Medical Grade or Over the Counter Skin Care Products: What’s the Difference?
Prior to entering the aesthetics industry, I, like many of you, had drawers and cabinets full of OTC skin care products which did not deliver on their promises. I was seduced by the beautiful packaging, pleasing scents, celebrity endorsements and empty promises. I was also always mindful of the expense of the products I purchased, always looking for the best price with the best possible outcome. Alas, more often than not, I was disappointed in the results I obtained from the products and thus, the products were relegated to the “junk drawer”.
It wasn’t until I started researching and educating myself, that I realized fully the key differences in medical grade skin care products vs OTC skin care products. To save you the time and trouble of extensive research, I have listed what I found to be the most compelling reasons to invest in medical grade skin care products.
CONSULT REQUIRED – To some, this would be a reason NOT to purchase medical grade skin care products. You need to understand that no skin care product is perfect for everyone! In order to find the best products for your unique skin care needs, you need to analyze your skin closely. This is best done by consulting with a skin care specialist. This is NOT a ploy to get you to buy expensive products! It is a necessary step to find the products that are best for your specific skin type and skin concerns. At Premier Skin Clinic, every consultation is free. During the consultation, we analyze your skin using our Canfield Reveal Imager which shows the sun damage, brown spots, red areas, fine lines and more, in startling clarity. It allows us to see below the skin’s surface to address your skin care concerns with products that are specific for your unique skin care needs. Case in point: I recently had a new client present for a skin consultation. She had purchased an OTC skin lightening product which promised to improve the tone and discoloration of her skin. After using the product with disappointing results, she determined she needed hydroquinone which required a prescription. After analyzing her skin on our Reveal camera, I was able to show her that brown pigment was not an issue with her skin. Her skin was irritated and inflamed. We were able to start her on a calming agent and within a week her skin showed significant signs of improvement. Often, you need to see what’s beneath the surface of your skin to determine the best method of addressing your skin care concerns. Remember, medical professionals receive extensive training on the products they recommend. They are more likely to find the best skin care regimen for you, saving you money in the long run and taking the stress out of continued trial and error.
HIGHER QUALITY INGREDIENTS – Medical grade products are required to contain 99% purity of the active ingredients. They are tested on the purity of the active ingredients. OTC products are not held to the same standards and testing of purity is not required.
HIGHER CONCENTRATION – Medical grade skin care products have higher concentrations of active ingredients. They use therapeutic doses of active ingredients, which means they use the recommended amount of dosage that will create change within the skin. OTC products often use just enough of an active ingredient to advertise that the ingredient is in the product but not enough to have an effect, or it may take much longer to achieve an effect.
DEEPER PENETRATION – Medical grade products are formulated to penetrate into the dermis. OTC skin care products do not penetrate below the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin. This is important because the dermis contains the collagen and elastin fibers which are key to maintaining healthy, youthful skin. To create real change to the skin, the dermis must be penetrated. Medical grade skin care products use specific delivery systems to ensure the product penetrates deeply into the dermis. OTC skin care is only equipped to sit on the surface of the skin, the activity of the ingredients are not going to penetrate past the dead, surface layers of your skin and into the dermis like medical grade.
HIGHER STANDARDS – Medical grade skin care products have FDA oversight and must have clinical research studies to back up any claims about their benefits. On the other hand, OTC skin care products do not need to have clinical studies or research behind their claims. Medical grade skin care products use highly stabilized, highly active, highly effective ingredients to make sure you are getting the results you deserve. Most use packaging that enables the product to remain stable longer (ex. airless pumps, dark glass bottles for Vitamin C, slow release technology, encapsulated technology, etc.)
COST EFFECTIVE – Although the upfront cost may be more than the OTC products, medical grade products are generally a better investment in the long run. First, medical grade products are HIGHLY concentrated so they will last you LONGER as you only need to use a little bit of the product to obtain the full benefit. Drugstore products use a lot of filler ingredients so you need to use a lot more of the product and you still wont achieve the same benefit in the same amount of time. Second, they actually work so you will not be wasting your money on the multitudes of OTC product that find their way into the “junk drawer”. Third, medical grade skin care companies spend money on clinical research to guarantee their products work and to support any claims they make about the results of the products. Manufacturers of OTC products spend money on packaging, scent and celebrity endorsements and are not held to the same standards and requirements. Fourth, investing in medical grade skin care products will provide great skin health and anti-aging benefits which may save you from more expensive anti-aging procedures in the future or protect the investment you may have already made.
Each fall, Premier Skin Clinic has a “Fall in Love with Your Skin Challenge” in which participants schedule a skin consultation and purchase the skin care products recommended for them. For three months, we track their progress with pictures on our Reveal camera. Each year, the participants are amazed at the improvements seen in their skin with use of medical grade skin care products only. If you’re still not convinced of the benefits of medical grade skin care products our Skin Challenge would be a great way to allow us to demonstrate the difference in quality of skin care products. Mark your calendar for September and sign up for our challenge! You won’t regret it!