Know your cosmetics from your cosmeceuticals

You may have heard the term “cosmeceutical” and brushed it off because it sounded way too “sciency”. Cosmetics we know, but cosmeceuticals? What is that even? It turns out you could already be using one of these products in your day-to-day routine.

BSA reader Zaheera Packery was unsure and asked, “Is there a difference between cosmetic, professional and treatment products. I’ve been told that most skin products available in department stores are cosmetic (Clinique, Clarins) whilst those at beauty spas are treatment/professional (Environ, RégimA, Dermalogica),”

Our expert, Dr Allem from Skin Renewal gave us the answers.

Cosmetics, also known as make-up, are substances or products used to enhance or alter the appearance or fragrance of the body. Cosmeceuticals (basically a marriage of the words, cosmetic and pharmaceutical) are products with bioactive ingredients said to have medical or drug-like benefits. Think a serum that contains retinol or a lipstick that contains an anti-oxidant. A true cosmeceutical would NOT be available in a department store. It would be available in Skin Care Clinics, at Dermatologists or at Aesthetic Doctors. These include the amount of active ingredients available in the product, the quality and the concentration of the actives. This is why, if you buy something off the shelf, it’s very rare and very seldom that you would develop a reaction or go through a “skin adjustment phase”, as the products are aimed at the masses and so not a lot of concentrated actives are included in the formulations. Salon ranges tend to be a bit more active, this is why you see better results from these, and then Cosmeceutical or medical ranges yield even better results as they contain even more actives and higher concentrations of these.

When to use cosmeceuticals

Cosmeceuticals are specifically made to give faster, more “dramatic” results. However, with this comes the importance of knowing exactly how to use and combine those actives, as we do not want the user to have any negative reactions.

So if it worked for a friend, it might not agree with your skin type. I always advise patients to consult a skin care professional, or a doctor who works in an aesthetic clinic to advise you on products that are specifically going to help you get the results you want to see on your skin.”

Some cosmeceutical products are very active and the user then needs to be coached about what to expect and what healing phases they will go through when using these products. Retinol (better known as vitamin A) is an amazing treatment for mild to moderate acne for instance, but unfortunately, it can also create sun sensitivity and a mild rash known as a retinoid reaction. For this reason, one has to use it preferably at night and introduce it very slowly. For this reason, the majority of very active and very effective cosmeceuticals cannot be purchased in department stores or pharmacies. They have to be acquired from clinics and practices where there are qualified doctors or aesthetic therapists who have specifically been trained on how to use these products.

Can you use cosmetics and cosmeceuticals together?

If you would like to use cosmetics and cosmeceuticals together, consult the person who is going to be helping you with your cosmeceuticals and let them know exactly what cosmetic products you have so that they can help you to integrate the two.

If you have any more skin related questions, ask Dr Maureen Allem here.

4 Responses

  1. I had no idea cosmeceuticals was a thing. It’s a pretty cool word to say. Shame my friends are going to wish I’d never read this when I tell them about cosmetics vs cosmeceuticals for the 50th time.

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