Did you know that dermo-cosmetics and cosmetics are not the same things? Contrary to what many people think, the latter term is not an abbreviation of the former, used for convenience. They are two distinct categories of products, which act differently on the skin and undergo different approvals for their launch.

To learn more about the subject and understand what dermo-cosmetics is and some of its most common active ingredients, read on!

What is dermocosmetics?

Both dermo-cosmetics and cosmetics are products developed for skincare. The latter, however, act more superficially, offering immediate and temporary solutions. They only affect the first layers of the skin and work as palliative medicines, solving a problem without treating its cause.

Makeup is an example of a cosmetic: it may hide a pimple or dark circles under the eyes, for example, but it does not treat them: when the makeup is removed, the problem is still there. In addition, some soaps and moisturizers fulfill their function, but do not offer any treatment and, in this case, we are talking about superficial cleansing and moisturizing, which can perfectly meet the needs of several users.

Dermo-cosmetics, however, have a treatment function. They have in their composition pharmacological active ingredients that penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, acting on the cause of possible skin problems. Rejuvenating creams, whitening serums, and anti-acne soaps are some examples.

Dermo-cosmetics have a treatment function and reach the deepest layers of the skin, acting on the cause of the problem, not only on its momentary solution.

Although they are not exactly considered drugs, these products have to pass tests and prove their efficacy before they can be marketed. In addition, although they do not require a prescription at the time of purchase, it is always recommended to consult a dermatologist to find out which products are best suited to your skin type.

So, are dermo-cosmetics better than cosmetics?

Understanding this basic difference between these two product categories, it is common for people to then think that it only makes sense to use dermo-cosmetics, which is not necessarily true. It all depends on your needs at any given time and both can be used, even together, as a compliment.

You might be treating your acne with dermo-cosmetics indicated by the dermatologist, but that didn’t stop that huge pimple from popping up on the day of a party – and who’s going to solve this immediate problem is makeup, right? Each has its function! And speaking of which…

Learn about the function of some of the most famous active ingredients.

Since skincare has become a trend, we have started to hear more and more about some of the active ingredients present in dermo-cosmetics, but what do those names mean? Where do they come from and how do they act on the skin?

Hyaluronic acid

Let’s start the list right away with the darling of the moment, so there’s no mystery! Hyaluronic acid is a compound present in the skin that is produced in our bodies. However, as we age, this production begins to diminish, which is why expression lines and wrinkles start to appear.

It is therefore offered in both topical and injectable cosmetics and helps to fill expression lines, improves hydration by retaining more water in the skin, stimulates collagen production, and acts as an antioxidant, protecting the skin from the negative effects caused by both internal and external factors.

Hyaluronic acid is used both in topical and injectable dermo-cosmetics.
The principle, however, is contraindicated for people with coagulation problems and there may also be individuals with hypersensitivity to the compound. It is therefore essential to always consult a dermatologist and follow their guidelines.

Glycolic acid

Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid can be used in creams, gels, and lotions at different pHs and thus act in different ways. At a lower pH it has exfoliating and whitening capabilities, while at a higher (but still acidic) pH, it becomes an excellent moisturizer.

It can be used daily in low concentrations (maximum 10%), while in in-office treatments it is often used in concentrations of up to 70%, depending on both what needs to be treated and the patient’s skin resistance.

The principle acts on cell renewal by exfoliating the skin, removing dead cells, and stimulating the production of collagen by the body. Thus, it smoothes expression lines and wrinkles, promotes skin whitening, makes the skin silky, and also helps in the treatment of stretch marks.

Its use can lead to some uncomfortable side effects, such as sensitivity to light and reddening of the skin, and even dangerous ones, such as skin lesions. Therefore, it should always be guided by a dermatologist and avoided by people with very sensitive skin or who have active skin infections.

Glycated ascorbic acid

You’ve most likely heard of ascorbic acid in other contexts, after all, it is the famous vitamin C. Its version used in skin treatments is combined with glucose to provide a longer-lasting effect and not oxidize as easily.

When absorbed by our skin, this active ingredient is broken down by an enzyme present in the body and then releases vitamin C directly into the skin. It acts against free radicals, detoxifies the skin, reduces inflammation, and also participates in the protection against UV rays.

Glycated ascorbic acid is mainly used on the skin in the form of serums.

Salicylic acid

Derived from willow bark, salicylic acid is a compound with keratolytic and anti-inflammatory action. It acts on the skin with an exfoliating action, facilitating the elimination of dead cells and improving its appearance.

The active ingredient also has an antifungal function and is commonly used in soaps and lotions, being highly recommended for the treatment of acne skin. In the office, it is also involved in chemical peeling processes, which renew the skin and soften the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

It should not be used directly on inflamed skin, warts, and blemishes, nor is it recommended for diabetic patients and those with vascular diseases.

Retinoic acid

Retinoic acid is a compound derived from vitamin A, and its main derivative is retinol, which acts by stimulating collagen synthesis. Thus, the active ingredient strengthens skin firmness and accelerates cell renewal, being a strong anti-aging agent.

Its keratolytic properties also help to eliminate the most superficial layer of the skin, which unclogs pores, reduces oiliness, and reduces the formation of acne.

Retinol is very often used together with hyaluronic acid. It is not recommended for pregnant women and some people may be sensitive to the active ingredient.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a plant with several pharmacological properties. When used on the skin, it has a nourishing, regenerating, and anti-inflammatory action, fighting free radicals, aiding healing, and soothing the skin.

Due to its numerous pharmacological properties, aloe vera is widely used in dermo-cosmetics.


In addition to being found in foods, caffeine is an active ingredient that can be found in some dermo-cosmetics to reduce body fat and cellulite and combat the action of free radicals, thus preventing skin aging and providing more firmness.

The active ingredient is usually incorporated into creams and gels, in concentrations of up to 10%.

Activated carbon

Activated carbon is produced from the combustion of certain types of wood, cork residues, and coconut shells at high temperatures (above 80 ºC) that eliminate all oxygen and provide a porous material with excellent absorption capacity.

In this way, it acts like a sponge on the skin, absorbing residues, dead cells, and grease, giving it a smoother and more luminous appearance. Its antibacterial properties also make activated charcoal an excellent ally in combating acne and other skin inflammations.

Activated charcoal particles are very commonly used in dermo-cosmetics through facial masks.

Activated charcoal is often used on the skin through facial masks.

Hydrolyzed collagen

Collagen is the main protein when we talk about the structure of the skin, being responsible for its resistance and elasticity. It is produced by the body, can be supplemented in the diet, and applied directly to the skin through dermo-cosmetics.

Its moisturizing and firming properties provide a rejuvenating aspect to the skin, fighting wrinkles and expression lines.


Besides being an essential mineral for the proper functioning of the body as a whole, zinc is widely used in skin treatments, both through food and dermo-cosmetics.

It is an ally in the protection against UV rays, has antibacterial effects, and protects collagen-producing cells from the action of free radicals.


Panthenol is a precursor of vitamin B5 which, when applied to the skin, is transformed into pantothenic acid, a substance produced naturally by the body and present in both skin and hair. The active ingredient is extremely moisturizing, reinforcing the skin’s protective barrier daily and improving irritations, helping the healing process by accelerating the regeneration process.

How and where to buy dermo-cosmetics?

Insofar as they are not considered drugs and do not require a prescription to be purchased, dermo-cosmetics should preferably be considered and used in agreement with your dermatologist. This is because, as you could understand from what we explained about some active ingredients, they respond to different needs and skin types.