Skincare Basics: What Is The Difference Between a Cosmeceutical and a Pharmaceutical Product?

31 May 2018

In our last blog, we explained the importance of Cleansing and how the pH scale of the facial cleanser you use will affect your skin (click here to read). In this blog, we’d like to explore a bit further regarding skincare products and hopefully can help you have a better understanding of the terms in the industry.

Cosmeceutical vs Pharmaceutical: What are They and What’s the Difference?

When choosing professional skincare products, you will come across these two terms quite frequently. In short, the main differences between Cosmeceutical Graded and Pharmaceutical Graded products are within following three points:

Cosmeceutical Graded Products

According to FDA, the ingredients within a Cosmeceutical Graded product required to be 70% pure. This means that such products tend to be filled with synthetic ingredients and other fillers. As a resutl, the effectiveness of such products to address your specific skin conditions tend to be minimum.

These products are formulated to be absorbed into the epidermal layer, the outermost layer of the three layers that make up the skin. The epidermis is dead. It has no blood supply and is nourished almost exclusively by diffused oxygen from the surrounding air (Ref.1). Therefore, any cosmetic product that is absorbed in this layer will only give you a false sense of hydration. It wouldn’t matter how much you spent on it, how good the ingredients are or what the manufacturing quality was, it can only do the above.

Cosmeceutical graded products are generally something you can buy over the counter. Also due to its accessibility, these products are designed to be safe so that anyone without specific training or skin knowledge can buy and use it on daily basis without the risk of causing skin damage.

Pharmaceutical Graded Products

Pharmaceutical graded products are regulated and the ingredients within the products are required to be 99% pure. That doesn’t only mean a high percentage of active ingredients but also a higher quality of other ingredients.

These products are designed with delivery systems that will take its ingredients lower into the skin layers. By providing the newly forming cells with nutrients, they help with the new skin growth. These ingredients also protect and provide the cells with what they need to change a condition and improve the skin function. This allows effective treatments for skin conditions such as dehydration, acne, pigmentation, ageing and so on.

Because of the high quality of the ingredients working deeper in the skin layer, pharmaceutical graded products are very powerful and have a strong effect on the skin. They are only available in professional skin clinics, aestheticians or dermatologists – people who have extensive training and skincare knowledge. They will prescribe the most suitable products depends on each individual client’s needs and instruct clients how to use them.

In Summary

Ingredients 70% pure 99% pure
Skin Layer It Works Outer layer Deeper layer
Where To Buy Over the counter Licensed skin professionals

When explaining to our clients in the salon we always use this example:

If you take a dried up piece of fruit and place in a bowl of water, the fruit will plump. But when you eat the fruit it will taste horrible as all the nutritional value has gone. This is the same with your skin. With pharmaceutical graded products, it will deliver high quality and pure ingredients into the deeper layer of the skin to feed the skin what it needs. It’s a bit like feeding your body with good nutrition.

Skin Products We Use at WPR Beauty

At WPR Beauty, we use Image Skincare. It is a skincare range that utilises the most scientifically advanced formulas in today’s marketplace to create pharmaceutical grade skincare products. These products give licensed physicians and aestheticians the ability to offer professional treatments and products which yield unparalleled results.

Looking for Skincare Advice?

Call 01277 633907 to book a No Fee No Obligation skin consultation! We will assess your skin condition and provide you with professional advice on how to look after your skin. Your therapist will also answer any questions you may have.



Stücker, M; Struk, A; Altmeyer, P; Herde, M; Baumgärtl, H; Lübbers, DW (2002). “The cutaneous uptake of atmospheric oxygen contributes significantly to the oxygen supply of human dermis and epidermis”. The Journal of Physiology. 538 (3): 985–994. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2001.013067. PMC 2290093Freely accessible. PMID 11826181.