Skinceuticals as a brand has a cult-like status, and certainly, their stand out hero product CE Ferulic has cemented its reputation as ‘best in class’ of high-end cosmeceuticals.
What is the story behind SkinCeuticals? What do they stand for? How trustworthy is their science? Are their products really worth the eye-watering price tags?
I have questions. You have questions. Let’s start with how SkinCeuticals brand themselves.
SkinCeuticals brand themselves as “Advanced Skincare Backed by Science”. They point out that their products are ‘gold standard’ and claim they are capable of ‘restoring radiance’. What ever that means.
Their online presence is a similar esthetic to their physical products. The packaging is simple, understated, elegant, clinical.
It is very similar to The Ordinary in that they are saying with their brand:
“We are all about serious science and skincare wellbeing. No fluff, just awesomeness”
They have both gone for minimal packaging and simple wording.
The teal blue accent colour on SkinCeuticals is also well-chosen. It conveys trust, and is also instantly recognisable as ‘This is a SkinCeuticals Product.’
What Does Skincare Backed By Science Mean?
Nearly every website/blog/youtube/Instagram/magazine space will advertise some form of skincare.
Lot’s of these ads will claim their skin care product is “clinically proven”, “scientifically formulated”, “Helps, Boosts and Reduces” and of course my favourite is “Backed by science”.
DECIM withs its revolutionary company The Ordinary paved the way for ingredients to be listed onto products.
Unashamedly putting out there what this product is made of.
We loved them for it.
While SkinCeuticals don’t put the ingredients on their labels, they do talk about the science of their formulations a lot.
My 2 favourite skincare brands are SkinsCeuticals and The Ordinary. They share a similar ethos and both create great products. The price point is what seperates them the most.
It’s not enough to moisturise our skin we want to hydrate and protect it.
This is fantastic. Skincare companies should be embracing educated consumers instead of fearing them, and SkinCeuticals treats its consumers like thet are skincare connoisseurs.
Like some people appreciate great wine, skincare nerds/connoisseurs appreciate a finely crafted cleansing oil.
However, many companies make claims about their skincare that skirts between misleading and goes all the way to lies.
SkinCeuticals is all about science, and they are constantly reminding the consumer about how they talk about their brand and their marketing.
I do love ‘skincare backed by science’. SkinCeuticals are by not the only skincare company to claim science backing btw.
Do these ‘medical grade’ claims have any substance, or are we being duped with pseudoscience sounding names dressed up in great marketing?
Sex Sells, and So Does Science
Starting in the ’80s, cosmetic ads started to include references to clinical trials and sciencey-sounding formulations.
Science is now part of our everyday lives, from podcasts like Science vs, and How to save a planet to youtube channels, Netflix documentaries and all over the internet.
We want to ‘know’ our world, and how it works and understanding science is a big part of understanding our world.
We are becoming more educated about the stuff we buy and what we put into and onto our bodies. We want to know how it affects not only us but our planet. This, in my opinion, is all wonderful news.
As we have become less science phobic skincare companies and the marketers they may have been experts at exploiting science angle with skincare.
They use science people can ‘sort of’ understand to dress up their products and make them not only respectable but expensively desirable because -“It’s backed by science”.
Let’s face it the skincare market place is crowded and getting more crowded by the day.
Using marketing and vague scientific references can make a product sound impressive and different from the rest.
Let’s look at the most common marketing tactics used by companies to sell your products. Skinceuticals is not alone in using these claims, but in their case, they can actually give credence to the claims that they are science-based formulas.
Clinically Proven, what does that mean?
To claim that a product is clinically proven it must be supported by robustly designed peer-reviewed and published clinical trials conducted on the product being advertised.
You should find the abstracts if no the full trial information on PubMed or google scholar. If they make claims on their website, they should link to them.
Does SkinCeuticals Have Proof of Their Clinical Trails?
Yes, they do, and they have links to them on their website. Nice job, SkinCeuticals.
You can find the abstracts and the links here as well:
This link will take you to the summary of the article on topical L-Ascorbic acid.
The full article: Topical L-Ascorbic Acid
This is the summary link to CE Ferulic study.
