Medical-Grade vs. Over-The-Counter Skin Care Products
Cosmetic and over-the-counter (OTC) skincare items are those commonly found in retail, department, and drug stores. They are advertised to the masses on TV, in magazines, billboards, social media and the like.
Typically OTC skincare is formulated to be a one-type-suits-all and to treat simple problems, such as dry or oily skin. They are designed to provide a measure of relief, and they might improve skin’s appearance to some extent. However, there is a limit to what these over-the-counter products can do. This is because these products are designed to appeal to the widest group of people possible without causing anyone negative side effects.
In order to accomplish this goal, cosmetic companies include enough of the active ingredients in their products so that they can legally say that they have it, but not so much that it could cause an adverse reaction in the average individual.
Due to the small amounts of active ingredients, cosmetic products mainly treat the outermost layer of skin. While this may provide some benefit for those who have minimal skin issues, it’s not ideal for those that require more intense care, or those seeking to support their skin against the effects of aging and the like.
This is why most experience lackluster results from these cosmetic, over-the-counter products. To get the results you seek, and to get the best skin of your life individuals will want to look into medical-grade skin care products as these skincare treatments are uniquely capable of impacting skin at a biological level thereby addressing more serious skin issues.
Medical-grade skin care products, also known as “cosmeceuticals,” contain high concentrations of active ingredients proven to affect skin at a biological level and are formulated to penetrate below the top layers of skin, to enhance cell turn over, increase collagen and elastin production, and address specific skin concerns such as acne, wrinkles, cellulite, scars, etc.
Cosmeceuticals differ from products you can buy at Ulta, Sephora, department stores, or standard skin spas in that they contain concentrated levels of active ingredients combined with advanced absorption mechanisms that are capable of penetrating to the deepest levels of skin. Products sold over-the-counter do not affect the skin in biological ways and are unable to penetrate its upper layers. Thus, they are labeled as “cosmetic.”
Medical-grade skincare products are developed for specific skin types and/or issues and must be sold under the guidance of a licensed physician and/or a qualified esthetician. And this is a part of what makes medical-grade skin care products so effective, your professional we will be working with you to ensure that you are using the product in the right way and getting the best results.
Because medical-grade skin care products are significantly more potent and pure than OTC products, they work more quickly and effectively to treat specific skin issues and enhance overall skin health. This means that not only are they cosmetic products, but they are also medications. They’re primarily sold at Columbus OH medical spas, dermatology offices, plastic surgeon, and other licensed aesthetic medical professionals.
As with the amount of a particular ingredient, the formula used for developing a product plays a large role in its effectiveness. Many retail manufacturers use inexpensive methods of mass production to maintain cost. While a cosmeceutical line may come with a slightly higher price tag, it is also likely that it has been developed to a higher standard with quality ingredients to provide effective results.
Prescription products are considered “drugs,” because they are designed to treat medical conditions, like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and sun damage. Prescription skincare products can only be prescribed by a medical professional and can only be dispensed by a pharmacy. Examples include, Otezla, Dupixent, tretinoin, hydroquinone, and Latisse.
Prescription products have to pass through a lot of red tape before they become available to the public. When a drug is approved by the FDA, it must pass several phases of clinical trials determining safety first and then, efficacy. This amount of research is part of what determines the often high price of prescription products. These trials usually take several years and include a large population of patients, so there can be a considerable cost and time investment to the Pharmaceutical company, which is why these medications can be quite pricey when they are new.
By contrast, OTC and medical-grade skincare products have fewer hoops to jump through. OTC and medical-grade product ingredients are are cleared by the FDA as long as they contain certain standards of ‘acceptable’ ingredients, dosages, instructions for use, and labeling. Where it gets iffy is that the “studies” done for these products are often “small and subjective and the results can be ‘faked’ to make the product results seem more dramatic.
The ingredients in prescription products are often stronger than over-the-counter and medical-grade. Plus, if you’re using a prescription product, that means a trained medical professional has diagnosed your problem and recommended the proper treatment, so you have a pretty good chance of seeing results.
That doesn’t mean you should disregard medical-grade skincare products for prescription products. Medical-grade skincare products and their active ingredients that have excellent efficacy and may be very similar to prescription products but usually in a lower potency.
What’s more is that over time, some drugs that have been proven to be safe and effective will go from prescription-only to medical-grade, and over-the-counter.
There are certain ingredients that researchers and dermatologists agree are much more effective in higher doses. These include tretinoin and hydroquinone, however, unless you have a medical condition medical-grade skincare products are the best option for the overwhelming majority of consumers.
The bottom line, if you read no further:
The best products have the best ingredients, in the purest form, at the appropriate strength, and in correct combinations, backed by research studies.
Benefits Of Medical Grade Skincare Products
If you’re not familiar with this type of product, you may wonder if it’s worth the investment. Read below to discover the benefits of medical-grade skin care products..
1. Stronger Active Ingredients.
Medical grade skin care products typically contain the same ingredients found in pharmaceutical products that require a prescription. Lower percentages, or derivatives of these ingredients are used in medical grade products than in the pharmaceutical versions. Commonly used ingredients are retinol, antioxidants, growth factors and peptides. These can sometimes be found in over-the-counter skin care but only in trace amounts (and just enough to be able include these ingredients on their label) as by law these products are not permitted to alter the biological structure of the skin.
The active ingredients in medical-grade products can be stronger than those sold over-the-counter because they are prescribed and monitored by a medical professional (places such as a medical spa, dermatologist, plastic surgeon, etc.) and have the ability to treat and correct a wide range of skin concerns.
* TIP: Ingredients are listed in order of their concentrations. The first five ingredients or so are typically the bulk of the formula. The concentration of each ingredient gets smaller the further down the list they are. With medical-grade products, the concentrations of the important ingredients are much higher than those used in over-the-counter products.
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that have many skin benefits: stimulation of collagen production, repair of photoaging, alleviating acne, unclogging pores. Let’s take a well known over the counter option from Neocutis, their Nouvelle plus retinol cream (which you can buy on Amazon). This has 0.6% retinol.
Environ’s retinol cream, in contrast, has a similar moderate strength version at 0.5% retinol, but also a 1% formulation. The 1% is optimal for visible signs of ageing or photodamage (hyperpigmentation) and acne scars.
In addition, standard retinoic acid yields results but comes with harsh side effects such as redness, irritation and skin peeling. Environ uses a gentle fat-soluable ester form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate which yields no harsh side effects but better overall results. This is combined with the brand’s own Vitamin Step-Up System which initially introduces low doses of vitamin A and other active ingredients, building up one’s skin tolerance and acceptance before moving up to the next level dosage and eventually to prescription strength quantities.
2. Higher Quality Ingredients
When it comes to skincare the old adage “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true. Chances are when you find a skincare product claiming to make you look 10 years younger for less than $10; it’s probably not going to work. And why is that? To begin, finding the right product formulations takes time and a lot of research. Sometimes the ingredients have to be harvested from far corners of the world and often the best ingredients have to be developed by scientists. A leading brand in the skincare industry, Environ has done just that. If an ingredient does not exist to address a specific skin concern, Environ scientists and researchers use their skincare expertise to develop novel, benefits driven ingredients. They have patented several proprietary ingredients such as PSP(growth factor) and Neo Peptide 7.5 in its MPC technology to help provide data driven results. When purchasing a skincare product always ask yourself: “Has this formula been clinically proven as effective by scientists and researchers?” “Are the ingredients in this product stable and tested to deliver the best results?”
