Everything You Need To Know About Cosmeceutical Skincare

As a self-proclaimed cosmeceutical snob, I'll take any opportunity to rave about this type of skincare (which you can hear more about on our podcast here). Having come from a clinical background prior to being a Beauty Editor, advanced active skincare is my jam - but if you're new to the skincare world, you might be wondering, what even is a cosmeceutical?

Here's The Breakdown:

The term "cosmeceutical" refers to a product that sits between a cosmetic-grade and pharmaceutical-grade product. Much like regular cosmetic ranges, cosmeceuticals are available over the counter and are applied topically, however, these ranges contain active ingredients designed to improve and support skin function.

The ingredients, complexes and delivery systems found in cosmeceuticals are often supported by scientific research, and are formulated to remain stable and highly effective for topical use. Contrary to popular belief, cosmeceuticals do often contain botanical and plant-derived extracts, alongside synthetically modified ingredients. 

What Kind Of Ingredients Are In Cosmeceuticals?

AHA (Glycolic, Mandelic, Lactic Acid): Alpha Hydroxy Acids are mainly known for their exfoliating action which can brighten the skin, improve the absorption of the products you apply afterwards and improve the appearance of fine lines.

BHA (Salicylic Acid): This is an oil-soluble ingredient so it has the ability to break down oil and debris inside the pore for a clearer complexion - a must-have for acne-prone skin types.

Vitamin A (Retinol): The ultimate anti-ageing ingredient which can be found in many forms. Vitamin A promotes cell turnover which helps to soften fine lines and wrinkles, while resurfacing the skin for an even, refined complexion.

Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide): Can help to reduce blemishes and congestion by balancing the skin's natural oil production. It can also improve barrier function to reduce water loss and protect the skin from pollutants and irritation.

Vitamin B5 (Panthenol): Mainly known as a hydrating ingredient, but it also has soothing and repairing properties as well, and helps to support the skin's natural barrier.

Vitamin C: There are many forms of Vitamin C. It's a hard ingredient to keep stable in a formula. It's designed to provide antioxidant protection against environmental damage including pigmentation.

Vitamin E: Also an antioxidant, Vitamin E protects from environmental aggressors and has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Hyaluronic Acid: HA is a moisture-binding ingredient which acts as an incredible hydrator for the skin. In low molecular form, HA can reach the deeper layers of the skin to not only improve hydration on the skin's surface but at a deeper level too.

Peptides: These ingredients help to improve the communication between cells, so they can function at their best, to support more youthful, healthier skin. In turn, peptides can have an anti-ageing effect and support the function of the skin long-term.

Are There Any Rules For Introducing Cosmeceuticals Into Your Routine?

You can jump straight into using actives, but be wary of allowing a potential adjustment period. If the skin is overstimulated, you may experience a breakout or some sensitivity for the first few weeks - so I always prefer to recommend keeping it simple to start with (i.e cleanser, serum, moisturiser, sunscreen), and then introduce further products periodically based on your skin type and specific concerns.

Vitamin A should always be introduced very gradually to build up a tolerance, and should be accompanied by daily sunscreen application. Acids like AHAs and BHAs can also increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun and must be accompanied by daily SPF.

How Do I Choose A Cosmeceutical Range?

It really is down to personal preference when it comes to choosing brands. Some of my favourite cosmeceutical brands are Skinceuticals, Cosmedix, Medik8 and Aspect. I always recommend doing your own individual research on brands you're interested in, as well as seeking the advice of experts before making the investment.

And remember, you don't have to use the same brand exclusively, you can use different products from different ranges to form your routine. Our customer service team at Adore Beauty offer non-biased product recommendations via chat and email, and we also now have a cosmeceuticals category to choose from.