Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Cosmetics VS Cosmeceuticals: What’s the difference?


SKINCARE – There are a lot of opinions, facts (both reliable and unreliable) and a million different explanations on the different types of skincare out in the world and a lot of question over the differences and effectiveness of these products, like this blog for example:

I am a qualified beauty therapist and undergrad science student and today I am mainly going to tackle the task of defining and clarifying the main differences in the types of skincare products; Cosmetic grade and Cosmeceutical/Cosmedical grade. I want people to know there is a difference and I want there to be more regulations on what companies can promote their product as to avoid misleading consumers in to thinking they are getting more than they really are.

It is the aim of the science research and/or testing (or lack of) behind the different types of skincare products that are the main determining factors of the classification and it is these classifications that when advertised have a great impact on the target consumers and this brings up the question of the ethics behind some marketing campaigns, as well as the social implications of less strict legislation on correct and appropriate testing of skincare products, but those are for the next blogs, first, we must define.


Define Cosmetic?

A Cosmetic as defined by Oxford Dictionaries is “A preparation applied to the body…to improve its appearance’. has a similar definition that states cosmetics are “superficial measures to make something appear better, more attractive, or more impressive”.  This is in line with what beauty bloggers and skincare companies are publishing on the internet as well. Nicole, the owner of a Melbourne Beauty Salon states “Cosmetic products are not designed to effect any long term change deep within the skin”. And Skinstitut (A skincare company) states “A cosmetic can be classed as a skin beautifying product that is applied to the surface of the skin. This includes make ups, cleansers, toners, masks and moisturizers…these products rarely deliver any long term results”. So the focus of the science behind cosmetic skincare products is really focused on superficial appearance improvement rather than targeting changes in the skin for treatment, unlike what some cosmetic products’ advertising may have you believe, but that’s for another blog.


Define Cosmeceutical?

Now we come to the term Cosmeceutical. If you just do a search on the internet you can come up with a huge variety of explanations behind the term, some state it’s a combination of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics (Skinstitut 2013), others state it’s a combination of therapeutics and cosmetics (Karina Bray 2014), the one thing they all say in union is that cosmeceutical or cosmedical skincare have biological active ingredients that create actual change in the skin, usually aimed at the cellular level of the epidermal skin layer (Nordmann & Day, 2012, pp.209). Now the term Cosmeceutical was originally introduced in the early 1980’s by Dr. Albert M. Kligman at a meeting of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. In his book ‘Cosmeceuticals: Drugs vs. cosmetics’ he goes on to explain that

“Most skincare products lie somewhere in between drugs and cosmetics. They comprise a continuous spectrum of substances intermediate between the two polar categories defined by congress…It is this intermediate, broad-spectrum range of substances that consists of both drugs and cosmetics which justifies the fusion of the term cosmeceuticals.” (Kligman, 2000, pp.4)

So a cosmeceutical or cosmedical (very slight difference between the two) skincare product has research and testing (the degree of this is variable, again for another blog), and is aimed to actually make a long-term, physiological difference in the skin. It’s aiming for the highest amount of effective active compounds legally allowed without a prescription from a doctor.

So there you have it, the main differences between Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals. The next question we ask now is, are there any restrictions in place that determine what classification the product can be marketed as??

Reference List

  • Kligman, A, 2000, ‘Cosmeceuticals: Do we need a new category?’, in Elsner, P, & Maibach, H 2000, Cosmeceuticals : Drugs Vs. Cosmetics, New York: Informa Healthcare, eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost, viewed 5 April 2016.
  • Nordmann L, Day, A 2012, Professional Beauty Therapy, Fiona Hammond, CENGAGE Learning, Melbourne.

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This entry was posted on April 11, 2016 by in Geelong - Wednesday 11am, Uncategorized.

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