The full article: The CE Ferulic Science Study
The protective effects of topical application of CE Ferulic Acid abstract link
The full article: Protective effects of CE Ferulic
Many companies claim that their product helps. It is illegal to claim that a cosmetic product can directly fix a problem without the science to back it up. So you can sidestep that by saying a product “helps” to fix a problem.
Help is a vague word and could support the claim of anything.
- “Reading skinkins.com helps to keep you happy.”
- “Reading skinkins.com helps to keep your glutes activated.”
- “Need help losing weight? Have I got the perfect website that can help? Its called skinkins.com and if you read it for 6 hours a day, it will help to keep you away from the fridge.”
You get the idea.
Boosts collagen production
This claim is everywhere in the cosmetic industry, and SkinCeuticals claim it as well.
SkinCeuticals products contain hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which have science, showing that it can directly interact with the skin and boost collagen production.
They also have conducted clinical trials into their patented formula CE Ferulic which does have impressive proof of effectiveness.
Reduces the Appearance of Wrinkles
Here is a little secret.
Water reduces the appearance of wrinkles, so does beer. You have to drink enough to affect your eyesight.
This is clever marketing at its finest.
Water reduces the appearance of wrinkles until it evaporates off your face a few minutes later. Nearly anything you put on your face will reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Consumers get fooled into thinking that the product will get rid of wrinkles. It won’t. Some ingredients do plump the skin and if used consistently, can actually get rid of fine lines.
Reducing the appearance of wrinkles and getting rid of wrinkles are very different things.
Proven is a powerful word, and consumers usually lead wrongly to belie that the product will perform better simply because it is ‘proven’. Any company selling anything can tell you it is ‘proven’.
‘Skinkins.com has been proven to be the best blog about skincare on the web’.
“What,” you say.
“Proven by what measure? I mean this blog is amazing, but the best on the web? There is some stiff competition out there!”
“Oh, I proved it to myself last night. I said, to myself “If I get 100 views to this article that means its the best on the web”. I got 116 views, so yeah that proves its the best. That is how science works”.
Backed By Science
This means that products are formulated from researched ingredients proven effective and approved by the FDA as effective and safe.
In the case of SkinCeuticals, this would appear to be true. They indeed do have a lot of science backing up their claims.
What Are Cosmeceuticals?
If lipstick and vitamin C tablet had a baby, it would be called a cosmeceutical.
The FDA does not recognise the term cosmeceutical. When they categorise beauty products, they only recognize three categories: Drugs, Cosmetics and bizarrely Soap.
According to the FDA, a cosmetic is:
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics by their intended use, as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)].
The FDA defines a drug as:
The FD&C Act defines drugs, in part, by their intended use, as “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1)].
Can a product be a cosmetic and a drug?
According to the FDA, a product can be both. They give the example of anti-dandruff shampoo. It is a shampoo (cosmetic) because it is used to cleanse your hair. It is also a drug because it contains drugs effective at treating dandruff.
They also mention toothpaste if it contains fluoride, deodorants if they contain antiperspirants and moisturizers if they make sun-protection claims.
These products then have to comply with both the cosmetic and drug requirements set out by the FDA.
The FDA has this to say about ‘cosmeceuticals’.
The FD&C Act does not recognize any such category as “cosmeceuticals.” A product can be a drug, a cosmetic, or a combination of both, but the term “cosmeceutical” has no meaning under the law.
The FDA doesn’t have a ‘cosmeceutical’ category. Your product is either a cosmetic or a drug. Where is falls on that scale is based on the claim made about it.
Here is where it gets interesting, which may explain why SkinCeuticals charges a higher price point for its products.
Let’s say skinkins launches a new super serum that claims to “penetrates the epiderms and rebuilds collagen”.
The FDA considers that to be a drug. To bring a drug to market, you require clinical trials.
Rigorous clinical trials are very time consuming and very expensive. They are done to prove your new drug is effective and safe for consumers.
Let’s say that I did manage to prove that my super serum does penetrate the epiderms and directly rebuilds collagen the FDA would approve it, as a new drug.
That now makes my serum a pharmaceutical drug, not a cosmetic.
Skincare companies love the term cosmeceutical because it sounds very science-based and boosts consumer confidence in your product.
Because the FDA doesn’t recognise the term cosmetical, it means any company can claim their product is a cosmeceutical. Leading to consumers to believe (often falsely) that the product has science backing its claims.
A lot of skincare companies make claims about there products that are misleading. Some companies take research and greatly exaggerate an ingredient or product’s effectiveness beyond anything the ‘science’ demonstrated.
The term cosmeceutical is marketing jargon, not a legal definition and most skincare companies use this term to blur the line between cosmetic claims and drug claims.
Is skinceuticals dfferent?
SkinCeuticals actually has rigorous science and clinical trials backing its claims.
A few of their ingredients and formulations have patents and are not available to other companies to replicate.
The company was founded in 1994 by Dr Sheldon Pinnell and Russell Moon.
They released its first products in 1997 known as the creatively named Serum 10 and Serum 15.
The now cult famous CE Ferulic was released in 2005, and the landscape of vitamin C, E and ferulic acid was changed forever.
L’Oreal brought Skinceuticals in 2005 to strengthen their high-performance skincare ranges. L’Oreal could see the future of skincare trends, and it was paved with science and high-end product lines.
L’Oreal houses 3 of my favourite brands La Roche Posay, CeraVe and Vichy Laboratories.
Dr Sheldon Pinnell
Dr Pinnell, MD, was a dermatologist and the scientist behind the SkinCeuticals brand. Known in the industry as the ‘founding father of the topical antioxidants’.
He was also the first to patent a stable form of vitamin C proven by science to effectively penetrate the skin, delivering eight times the skin natural antioxidant protection.
He appears to have had a long history and interest in Vitamin C, publishing in over 200 peer-reviewed journals.
His particular interest was in photoaging (sun damage) collagen synthesis and UV protection. Still, his work with vitamin C was the most revolutionary and changed how vitamin C was used in skincare formulations.
His study into the effectiveness of vitamins C and E with ferulic acid resulted from 40 years of academic research.
20 international peer-reviewed publications also back the CE Ferulic study.
The Problem With Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also known as L-ascorbic acid; it’s water-soluble – meaning it dissolves in water and is highly unstable.
Vitamin C is found naturally in some food, oranges and other citrus for example. When it occurs in nature, it has two equal parts of L-ascorbic acid and D-ascorbic acid. Only the L-ascorbic acid is active and useful in skincare formulations.
Vitamin C is needed in your skin to make collagen vital to firmness and suppleness of your skin. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. When applied topically to your skin, vitamin C neutralises free radicals. Vitamin C also works as a sunscreen booster.
If vitamin C can get to the skin’s dermis layer, it can interact directly with living and growing skin cells. It is getting it to the dermis that is the challenge.
It oxidizes – meaning breaks down and becomes toxic rather than helpful when exposed to air, sunlight and water.
Vitamin C in skincare comes and either pure or esterified derivates. Pure, stable L-ascorbic acid is complicated to stabilise, yet it is the most effective form of vitamin C for skincare.
This is why SkinCeuticals vitamin CE Ferulic is the industry gold standard.
Dr Pinnell discovered a way to make stable L-ascorbic acid and penetrate the skin to act directly in the dermis. Then he patented his formula.
This is why this and many other of the SkinCeuticals products are so expensive.
They work well; they are backed by science, and no one else can use their formulation without facing a very expressive lawsuit.
SkinCeuticals make millions of dollars a year, and L’Orela wants to keep those patents and their formulations very close to their chests.
SkinCeuticals Ethics Charter
You know you have to give credit where its due and SkinCeuticals do tick many the boxes for skincare.
They have a genuine commitment to science, and they do create good products.
They even have an ethics charter. This is kind of like a mission statement only more ‘science’ based.
SkinCeuticals has a link to its Ethics Charter.
Speaking of ethics, where do SkinCeuticals stand on cruelty-free and vegan skincare?
Is SkinCeuticals cruelty-free?
