What’s the difference between over the counter and professional skincare lines?

All too often patients come to me with a bag full of products purchased from department stores, infomercials, pharmacies, and sales schemes through friends disappointed with the lack of visible benefit to the skin. People are frustrated and confused as to why the products that they spent all this time and money on has not made difference in their skin. Here are some thoughts to consider when investing in a skin care line.

  1. Ingredient quantity and quality. Medical professional skincare offers a higher concentration of active ingredients. Many retail products may claim to contain these ingredients, but in reality the active ingredients are found in very small amounts. When looking at the ingredient list on a product, the further down the list you go, the less it is contained within the final product. For an ingredient to work, it needs to be found in adequate concentrations. Quality of ingredients is also important.  Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant found in many anti-aging products, however it is extremely unstable. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is the most effective and stable form of Vitamin C, making it an expensive ingredient and which won’t be found in most retail or drugstore products.
  2. Ingredients with enhanced penetration into the skin. Our skin is meant to be a barrier to the outside world and as such many topical products cannot penetrate the skin. Professional skin care lines are rigorously tested in clinical studies and have advanced delivery systems to ensure delivery to the intended targets of the skin.
  3. Product Clinical Testing and Safety. Professional dispensed products are thoroughly tested for clinical efficacy and safety to guarantee the products work. These products are also tested to be sure they maintain their effects throughout the shelf life of the product. Mass market products do not undergo the same rigorous testing, they do not track safety, and do not have physician support if an adverse effect arises. Lastly, many products are sold based on testing of a few ingredients instead of the finished product. As we know from the Vitamin C example, ingredients may not maintain their stability when formulated in the final product so clinical testing data is critical. 

Price points may seem inhibitory for some professional products versus over the counter products, but it is often less expensive per ounce than brands found in department stores and much more beneficial.  So do your homework. If you are going to spend money on a product, make sure there is science to support its use. And as always, if you are unsure about a skin care product, who better to help with your skin than your dermatologist?








Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *