This is a blend of cosmetic and pharmaceutical which has appeared only in the nineties. It’s a well-known term in the pharmaceutical business, which is still most commonly encountered in the USA, but is now increasingly being used elsewhere, and which is moving into more general contexts. It refers to a product which is marketed as a cosmetic, but which contains biologically active ingredients that have an effect on the user. Examples are anti-wrinkle creams, baldness treatments, moisturisers and sunscreens. They are causing problems world-wide for regulatory authorities, such as the American Food and Drugs Administration, which must decide when a product crosses the line between being merely a cosmetic and becoming a drug, the latter having much more stringent controls on its development, testing and supply. Much seems to depend on the labelling of the product: one describing itself as a deodorant would probably be classed as a cosmetic, whereas one labelled as an antiperspirant might well be classified as a drug because it claims to close the pores of the skin.
More prescription drugs are being sold across the counter; some may soon become “cosmeceuticals” or “nutriceuticals” — active chemicals sold as cosmetics or food.
Economist, Apr 1995
Photodamage, the deterioration of skin due to sun exposure and aging, is the biggest market segment for cosmeceuticals.
The Scientist, Jan 1998