body odours tell us a lot about a person’s disposition. The ability to smell is one of our most primal senses. Fragrances are used to mask and combine with our body odours and give us a sense of pleasure and sensuality. Smell arises only from molecules that are small enough to be volatile and be slightly water soluble so that they can reach the nasal cavity and the receptors. Humans can detect up to approximately 10,000 different smells but our ability to differentiate those is affected by many factors, including age and physiology. Sensory information from the olfactory bulb is despatched to two different locations within the brain.

The first location is the limbic cortex deep within the middle of the brain, responsible for our emotions, moods, feelings, sexual arousal and long term memory retrieval. The limbic cortex is very closely connected to the pre-frontal lobes, which are responsible for our creativity and imagination. Both these areas, the pre-frontal lobes and limbic cortex, play a very important role in our motivations, and thus behaviour. The second area that olfactory signals are sent to is the hypothalamus which is responsible for the restoration of the physical metabolism through balancing hormones, blood sugar and regulating temperature. In women, the hypothalamus synchronises the levels of oestrus which controls menstruation.

Any fragrance creation will not be deemed novel without reference to the acceptance of peers and customers. Commercial success rather than the beauty of the product itself is the criteria by which any odour is deemed novel in the fragrance industry. Hence skin fragrances merge the disciplines of human physiology, cognitive science, aromatic chemistry, psychology and marketing. Over the years, perfume was considered a thing of luxury and opulence. Evidence now shows that there is a psychological benefit in its use. (11)


Hair is subjected to a number of natural factors and repeated treatments that cause changes in its structure. Some changes are due to environmental effects (sunlight, atmospheric pollution, wind, seawater and pool water) and lead to roughened hair surface and deterioration of the mechanical resistance of hair. Shampooing, coupled with rubbing, towel drying, blow –drying, brushing and combing all contribute to cuticle abrasion or erosion leading to disruption of the smooth surface, increased inter-fibre friction, reduced gloss and a rough dry feeling to the hair. Hair grooming further contributes to hair damage as the result of tension on the layers of cuticle cells from curling and straightening, leading to hair breakage. A major contributor to hair trauma is chemical treatments (colouring, perming, bleaching) not only because of mechanical damages but also of the high alkalinity and reactive nature of the chemical involved. As the physiochemical properties of the hair are altered, the structures of the hair fibres are affected and as a consequence, the hair becomes more fragile. Scalp skin condition might also be affected negatively. The appearance of the hair can be improved by the application of active ingredients which repair and/or protect the hair fibre. Some ingredients will also contribute to better scalp skin condition


These products include pigmented foundations, lipsticks, eye shadows, blushers, mascaras and nail lacquers.

The use of these products can assist to emphasise facial features and highlight a different look to make the wearer more attractive and/or or noticeable. Studies have shown that people assign valuable social characteristics to those who appear well endowed with physical attractiveness. It has been found that elderly women (12) who feel beautiful are less likely to retreat into isolation and are more likely to maintain healthy and active relationships with friends. The idea of “what is beautiful is good” could be extended to “what is made beautiful is good”. In this way, those of average attractiveness who make the effort to use cosmetics/toiletries can gain the advantages of positive personality attributions.


Everyday dental care is usually performed in modern society with the aid of a toothbrush and toothpaste. Mouthwashes are also commonly used as are some teeth whitening products. Dental care has both physiological and psychological benefits. Teeth cleaning removes dental plaque, and can inhibit tartar formation/dental caries. Mouthwashes can usefully supplement toothpaste by penetrating into the interdental spaces and antimicrobial agents can protect against peritonitis. Modern dental procedures including tooth implants, tooth whitening and general cosmetic dentistry are increasingly widely available.


Cleansing lotions and soaps remove surface grime and oil from the skin surface. Cleansers are generally more suitable for the face as they have a low irritation factor while effectively removing skin sebum. Soaps are generally used for all-over body cleanliness. Soap as defined in the Macquarie dictionary states (1) a substance used for washing and cleaning purposes, usually made by treating fat with an alkali as sodium or potassium hydroxide (known as saponification), and consisting of the sodium or potassium salts of the acids contained in the fat. (2) any metallic salt of an acid derived from a fat.


It is generally accepted that effective cosmetic products can positively influence well being. However, both from a scientific and a marketing point of view it has become obvious in recent years that a consumer’s decision to buy, use and repurchase a personal care product is to a large extent based on subconscious factors, with a high involvement of emotional reactions.

We have not ventured into the cosmeceutical arena.

Thanks are extended to Mr. Roy Sinclair, Life Member, ASCC, for his peer review of this Position Paper.


1. Possel P, Influence of cosmetics on Emotional, Autonomous, Endocronological and Immune Reactions. International Journal of Cosmetic Science Nov 2005

2. A. M. Kligman The Psychology of Appearance in the elderly Clinical Geriatric Medicine 1989 Feb 5(10 p 213-22

3. Eisfeld, W., Prinz, D., Dierker, M., Weichold, C., Stürmer, R., Schaefer, F., & Boucsein, W. (2010). Modulation of the emotional condition in human beings via application of emollients and skincare formulations: A psycho-physiological study. International Federation Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC) Magazine, 13, 91-97. IFSCC Magazine 2 (2010)

4. Dark side of tanning media campaign : SunSmart Victoria Australia 2010

5. S.Craig Roberts et al Manipulation of body odour alters men’s self-confidence and judgments of their visual attractiveness by women International Journal of Cosmetic Science Vol 31 Issue 1 2009

6. R.Williams & C.Gilbert - Essential Oils, Antioxidants and Aromatherapy for Cosmetic Products

March 2006, APAA Conference, Gold Coast, Australia


8. H. King - ASCC Position Paper on the Definition of a Cosmetic , Aug (2009)

9. Green A.C. Premature Ageing of the skin in Queensland Population The Medical Journal of Australia 1991 155(7) 473 8

10. Look Good- Feel Better Australia

11. J Warby - Impact of Sensory influence in cosmetics evaluated Personal Care Jan 2010

12. Y Sakazaki et al. - Foundation for Elderly Women: Development and Neurological Implications Vol. l 124, No 2 Cosmetic and Toiletries magazine Feb (2009)

13. R .Nash, G Fieldman, T Hussey Cosmetics: They influence more than Caucasian female facial attractiveness Journal of Applied Social Psychology Vol 36 Issue 2 Feb 2006

14. W. H. Boehncke, F. Ochsendorf, I. Paeslack, R. Kaufmann Decorative Cosmetics improve the quality of life in patients with disfiguring skin diseases EJD,

15. Gregory Nole,Anthony W Johnson: An analysis of cumulative lifetime solar ultraviolet radiation exposure and the benefits of daily sun Protection Dermatological Therapy Vol 17 Feb 2004

16. C. Sinclair Risks and Benefits of sun exposure: implications for public health practice based on the Australian experience Progress in biophysics and molecular biology 2006

17. J. A. Graham The Benefits of Cosmetics- From Folk Wisdom to 20th Century Scientific Thought CTFA Journal 1983, 15 (4)

18. J. Jahnig Mouthwashes and Dental Care Preparations J Appl Cosmetol 1987 , 5