The official stance from SkinCeuticals is this:
“SkinCeuticals does not test any of its products or any of its ingredients on animals, anywhere in the world, nor does SkinCeuticals delegate this task to others. The only possible exception is if regulatory authorities required it for safety or regulatory purposes.”
Does SkinCeuticals Sell There Products in Mainland China?
Yes, it does, and this means their products may be subject to animal testing.
Is SkinCeuticals Vegan?
No, some of their products contain ingredients derived from animals products such as lactic acid.
Does The Science Justify The Price Tag?
This is the 166 dollar question.
When setting the price point of a product, many things get taken into consideration. Firstly the cost of the raw material to make the product. The manufacture of the product, the labour involved in the manufacture, the packaging, and the warehousing are among many things. Then there is the marketing or advertising. It is usually the most expensive part of bringing a new product to the ‘market’.
Advertising is the highest cost for most large cosmetic companies, and they spend big.
According to Statista, L’Oreal spend on advertising and promotion expenses worldwide from 2007 to 2019 was an eyewatering 9.21 BILLION Euros.
What makes a consumer buy a product has so many factors beyond price.
Great marketers know how to make you buy. There is an entire branch of psychology devoted to understanding why people buy what they buy and what motivates them to spend money.
Its called behavioural economics.
We buy products based on an emotional reaction just as much as a logical one.
We buy things based on how they reflect our beliefs about ourselves and the type of people we aspire to be.
This is why Instagram is so huge.
It is crammed full of people living lives we aspire to live.
If a product can make you feel like it is improving how others see you and how you see yourself, they can sell you lots of their product.
Clever marketing will tell you what you will lose by not using this product.
‘Do you feel like your friends all look younger than you and time is passing you by?’
‘Well have I got a super serum for you! It will stop you losing your youthful glow; it will pull you away from ‘frumpy middle-aged’ and draw you back into ‘youthful and free’ and stop you from being mistaken for Aunty Gladys’.
FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out is also used to make you feel like everyone is in on a secret or having the best time and missing out.
What Kind of Marketing Does Skinceuticals use?
They definitely go for the backed by science claims. In their case, they are actually backed by science, so that’s fine with me.
The brand focuses heavily on antioxidants and ‘cutting edge science’. On their website, they don’t push their products with fear or loss marketing they really do go for ‘we are backed by science’.
Other places that sell their products use the whole range of marketing to sell SkinCeuticals products.
Here are a few examples taken from big online stores:
“We are proud to stock this leading cosmeceutical brand for skincare junkies”
“Put your best face forward with high-performing skincare”
“Skincetical features highly effective formulations that are created with the best of what science and nature have offer.”
If I were in the marketing department, my tag line for SkinCeuticals would read something like this.
“Skinceuticals has got a great vitamin C patent, and it makes some of their Vitamin C based products exceptional – if you can tolerate the odd smell. They have some good science around some formulations but oddly include some weirdly irritating ingredients, like fragrance. I like them though and will sacrifice my pilates class to afford the CE Ferulic serum.”
I am not sure I am going to be hired by SkinCeuticals marketing team anytime soon!
Summary of Skinceuticals
I love SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, I have searched for many years to find it’s equal and nothing has come close. For this product alone I give SkinCeuticals 4 out of 5 stars.
It is backed by science and seems to have a genuine desire to help you with all your skincare needs and concerns.
The company’s integrated skincare approach is the #1 Dermatologist-dispensed skincare brand in the world. It was one of the first companies to provide scientific evidence that supported its claimed benefits.
However, I can’t get past the price point for 99% of their products. They are not the most expensive brand out there sure, but most of their products are pricey, dare I say overpriced.
SkinCeuticals are, I believe unashamedly expensive. If I had to summarise their brand in a sentence it would be;
“If you want to party with us and be an elite skin connoisseur, then you need to pay the big dollars”.
Do I believe you need SkinCeuticals in your life?
Look, if money isn’t a problem and you want quality skincare SkinCeuticals is a great product.
I will continue to use the CE Ferulic until I die, but everything else I think some products is as good or superior and at a fraction the price.
They are backed by science. This is never a bad thing.
Now, if you would like to buy my super serum which stops you from ageing, from the first moment you apply it to your skin.
Click the link below.