It's becoming more and more common for skincare brands to start labelling their brands as 'cosmeceuticals' or 'cosmeceutical grade'. It's most often used by the brands that tend to bridge the gap between pure cosmetic and pharmaceutical, particularly by brands that focus on driving changes and targeted results. But what exactly makes a cosmeceutical product and 'cosmeceutical', who decides what's classed as a cosmeceutical and how can us, the consumers, tell the difference.
Well, the only way to find out for sure was to follow the expert advice and consult a dermatologist. Dr Katherine Armour is a consulting derm of the Dermatology Institute of Victoria, with focus areas in medical dermatology and skin cancer diagnosis. She's also the founder of cosmeceutical brands Bespoke Skin Technology, and as such was able to give us an expert insider view on the ins and outs of cosmeceutical skincare. Below, she shares her advice on what to look for and how to tell when a product is actually of cosmeceutical grad - one of her tips, look at the order of ingredients on the label.
What exactly is a cosmeceutical? Is there an official definition?
There is no official definition of cosmeceutical, which can lead to confusion for consumers. The most practical definition of cosmeceutical may be ‘a cosmetic product that is purported to have therapeutic action capable of affecting the skin positively beyond the time of its application.’ Cosmeceuticals contains active ingredients designed to improve the appearance of the skin.. The term ‘Cosmeceutical’ was coined in 1984 by Dr. Albert Kligman of the University of Pennsylvania describing a hybrid category of products mid-way on the spectrum of "cosmetics and pharmaceutical." Much like regular cosmetic ranges, cosmeceuticals are available over the counter and are applied topically.
How is cosmeceutical skincare different to other skincare products?
The ingredients in cosmeceuticals are supported by scientific research, and are formulated to remain stable and highly effective for topical use. In cosmeceutical skincare, the ingredients are formulated in concentrations that will have a clinical effect. Sometimes, the same ingredients are present in mass-market preparations. But, these usually present in much lower concentrations which are unlikely to effect much change in the appearance of the skin. Some well-known cosmeceutical ingredients are retinol, niacinamide and vitamin C.
Do cosmeceutical products work 'better'?
Yes. Cosmeceuticals allow consumers to choose products that address their particular skin concerns such as visible signs of ageing, acne and congestion and pigmentation. The ingredients in cosmeceuticals have studies attesting to their effectiveness for treating and preventing the above conditions.
What are some of the common ingredients in cosmeceuticals?
Some of the most well known are vitamins A,B3,C and other antioxidants, and peptides. Some really exciting newer cosmeceutical ingredients include DNA repair enzymes, bakuchiol and astaxanthin.
Do you need a prescription for a cosmeceutical product?
No. They are available online or over the counter.
Why would someone choose a cosmeceutical over another product?
Generally, most people who choose cosmeceuticals have been doing research based on the skin concern they are looking to address. They may have also been advised by their dermatologist. So, you’d choose a cosmeceutical if you’re serious about improving the appearance of your skin.
How can consumers tell the difference between what is a cosmeceutical and what's not? Is there an official regulation?
Unfortunately, there is no official regulation for what constitutes a cosmeceutical. The best thing to do is familiarise yourself with ingredients, and the concentrations at which they have been clinically proven to make changes to your skin and then use this information to select your skincare. When you look at the ingredients in a given product, you want to see some of the active ingredients high up on the list. This is because the ingredients are listed in order of concentration. If your niacinamide or vitamin C is near the bottom of the list, it’ll be in very low concentration. So, it’s unlikely to do much for your skin. If in doubt, ask your dermatologist, dermal clinical or other skin health professional
What do you think more people should know about cosmeceutical skincare?
So many things! First of all, it’s a really powerful way to improve your skin’s health and appearance – always in conjunction with daily broad-spectrum sun protection. Sometimes, less is more. If you start using too many active ingredients at once, you’re likely to irritate your skin and then have difficulty discerning which ingredient is the problem. Introduce new products gradually. Make sure that you’re using the right ingredients for your skin care concern and skin type. Cosmeceutical skincare is a really useful adjunct to medical therapies and energy-based devices when treating inflammatory conditions such as acne, rosacea, and melasma. Your dermatologist can advise you which ingredients are right for you.