Ruth Griffin: A prescription for beauty?
The cosmeceutical treatments that bridge the gap between make-up and medicine
Cosmeceutical skincare is favoured by dermatologists and skincare professionals across the globe, but to the ordinary user it can read like a difficult-to-decipher chemistry book, with long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients and mind-boggling terminology. A hybrid of the words 'cosmetic' and 'pharmaceutical', the term is used for products that bridge the gap between the beauty counter and invasive treatments in a dermatologist's surgery or prescription-level skincare.
They do this through the use of active ingredients, which are scientifically proven to target specific skin issues. Some cosmeceuticals can be eye-wateringly expensive. However, two new launches in the last few years - The Ordinary and Hylamide - are amazingly effective budget options.
Please note that cosmeceuticals need to be used with consultation and guidance, so it's best to seek personalised advice from a qualified skincare professional before beginning to use these products.
Treat vs Cheat
The Ordinary Serum Foundation, from theordinary.com, caused such a stir on its launch that it now has a waiting list of 25,000. Price: €6.70
Hybrid serum/foundations are fast becoming beauty best-sellers. Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation Serum, from Avoca stores, is a cosmeceutical option. Price: €56.95
5 of the best cosmeceuticals
• Best budget
The Ordinary is a no-nonsense, ingredient-led, plainly packaged beauty powerhouse that does what it says on the tin - and the whole range costs less than €17.
Hero product: Hyaluronic Acid 2pc + B5, €6.60, from millies.ie, and Inish and Meaghers pharmacies
• Best for 40+
Nimue's technology is proven to help combat environmental ageing in particular. It is so effective that it is easy to overlook the slightly medicinal smell of some of its products.
Hero product: Age Intelligent Eye Serum, €75, from salons nationwide, see platinumbeauty.ie
• Best for millenials
Image Skincare is a long established staple for beauty buffs. Their Vital C range is a best-seller and is jam packed with anti-oxidants and perfect for sensitive Irish complexions.
Hero product: Vital C Hydrating Repair Crème, €65.45, for stockists see renaissance-skincare.com
• Best unisex
Men seem to like the Murad brand, as it is so plainly packaged.
Hero product: Invisiblur Perfecting Shield, €64.95, from Littlewoods Ireland, cloud10beauty.com, and selected salons nationwide
• Best overall
Using pure, pharmaceutical-grade ingredients at optimal concentrations, SkinCeuticals is a firm favourite with dermatologists. Absolutely brilliant skincare.
Hero product: Serums. I love the C E Ferulic (left), €135, and the HA Intensifier, €91. The Aox+ Eye Gel, €82, is the best eye cream I've tried. From skinceuticals.co.uk or skinshop.ie
Using active ingredients in cosmeceutical skincare goes hand in hand with wearing SPF - every day! It's non-negotiable when embarking on this type of skincare routine. This zinc-based SPF affords broad-spectrum protection with no stingy eyes or Casper the Ghost residue, and acts as a brilliant primer under make-up. Glo-Therapeutics Oil Free SPF 40, €37, laserandskin.ie
Ask the expert
Jennifer Rock is CEO of The Skin Nerd - an online skincare and cosmeceutical consultancy and virtual department store - and creator of the award-winning Cleanse Off Mitt make-up remover. See theskinnerd.com
What do cosmeceuticals do?
Cosmeceuticals can affect the health of the skin at a cellular level, where skin cells are formed and developed. The products train the skin to behave in a certain manner, giving you lasting results. By comparison, cosmetic products soothe or lessen an effect of a skin condition in the short term.
How do they differ from other, more traditional skincare products?
They contain high levels of ingredients known to create changes within the skin, such as retinol, glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, ascorbic acid and many forms of science-based ingredients that are safe for the skin.
Some people question me on how my love of natural ingredients fits in with my adoration of cosmeceuticals. It's important to ask what is natural, and to whom or what, when comparing ingredients. Retinol is found within humans, as are lactic acid and vitamin C - they are natural to our genetic make-up. While lavender and chamomile are indisputably phenomenal ingredients in skincare, they are not natural to our physiology.
What does 'active ingredient' mean in layman's terms?
Everything and nothing! Hyaluronic acid is a nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan, which hydrates the skin beyond belief, but it is negligible in some products and the only ingredient in others.
What's the science behind cosmeceuticals?
It is not regulated, which is somewhat frustrating to professionals. Unfortunately, a lot of brands can market themselves as "active" if that's true of the main ingredient in the product. Good cosmeceuticals, however, are typically created and fronted by doctors or plastic surgeons, or they recruit a lead technician and pharmacists to stabilise and create formulations that offer more than a simple boost of hydration.
Where can you buy them?
Cosmeceutical products can be bought at professional skincare clinics or salons. A thorough consult is required to ensure that you are using the correct products for your skin in the correct manner.
What's the biggest skincare myth?
There are two: drinking water being the apparent holy grail, and that it's all in the genes. Skincare is a jigsaw puzzle; it is 20pc to 30pc genetics and 70pc to 80pc lifestyle decisions. Various factors can negate the positive effects of drinking water for your skin. Are you drinking pure water? Are you eating foods full of essential fatty acids to lock the water in? Are you fuelling your body with the nutrients it needs? Things such as poor stress management, lack of sleep, medication and processed foods can leave your skin with poor healing ability and a dull tone.
What is your 'virtual skincare specialist' service?
I created an online platform which offers educated skincare advice to the end user, yet has no bias towards any one brand. No one brand has absolutely all aspects covered for all skin conditions, so for that reason, I don't have brand loyalty or affiliation.
Our nerdettes are trained to the hilt and adore skincare and helping others get results. We give 40 minutes of education on skin and recommendations for products off the back of the knowledge we impart. These can be purchased in our online cosmeceutical store, exclusive to those who have had a consult. Sessions are conducted via Whatsapp or Facetime and cost €50.