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Cosmetic vs Cosmeceutical: is there really a difference?

Picture this: it’s been a long day. You’ve just had a long shower and you’re applying your evening skincare regime when… ugh, you’re out of moisturiser?! You know you have a busy few days coming up and won’t have time to pop into your regular skin clinic for a restock. You are heading to the supermarket though. Surely you can just grab something there until your appointment next month? How different will it be really?

Today we’ll be clearing up the cosmetic vs cosmeceutical debate.


Cosmetic skincare products are often found in supermarkets, chemists and department stores. They can be purchased directly, without a prescription or recommendation from a professional.

These products are applied to the outer layer of the skin and are unable to penetrate the epidermis and dermis to reach the innermost layers of the skin, where cellular changes occur. Instead, they can exfoliate dead skin cells and hydrate the surface of the skin, which can make your complexion look brighter and feel smoother. Unfortunately, while your skin may look and feel nice, these products are often just masking your concerns and will not improve skin functioning.

While cosmetics may claim they contain active ingredients (such as vitamin c, retinol and hyaluronic acid), the strength will be significantly lower than the cosmeceutical alternatives. You may also find these products are also ‘bulked out’ with filler ingredients that offer no benefits to the skin.

Given cosmetics are readily available, consumers are able to self-prescribe their skin types, conditions and concerns. This can lead to misdiagnosis and, in some cases, exacerbation of a concern. For example, oily skin may benefit from the inclusion of salicylic acid. However, overuse can actually dehydrate the skin, causing the oil glands to become overactive and produce even more oil. By seeking professional advice, you can reduce the risk of future skin damage and ensure you are treating your skin concerns correctly.


The term ‘cosmeceutical’ refers to a product that sits between cosmetic-grade and pharmaceutical grade: they are professional products that do not require a prescription from a GP.

Cosmeceuticals contain high levels of active ingredients that promote skin health, such as vitamin c, vitamin a, marine extracts and peptides. The reason these ingredients are considered ‘active’ is because they are able to penetrate the cells and produce structural changes to the skin. This can include improving skin tone and texture, reducing pigmentation, regulating oil flow or smoothing ageing complexions.

The main difference between cosmetics and cosmeceuticals is the potency of the active ingredients. Cosmeceuticals contain a higher percentage of active ingredients combined with a scientifically proven delivery system. This ensures all the goodness from your product is able to penetrate deeper through the epidermis to the dermis where your collagen, elastin and new skin cells are found. In contrast, cosmetics are usually only able to penetrate the epidermis, which will not affect any lasting change.

Cosmeceuticals are generally available through accredited practitioners and require a consultation prior to purchasing. This will mean the correct regime is prescribed to clients, as well as ensuring progress can be monitored and reviewed to ensure you get the best results.

When it comes to your skincare, the best results will be achieved when using professional strength products tailored for your skin needs by a reputable clinician. The earlier you adopt a medical-grade skincare regime, the sooner you will see results! It’s important to note that concerns such as ageing, pigmentation and acne are best targeted early on to avoid the condition worsening with time. Once the skin has been damaged, it is harder to rebuild it. Daily use of active ingredients can help preserve and protect skin cells for a strong, healthy, radiant complexion.

So next time you are tempted to purchase something from the supermarket, remember that you’re better off leaving your regime to the professionals!

Our skincare brands

At Lux Aesthetics, we are proud to stock Aspect skincare. This range of cosmeceuticals has been expertly engineered with the latest cutting-edge ingredient technology to revitalize and hydrate, revealing radiant-looking skin. We also stock Aspect Dr; an exclusive range of physician-only, high-performance skincare that will help take your skin to the next level.

​Book a skin consultation with our team to find your prescription.

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