Cosmeceutical Confusion: Defining Cosmetics and Pharmaceutical Skin Care Products

We often hear the term “pharmaceutical” products  whenever the subject involves medicine or treatments to any diseases. 

On the other hand, the term “cosmetics'' is usually related to any products or treatments that promote beauty. 

There is actually a thin line between medicines and beauty products. More often than not, skin medications are intended to treat skin issues thus promoting beauty. 

It’s no surprise that pharmaceutical products and cosmetics are fused together.

Have you ever heard of the term “Cosmeceuticals?”

Cosmeceutical 101

The term cosmeceutical is a combination of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It may refer to anything that has both the purpose of the two.


It is a compound of chemicals that has been derived from either natural or synthetic sources that promotes beauty.

This includes enhancements like lotions, salves, and make-ups. The idea of cosmetics is to promote or enhance one’s aesthetic features.


Pharmaceutical products are derived from either natural or synthetic sources that are used to treat illness or disease. These are the medicines that we know.

Cosmeceutical products are cosmetic products with biologically active compounds that are thought to have pharmaceutical effects.

One example of this is the moisturising cream that contains rose extract. This ingredient can also address certain skin issues on top of its fragrant smell.

Cosmeceuticals are currently booming and trending. Many companies are now capitalising on this new idea. 

But some regulating organisations are still reluctant to recognize this thinking that further studies are needed to be done.

Cosmeceutical vs. Pharmaceutical

Both yield beauty as the end result, though they differ in some aspects.


Some of the pharmaceutical-grade skin care products are only available in licensed skin care clinics.

There are Pharmaceutical-grade skin care products that can be bought over-the-counter. These products usually work in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.

Other Pharmaceutical-grade skin care products need prescription before acquiring it. These products work in the deeper part of the skin. 

It may also mean that the product goes into the systemic function of the body.


These are your common beauty enhancers that are incorporated with natural substances.

Cosmeceutical and Pharmaceuticals share some aspects. We may need to enumerate some examples to clearly define their differences.

Pharmaceutical Products

Examples of it are:

  • Acne-Control
  • It is used to address acne breakouts. It requires supervision from a skincare expert as its effectiveness depends on the quality and sensitivity of the skin.

  • Anti-Fungal Agents
  • These are used to treat fungal infections found in the skin. You should consult your doctor first as some of these medications work as antibiotics.

  • Anti-Aging products
  • These are being used to make the skin look younger. It works depending on the skin type, condition, and the reaction of skin to substances as such. It contains active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid.

  • Hyper Pigmentation Serum
  • These are used to treat unusual pigmentation of the skin. It exfoliates the skin to lessen the hyperpigmented sections gradually. These products may include active ingredients such as Retinol.

    Cosmeceutical Products

    These are composed of natural ingredients including:

  •  B Vitamins
  • These vitamins are derived from natural sources like whole grains, nuts, meat, milk, eggs and other vegetables. It helps by hydrating your skin while improving skin tone.

  • Retinoids
  • This is another vitamin that is derived from red and orange plant products like carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin. It helps produce more collagen to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Polyhydroxy Acids
  • These are derived from renewable sources. It helps exfoliate dead skin cells to make the skin more smoother

  • Peptides
  • Peptides can be sourced in root crops. It helps the skin by stimulating it to produce collagen.

  • Botanicals
  • Botanicals are plant extracts that are rich in antioxidants. It protects the skin from the harmful effects of UV exposure and moisturises the skin and prevents inflammation.

    Understanding Its Differences is Essential

    Both have almost the same characteristics. It only depends on the type of ingredients used – mostly synthetic for pharmaceutical products and naturally sourced for the cosmeceutical variant.

    The use of these two will depend on the condition and characteristics of your skin.

    Talk to your trusted skincare specialist to discover what works best for you.