Today I am going to address the reasons medical-grade-skincare is better than over-the-counter. As a medical aesthetician, most questions I get are regarding skincare products. What should I be using at home? Should I order products off Amazon? Will they work? Why do medical-grade-skincare products cost more than over-the-counter products? All great questions. With so much to choose from it can be confusing.
First thing to know, The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) breaks skincare products in two categories: cosmetic, or over-the-counter, and medical-grade. Cosmetic skincare products are readily found at stores like Target, TJ Maxx, and Walgreens, to name a few. Pharmaceutical or Medical-grade- skincare products are found in dermatology offices, medical spas, or an establishment that operates under a physician’s license, like EvolvMD.
1. Over-the-Counter Products Do Not Come with a Consultation
Aestheticians and other skincare medical professionals are trained to customize, evaluate, and recommend products appropriate for current skin conditions and concerns. As trained professionals, we work closely with clients to ensure they get the product that will work for them and that it will target specific needs. We are able to recommend products that have a higher level of active ingredients. Not everyone is licenced to sell products the FDA recognizes as medical-grade. We can, and you get a free consultation with it.
2. Medical Grade Skincare Products Have a Higher Concentration of Active Ingredients
One of the most important reasons why Medical-Grade Skincare is better than over-the-counter? Medical-grade products contain more of what your skin needs to improve. True changes to the skin can only be achieved with active ingredients. Active ingredients are why you are buying the product. For example, if you are trying to get rid of acne, you want to make sure there is a high percentage of the ingredient used to treat acne in your product. The concentration of active ingredients is limited in over-the-counter products to avoid harmful reactions.
Medical-grade-skincare products allow for higher concentrations of active ingredients because medical professionals are dispensing them, ensuring patients understand how and when to use them. Most over-the-counter products don’t include the ingredient concentrations on the actual label making it hard for you to know and control how much of each ingredient your skin is actually getting. Not only is the concentration of each ingredient important for safety concerns, but it plays a huge role in what the product can do for your skin.
3. Medical-Grade Skincare Products Get Deep
Most over-the-counter products are likely going to feel like they are working well for a period of time; however, they get stuck in the most superficial layer of your skin, the epidermis. You know the new anti-aging serum you just got from Target? It will probably feel amazing for the first month or two, but if you find yourself questioning why those lines do not seem to be shrinking as the package promised, you are likely not alone because the product is not going below the surface of the skin to treat the issue.
To correct skin and make real physical changes, products need to penetrate down to a “deeper” layer of the skin, and go below the skin’s surface to the dermis. Your dermis is filled with fibroblasts, the cells which create collagen and elastin. Medical-grade products skincare is better than OTC because they are formulated to get down to the dermis to stimulate actual transformations. When active ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinols, and vitamin C get to the dermis, you will see actual changes to the outer layer of your skin.
4. More Bang for Your Buck
At least once a day, maybe more, I am told medical-grade skincare products, “are too expensive,” and I am asked, “Are they really worth it?” I am a college student on a budget myself so I totally understand. Since medical-grade skincare products have a higher concentration of working ingredients and they penetrate deeper, they deliver quicker and more superior results. You end up using less of the product, which means it will last longer, and you will see real changes to the skin. You will not need to rebuy the product as often as you would with OTC products. While it may be more expensive up front, in the end you will actually save money since you will get a product that has been tested and proven to work.
If you are searching for a deal on medical-grade products, we would say, steer clear. Licensed retail establishments sign an agreement that they will not advertise or sell the products on third party sites, or sell for less than the agreed retail price. A few years ago, one of our favorite brands, Skinceuticals, purchased more than $750,000 of their product via third party sites, including Amazon and found that more than 90% were counterfeit and contained none of their active ingredients. And, if it’s not counterfeit, it is likely older stock and was not stored in a temperature-controlled environment, which will make the active ingredients ineffective and inactive. You won’t end up seeing a difference and will end up spending additional money to try again. Make sure to purchase medical-grade skincare from a licensed seller.
5. Research, Research, Research
Do you like science? Great! Medical-grade skincare companies invest a ton of time and money into the chemistry behind products they develop and spend years conducting research to back-up their claims. The FDA verifies the clinical research so you can feel good knowing the products you are purchasing will do what they say they are going to do. Over-the-counter products are not part of this rigorous process. I personally have trust issues when it comes to my hair, skin, and nails. I need the facts and science behind what I’m putting on my face, or it’s not going on!
Does this mean that the Cereve or Rodan & Fields, etc. that you’re using at home is bad? Absolutely not. If a product is working for you, and you like it, keep using it! Anything that is keeping you consistent in a regimen outside of the treatment room, is beneficial. Know that you have options to add more advanced treatment products at home to further enhance the results from your skin treatments (BOTOX, lasers, chemical peels etc), and understand why medical grade skincare appears more expensive.
Remember, as your provider and aesthetician it is my job to work with you and create a realistic plan that is going to work best for you and your day to day lifestyle.
We hope you found this helpful. Drop a comment below and let us know what you thought, and let us know if you have other questions.