Q. What is the difference between over-the-counter skin care products and medical strength skin care? Julie, Warsaw
A. Julie, every day we are inundated with television commercials, magazine ads and marketing materials tantalizing us with the latest wrinkle cream promising to erase our lines and restore a youthful glow. It is easy to become lured in by the beautiful models perfectly airbrushed or the voice on the commercial touting impressive claims. While there is nothing “wrong” with over-the-counter products, their active ingredients are just not as strong as medical strength or cosmeceutical products. They are just not allowed to be. Less active ingredients equals less results.
When you are trying to treat and repair skin conditions such as brown spots, fine lines, acne and more, it is essential to treat below the surface of the skin down to what is known as the dermis. The trouble with over-the-counter products from places like a drugstore or department store is that they sit on top of the skin and cannot penetrate to those deeper levels of your skin where the repair is actually needed. This results in wasted money and a drawer full of products that do not treat your skin concerns. The only way to boost collagen and increase your skin cell turnover for repaired and healthy skin is to treat it below the surface beyond what you can see when you look in the mirror.
One reason, Julie, that consumers often purchase over-the-counter products is because they do not think they can afford medical strength products. Often times, the department store or drugstore products initial cost is the same or even more than medical skin care. They also end up costing extra because they need replaced more often since you have to use more of the product. The ingredients are just not as concentrated or the same quality as the medical products are which causes them to run out much more quickly. You want to purchase your skin care products from a medical office, such as a dermatologist, plastic surgeon or medical spa. These physician-based practices carry prescription strength skin care products that cannot be sold over the counter.
Julie, one quick example of this is retinol versus Retin-A®. Retinols are found in products sold over-the-counter and are only about 1/10 the strength of Retin-A. They will only last you a few months. You might see a little sloughing off the surface of your skin that will make you think it is working; however, it is not penetrating to the deeper levels of your skin needed for repair and prevention. It will save you time and money and you will see much greater results by using a prescription quality Retin-A which will last approximately nine months even when used every night.
If you are serious about your skin, be sure to talk with a medical skin care professional that can further educate you on skin care and recommend products specifically for your concerns. Clean out your drawers, Julie, and begin a program toward healthier, younger looking skin.
Jennifer Kauffman is a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner, practicing in Warsaw and Ft. Wayne. She is a sought after speaker at medical conferences such as the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons. Jennifer is a member of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and Coalition of Advance Practice Nurses of Indiana. She received her Nursing and Nurse Practitioner degrees from Goshen College, and Indiana Wesleyan University. Jennifer is a Clinical Instructor nationally to physicians and nurses on sclerotherapy.
Do you have a question for Jennifer, about this article or another cosmetic skin care issue? Please call Vein Institute & Medical Spa at 574-267-1900 to have your questions answered and considered for future columns. Questions can also be submitted online at www.veinmedicalspa.com