Cosmeceuticals vs Drugstore Skincare: What’s the Difference?

You want to look naturally beautiful, flawless and simply impeccable every day. Beauty comes at a cost though, right? When you’re looking at the countless array of skincare brands available, how do you choose the best?

“Best” to you may mean something completely different than it does to someone else. It can mean the highest quality, skincare containing the most pure and natural ingredients, the easiest and quickest to use, the cheapest, etc.

So, the skincare debate begins. Do you save time and money and grab the skincare regimen at the drugstore, or do you go for the skincare that is higher quality but a lot more money? It can be confusing when choosing the “best” skincare for you.

So, let’s look at the main differences between your run of the mill drugstore skin care and the cosmeceutical or professional skincare options.

Drugstore Skincare

Drugstore products are those skincare products you can find at your local drugstore or department store. They range from very cheap to somewhat pricey. You would think that the pricier the product, the better quality, right? Well, in this case it doesn’t always mean you’re getting what you pay for.

Most drugstore skincare products have to address a large group of skin concerns to appeal to the largest population possible. Because of this, over the counter or drugstore skin care does not contain many (or possibly no) active ingredients and do contain some of the things that you don’t really want in your skincare, including fragrances and harmful preservatives. These products sometimes claim to have all the best ingredients (vitamin C, retinol, antioxidants) but they certainly don’t have near the same concentration and therefore don’t produce the results you’re hoping to get.

Drugstore skincare only work on your skin’s outer surface layer (epidermis). These products have been shown to literally just sit on the very top portion of your skin and not go any further. Because the manufacturers of these products need to appeal to so many and can’t have people constantly having breakouts or other issues from their product, the active ingredients just aren’t there. Money down the drain? It may seem so. It doesn’t stop us from trying all the new, shiny packaged products though. Yikes!


Cosmeceuticals are a combination of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Cosmeceutical companies have a stronger (higher concentrated) active ingredient list and are known to have better results than the ordinary drugstore skincare products. While potency and strength play a factor, the right amount of each ingredient mixed together in the right order is vital as well.

With cosmeceutical skincare, you’ll find products that are designed to fit your specific needs too (oily, dry or combination skin). This attention to your special needs is an important part of finding skincare that is best for you.



Cosmeceuticals are more expensive right? Yes, cosmeceuticals tend to have a higher price tag. Better ingredients just cost more. The higher concentrated and higher quality ingredients are going to be pricier, but remember, what you put on your skin is eventually absorbed into your body and bloodstream. It’s essential that your skincare contains quality, safe ingredients! If you desire better quality, and healthier for your skin products, you will have to pay a higher price as far as money, but you’ll find your skin is not “paying the price” instead.

When you see things like vitamin C, retinol or peptides as ingredients in a skincare product, it is usually another clue that the product is cosmeceutical in nature. These kinds of ingredients (with stronger formulations) are what result in visible and even non-visible changes to your skin.

Imperfections like sunspots, fine lines and wrinkles or other blemishes can be improved because cosmeceuticals actually dive deeper into the dermis of your skin. The dermis layer of your skin is where collagen, elastin and new skin cells live. Drugstore skincare products only sit on the outer layer of your skin and are unable to penetrate deeper which is where the real changes and improvements take place.

When used properly, cosmeceutical products can boost collagen and elastin as well as speed up cell turnover. This is what makes your skin look and feel healthy. Once your collagen and elastin have been damaged, it is very hard to fix. Using quality cosmeceutical products help protect what you have.

Pharmaceutical-grade Treatments

It’s important to note that pharmaceutical-grade skincare is available through your doctor and dermatologist for more serious skin issues as well. These products work into the subcutaneous tissue layers (the innermost layer) of your skin. When you are using pharmaceutical-grade skincare, you are closely monitored by your doctor to make sure you are not overtreating your skin. These products can be harsh on the skin and it may become dry or irritated. Be sure to use moisturizers and sunscreen along with this kind of skin treatment and talk to your doctor about any of your concerns.

Find the Skincare Best for You

You may be someone that constantly tries new skincare regimens in hopes of finding the “one” that brings you smoother skin, less wrinkles and the “glow” that everyone talks about. If we have learned nothing else though, the over the counter, drugstore products may not be the best place to turn. Don’t end up with a pile of unused skincare products because you just aren’t seeing results. Start investing in yourself and your skin and finally see and feel what you’ve been looking for.

The best product out there for you, is the formulation for your skin type and conditions because it brings the best results for your particular skin. Even the best, quality products can cause skin irritations and other problems when used improperly. Make sure to talk with your dermatologist or skin care specialist about the products you want to use. They will be able to provide the best advice concerning your particular skin care needs.


The team at Mosaic Med Spa are here for you. Our skin care specialists are ready to assist you in building the best skincare regimen for your skin. To find out more, schedule a visit or call our office at (703) 204-2773.

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