The Basics of Cosmeceuticals: Everything You Need To Know

Building a skincare routine is no longer as simple as picking any skin product on the market. You can now find products with various claims to treat different skin conditions.

These products, commonly referred to as cosmeceuticals, have become the latest trend in the skincare industry.

Some people feel intimidated to include it in their skincare routines because it sounds too technical. This makes it challenging to recommend it on the market.

Here are the things you need to know to better understand these cosmeceutical skincare products.

What is Cosmeceutical Skincare?

The word “cosmeceutical” first came about in 1984. Dermatologist Dr Albert Kligman coined the term after combining “cosmetic” and “pharmaceutical.”

It connects the gap between regular cosmetics and medical-grade products. The cosmetics side promises to enhance the skin’s appearance, while the pharmaceutical ingredients help boost how the products work.

Cosmeceutical skincare products also tend to seep deeper into the skin. It also comes with high-strength active ingredients that target various skin conditions.

What Makes Cosmeceuticals Differ From Cosmetic Products?

Both set of products aim to fix skin issues but several noteworthy differences set them apart:

  • Cosmetics provide temporary relief for your skin, while cosmeceuticals work their way to the root cause of the problem to provide lasting results.
  • The skin can instantly feel the effect of cosmetics once applied to the treatment area. Meanwhile, it may take time to notice the results of using cosmeceutical products.
  • Skin experts like dermatologists and aestheticians prefer to prescribe cosmeceutical skincare brands over cosmetic products, even if the latter comes with advanced cosmetic formulations.
  • Cosmetics can only cover skin blemishes, while cosmeceutical grade skincare aims to provide rejuvenating relief to the problem area.
  • Anyone can buy cosmetic products in department stores, pharmacies, and supermarkets. Medical grade skincare products are often available at dermatologists’ clinics, professional salons, or stockists’ websites.

What Sets Cosmeceutical Products Apart From Pharmaceutical Products?

People also have the option to pick pharmaceutical products in stores. It serves the same purpose as cosmeceuticals, yet it comes with a different formula.

The pharmaceutical-grade skin care products are scrutinised by regulatory agencies.

These products must contain 99.9% pure ingredients and be scientifically proven to work before they come out in the market.

On the other hand, cosmeceuticals are a hybrid of pharmaceutical products and cosmetic products.

Its formulation combines cosmetic ingredients enhanced with pharmaceutical benefits.

What Can Be Considered Cosmeceutical Products?

The Australasian College of Dermatologists shared that skincare brands can consider their items as cosmeceutical grade skincare products if:

  • It comes with both cosmetic and therapeutic effects.
  • It aims to enhance the skin’s aesthetics and health.

While the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requires cosmeceutical products to be under their regulation if it claims to provide therapeutic benefits.

This includes sunscreens and skin-whitening creams. 

What are the Basic Active Ingredients in Cosmeceuticals?

Most cosmeceuticals offered in the market come with active ingredients, such as:


Exposure to harsh external factors like smoke, pollution, and ultraviolet radiation is the common culprit for skin damage. The skin is also susceptible to free radicals that may harm the skin.

The best cosmeceutical skincare brands incorporate antioxidants in their product formulations to help fight against damage.

Some of the most common antioxidants used in cosmeceutical products include:

  • Alpha-lipoic acid - Known for its anti-inflammatory and exfoliating benefits.
  • Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) - Triggers collagen repair, improves fine lines and wrinkles, and reduces skin inflammation and pigmentation.
  • Vitamin B3 (Nicotinamide) - Enhances the function of the skin barrier, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, elevates skin texture, and improves hyperpigmentation. It also claims to help prevent skin cancer.
  • Vitamin E (Alpha-tocopherol) - Helps reduce the risk of skin cancer and UV damage. Works hand in hand with vitamin C to reduce collagen production breakdown.
  • N-Acetyl-Glucosamine - Claims to help reduce signs of pigmentation and reduce the risk of sun damage.
  • Ubiquinone (CoQ10) - Lessens collagen breakdown.