Unable to penetrate even the outermost layer of your skin, known as stratum corneum, over-the-counter products don’t have a biological effect on the skin. Medical-grade skin care products can penetrate into the skin’s deeper layers, actually affecting the biological structure. If you’re seeking to treat a skin condition such as acne, wrinkles, sun damage, rough texture, scars, age spots or other pigmentation issues, you need products that will penetrate to the deepest levels, not sit on shedding skin. Because higher doses of ingredients are working at a much deeper skin layer, you can expect better results in less time, and the longer you use it, the less likely you are to need cosmetic treatments to correct a skin condition as you get older.
4. Better Value
If a product provides better results, it’s usually a better value. This is true of medical-grade skin care products as well. Because of their ability to penetrate the top layers of the skin, they are more effective than over-the-counter skin care products. In addition to superior results, you may be able to use less of a medical-grade skin care product due to the higher quantity of active ingredients and increased level of penetration.
Also, because you must obtain these products from a licensed professional, you receive customized advice regarding the regimen that’s right for you. You’ll save money by receiving products that are specifically suited to your needs, rather than experimenting with several hoping to find one that works. Our professionals will examine your skin and recommend products, a daily care regimen, and in clinic treatments customized and specifically suited to your skin’s type, tone and needs. This assessment is based on professional expertise as well as an in-depth knowledge of both the skin and our medical-grade product line, thus you can anticipate positive results from exceptional products and a customized regime specifically suited for your skin.
Plus, by investing in professional products now, you’ll be taking much better care of your skin. In fact, you’ll save yourself from, or at least put off expensive and time-consuming cosmetic procedures to correct skin conditions as you get older. Medical-grade skin care products provide the anti-aging benefits and protection you need now to save you hassle later.
5. Higher Research Standards
In the US, the vast majority of skincare products fall into the cosmetic category, which means they don’t require regulatory approval or proof of efficacy (outside of not containing banned ingredients, or restrictions on ingredient concentrations) whether they are medical grade or not.
A lot of the confusion comes from the frequently-promoted idea that there’s an official difference between how medical-grade skincare and over-the-counter skincare products are approved by the FDA, or other government regulatory agencies.
The fact is “medical-grade”, “professional” and “clinical” aren’t regulated terms, and unfortunately a product simply labeled as such is no guarantee of any sort of testing.
In fact only a product that is designated as “prescription-only” must pass the scrutiny of the FDA through double-bind and controlled trials as these products can’t be marketed without first being proven safe and effective.
On the other hand, all other skincare products are self-regulated by the cosmetics industry. There’s no consistent standard in place for their production.
That said, true medical-grade skincare products are thoroughly researched, repeatedly tested, and professionally supervised for use and efficacy. Why? Because they contain a higher level of active ingredients and therefore must first undergo a thorough examination to ensure safety and efficacy for your skin.
Generally speaking these manufacturers do not spend their money on advertising campaigns, instead choosing to invest these dollars into research, quality ingredients, and product development.
True medical-grade skin care products typically have clinical research studies to back up any claims about their benefits. Over-the-counter skin care products rarely if ever have clinical studies or research behind their claims.
These are some of the top benefits of medical-grade skin care products. If you want to learn more about the products we offer at PLEIJ Salon + Spa, contact us today to schedule a consultation!
Benefits Summary of Medical-Grade Skin Care Products
The positive advantages for your skin
• Advanced skin care backed by scientific research
• All products are thoroughly tested and analyzed
• Offers high potency formulas of concentrated pure actives to optimally penetrate skin
• Follows strict regulations of who/where products can be sold for better quality control
Considering Medical Grade Skin Care in Ohio
Now that you know the benefits of using medical-grade products, choosing the right skincare products should be left to the professionals. Optimal results come from a two fold approach that includes: prepping the skin at home with an intensive regimen of products, and then treating it with combined procedures in-clinic.
PLEIJ is a unique salon, spa and wellness center, providing aesthetic services to the Central Ohio region. Our estheticians can create a customized skin care regimen to address any of your problems or concerns. We offer clients of every age group the advanced skin care services and products they need to achieve healthy, radiant-looking skin for years.
Call to schedule your consultation today and take the first step toward healthy beautiful skin.
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