What are Cosmeceuticals | Dive into Science-backed Skincare Routine

What are cosmeceuticals? Dive into the science-backed skincare solution for achieving clear skin

In the world of skincare, there's always something new and exciting happening. As the skincare industry continues to evolve, a science-backed solution by the name “cosmeceuticals” is becoming more popular. Let’s dive into the world of cosmeceuticals and know how to take care of your skin in this modern-day world!


What are cosmeceuticals and how are they shaping the skincare industry

Blending the benefits of cosmetics with pharmaceutical-grade ingredients, cosmeceuticals offer scientifically proven solution to almost every skin concern. The term 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 'cosme'tics and pharma'ceutical.' [1] Over the decades, the skincare industry has grown beautifully and new advancements have become an integral part of formulating cosmeceutical products. If we go way back in the past, natural remedies and botanical extracts were the go-to method of enhancing skin health and beauty. Our great-grandparents and grandparents used to apply all the homemade and natural products for maintaining that golden glow. They hardly needed any make up to hide their skin concerns. But as we are growing and evolving constantly, the need for formulating skincare products for specific skin concerns has generated due to various environmental factors such as pollution, ozone layer degradation and overall lifestyle changes. Hence, in the late 20th century, cosmeceuticals became popular as dermatology and skincare science discovered how certain compounds could effectively treat specific skin problems in a more profound way. This shift towards evidence-based skincare solutions gave rise to a new generation of products that blurred the lines between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, offering consumers the promise of clearer, smoother and more youthful-looking skin. Today, cosmeceuticals occupy a prominent place in the skincare market, backed by scientific research and endorsed by dermatologists for their ability to target concerns such as acne, aging, hyperpigmentation and more with precision and efficacy.

Key ingredients in cosmeceuticals

Cosmeceuticals are topical products formulated with potent active ingredients designed to address specific skincare concerns. These ingredients are often found in varying concentrations and combinations which form the backbone of cosmeceutical formulations, providing targeted solutions for a range of skincare needs. Let’s check out a few popular ingredient choices generally found in cosmeceuticals -

  1. Retinoids - Powerful anti-aging agents, promote collagen production and cell turnover to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. [2,3]

  2. Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) - A staple ingredient in cosmeceutical formulations, offers antioxidant protection against environmental damage. Also plays role in enhancing collagen formation and blurring dark spots. [4]

  3. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) - Serve as exfoliants, gently remove dead skin cells to reveal smoother, more radiant skin underneath.

  4. Hyaluronic Acid: A humectant that attracts and retains moisture in the skin, helping to plump and hydrate the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

  5. Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) - One of the most recently recognized “cosmeceutical vitamins”. [5] Helps improve the skin's barrier function, reduce redness and minimize the appearance of pores, making it suitable for various skin types, including sensitive skin.

  6. Ceramides - Lipids that help restore the skin's natural barrier, retaining moisture and preventing dehydration, leading to smoother and healthier-looking skin.

Many more such powerful ingredients are currently being used in the cosmeceutical products which when combined together form a wide range of formulations for different skin concerns and skin types.

Types of cosmeceuticals based on formulations

Many of us can’t figure out how to use our skincare products which are in different formats like creams, serums, gels, lotions, oils, etc. It might seem confusing to figure out the order of application of these products and the time of the day to use them. Let’s get it all cleared out here and see the best ways possible to achieve clear skin.

Here's a breakdown of common cosmeceutical formulations and when to use them:

  1. Creams - Rich and moisturizing formulations suitable for all skin types, especially dry or mature skin. Apply creams as the final step in your skincare routine, after cleansing, toning, and applying serums.

  2. Serums - Lightweight, highly concentrated formulations packed with active ingredients. Apply serums after cleansing and toning, before moisturizing, to allow the active ingredients to penetrate deeply into the skin.

  3. Gels - Lightweight and water-based formulations ideal for oily or acne-prone skin. Apply gels after cleansing and toning, before moisturizing, for lightweight hydration and targeted treatment of specific skincare.

  4. Lotions - Lighter than creams but more hydrating than gels, lotions are versatile formulations suitable for various skin types. Apply lotions after cleansing and toning, before heavier creams or oils, for lightweight hydration and nourishment.

  5. Oils - Luxurious formulations derived from natural oils like argan, jojoba or rosehip oil. Apply oils as the final step in your skincare routine, after creams or lotions, to seal in moisture and provide a protective barrier. They offer a variety of benefits including pleasant aroma. [6]

Apart from these, there are much more formats available in cosmeceuticals and by understanding the order in which to use them, you can maximize the effectiveness of your skincare routine and achieve clear, radiant skin.

How to get clear skin using a suitable combination of ingredients and skincare routine?

Isn't it true that no matter what skin issues we face – acne, wrinkles, or those annoying dark spots – deep down, we all dream of having that radiant, clear skin someday? Cosmeceuticals have been shown to fight many such concerns when used right with a proper skincare routine. To achieve clear skin using a suitable combination of ingredients and skincare routine, follow these steps:

  1. Identify your skin type and concerns.
  2. Choose cosmeceutical products tailored to your skin type and concerns.
  3. Develop a consistent skincare
  4. Cleanse skin twice daily.
  5. Scrub 2-3 times per week.
  6. Hydrate skin with a moisturizer.
  7. Apply targeted treatment products.
  8. Sunscreen should always be a mandatory final step of every at-home skincare program. [7]
  9. Monitor skin's response and adjust products as needed.
  10. Be patient and consistent with your skincare

Additionally, lifestyle modifications are important as well to achieve a clear skin as the food we eat, our sleep-wake cycle, environmental factors are also responsible for our skin health. Make sure that you follow a balanced and healthy diet, maintain your gut health and take care of your health to achieve a glowing, clear skin!


References –


  1. Pandey A, Jatana GK, Sonthalia S. Cosmeceuticals. 2023 Aug 7. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan–. PMID: 31334943.

  2. Mukherjee S, Date A, Patravale V, Korting HC, Roeder A, Weindl G. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(4):327-48. doi: 10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327. PMID: 18046911; PMCID: PMC2699641.

  3. Peter M. Elias; Retinoid Effects on the Epidermis. Dermatologica 1 January 1987; 175 (Suppl. 1): 28–36. https://doi.org/10.1159/000248851

  4. Goyal A, Sharma A, Kaur J, Kumari S, Garg M, Sindhu RK, Rahman MH, Akhtar MF, Tagde P, Najda A, Banach-Albińska B, Masternak K, Alanazi IS, Mohamed HRH, El-Kott AF, Shah M, Germoush MO, Al-Malky HS, Abukhuwayjah SH, Altyar AE, Bungau SG, Abdel-Daim MM. Bioactive-Based Cosmeceuticals: An Update on Emerging Trends. Molecules. 2022 Jan 27;27(3):828. doi: 10.3390/molecules27030828. PMID: 35164093; PMCID: PMC8837976.

  5. Martin KI, Glaser DA. Cosmeceuticals: the new medicine of beauty. Mo Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;108(1):60-3. PMID: 21462614; PMCID: PMC6188460.

  6. Ahmad, A., Ahsan, H. Lipid-based formulations in cosmeceuticals and biopharmaceuticals. biomed dermatol 4, 12 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41702-020-00062-9

  7. Rodan K, Fields K, Majewski G, Falla T. Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2016 Dec 14;4(12 Suppl Anatomy and Safety in Cosmetic Medicine: Cosmetic Bootcamp):e1152. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000001152. PMID: 28018771; PMCID: PMC5172479.

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