Picture of Author: <b> Karen Austin
Author: Karen Austin

Cosmetic versus Cosmeceutical


There might not be a lot people that are aware of the differences between the two, or you may not have even heard of the word Cosmeceutical before.

What we do know is we have our lovely ‘cosmetic’ brands where make up and retail skin products sit under and then we have our pharmaceutical medications where the ingredients are active and prescribed, most often from a doctor.

Cosmetics are known as the cover and coats. They cover the applied area and coat the surface, that means their penetration abilities are very limited and thus have no effect at a cellular level as they cannot pass through our epidermis. These are often filled with nasty ingredients that our skin doesn’t tolerate very well.

Pharmaceutical grade products absolutely penetrate the skins surface and can have a huge effect at cellular level, however it can come with a consequence. Often these medical grade drugs do not have the appropriate vehicle to enter the cell and simply force their way through. This will treat the concern however can also cause unwanted side effects.

A cosmeceutical is as you would have guessed it sits somewhere in the middle of these two.

There are topical products with just enough active ingredients and appropriate vehicles that allow it to penetrate the skin and cause sustainable change at a cellular level. These ingredients can work to lower levels of our epidermis means they can penetrate to where are cells are being made.

Vehicles are everything in a cosmeceutical. One such vehicle is called chorally corrected.

Chorally corrected means the ingredient molecule is weighted with a L or a D charge. The charge alone can act like a lock and key effect and allow our cells to recognise the ingredient as ‘safe’ more readily and thus have greater penetration.

Another vehicle is encapsulation, a good example of this is with Vitamin A. A typical ingredient that does usually penetrate the skin well. Encapsulating this within another ingredient like a Vitamin C which is absorbed really well by our skin means the Vitamin A has greater effects as it can get further into the skin than it normally would.

Three helpful facts!

– The following is a list of nasty ingredients to watch out for:

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is a foaming agent, this actually acts as an irritant to the skin as it can disturb the healthy lipid barrier.

Propylene Glycol a common ingredient that attracts water, but it also enhances chemical penetration in the blood stream.

Cetyl Alcohol an emollient used in a lot of cosmetics, is this basically a wax

Parabens allow skin care products to survive for months or even years in your medicine cabinet. These however can also enter your body and can mimic hormones, which can disrupt functions of the endocrine system


– Believe it or not Cetaphil face wash out of its 8 ingredients has at least 5 of the nasty ingredients from that list in them:

-Propylene Glycol

-Sodium Lauryl Sulphate




See the link below to read more on this.


We would recommend a mild facial cleanser like Gentle Cleanse from Aspect which has no nasty ingredients to replace this one.

– Despite what your after is what you are after don’t look past cosmeceuticals. Book in with a therapist and have a thorough skin assessment where these products can be prescribed to you based on what your skin needs.

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