Vitamin A (Retinoids)

Cosmeceutical brands use natural and synthetic forms of vitamin A in some of their products. This helps reduce skin damage caused by excessive sun exposure.

They serve as antioxidants by shielding the skin cells from free radicals and triggering specific proteins and genes.

A common form of retinoids includes tretinoin or retinoic acid, known for fixing skin looseness, pigmentation, and ageing signs. Some products also include retinol and retinaldehyde as their active ingredients.

Hydroxy Acids

This ingredient can help boost skin texture, hydrate the skin to reverse the signs of ageing and promote peeling to remove dull and dry skin.

Hydroxy acids come in three types including:

  • AHAs - Referred to as “fruit acids,” this ingredient originated from natural fruit sources. You will know that cosmeceutical products contain this ingredient by finding glycolic acid, citric acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, and lactobionic acid.
  • BHAs - Commonly called salicylic acid, known for helping people with oily or acne-prone skin.
  • PHAs - Helps exfoliate the skin to improve skin texture and lessen hyperpigmentation.

Skin Lightening Agents

This key ingredient helps limit the skin’s melanin production, preventing pigmentation and discolouration.

The common forms of skin lightening agents include:

  • Kojic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Hydroquinone
  • Licorice extract

Proteins and Peptides

Cosmeceutical products containing these ingredients help repair skin damage or slow the skin’s ageing processes.


Another key selling factor for cosmeceuticals is their naturally-derived active ingredients. These botanicals may contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, or skin-soothing properties.

Some popular botanical ingredients include Green Tea Extract, Aloe Vera, Grape Seed Extract, Witch Hazel, Curcumin, Soy, Ginkgo biloba, Silymarin, Pycnogenol, Ferulic Acid, and Allantoin.

Growth factors also belong in the list of cosmeceutical brands' most common active ingredients. They help stimulate elastin and collagen production and correct the appearance of sun-damaged skin.

How to Look for Cosmeceutical Skin Care Products That Work?

It could be challenging to prove these claims unless they came from reputable brands like SkinGen.

Simplify your search for the best skincare products by considering these factors.

Search for a Brand that Values Transparency

It is crucial to look for cosmeceutical skincare brands that are honest about the quality of their ingredients and how they source them.

It means they have nothing to hide and only care about the welfare of their customers.

The brand’s transparency can be checked easily through looking at its product information. The label must include crucial details about the list of their International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) and quality standards.

It is also helpful if the brand mentions if their products got the nod from dermatologists or other skincare experts.

Check if the Active Ingredients are Scientifically-Supported

The best cosmeceuticals contain active ingredients with several clinical tests supporting their efficiency.

Only a scientifically-backed study can prove if its claims are valid.

It will also help if the brand conducts an individual study to verify the product’s positive results.

The Products Contain Fewer Filler Ingredients

Inactive ingredients like preservatives, ethyl alcohol, and sulphates may harm the skin. Always make it a point to look for cosmeceuticals that limit or completely omit the use of these ingredients.

Some unwanted ingredients you must watch out for when buying cosmeceutical products include parabens, phthalates, sulphates, and other preservatives.

These ingredients may cause adverse skin reactions and trigger other health issues like skin cancer and imbalanced hormones. 

Is Dermatologica a Cosmeceutical Brand?

Dermatologica is one of the most popular medical-grade skincare brands. It provides unique and innovative products that cater to all types of skin. It also aims to solve different skin problems.

This brand also comes with a wide range of products developed to reverse the signs of aging and prevent it from appearing prematurely.

The Takeaway: Cosmeceuticals can Take Care of Your Skin

Your skin’s texture, tone, and brightness will improve with the help of a reliable cosmeceutical product. Simply keep in mind that it will not provide immediate results.

You should include these skincare products regularly for great effect. You will eventually notice the improvements in your skin after consistent use.

Scientific studies back up claims of these products to put your mind at ease. Safety comes first for dermatologists and aestheticians when it comes to their recommendations.

Look for reputable cosmeceutical brands to address their skin needs. You will be proud to recommend its proven treatments to your family and friends..