Why are medical grade skincare products better than over the counter

Are medical grade skincare products worth the money?  Well I can tell you that there are certain products that are not but there are certain products that most definitely are!  Here are the main differences:

OTC products have certainly come a long way from your mother’s L’Oreal, but they still do not have the same standards as the medical grade products which you need to purchase from your physician.  

OTC products are mass produced and usually their main ingredient is water.  They also tend to have a lot of filler products such as Mineral Oil which is a petroleum carrier and does not hydrate the skin.  Mineral Oil stays on top of the skin like a Vaseline and prevents most active ingredients from penetrating into the skin. Thus, they are much less effective in helping you improve the quality of your skin. If you look at some of your OTC products, I guarantee you will find Mineral Oil as one of the active ingredients. 

Medical grade products go through rigorous clinical trials that can take years before the products are approved. Manufacturers of medical grade products have the time and money to really test their products on different patient’s skin types, ages and conditions.  They follow these trials with punch biopsies of the skin to look at the pathology of the skin for the clinical results.  As our skin ages, multiple events occur, such as a slowing of cellular division,  reduction in collagen production, and loss of volume and position of fat in the face.  Our pores become larger, and pigment starts to show in areas where we did not have it before due to lifetime sun exposure.  While there is no magic product that treats all these conditions, scientific advances have developed sophisticated medical grade products that can reliably reverse the signs of aging  with proper use.   One area where medical grade products have come a long way is in the introduction of peptides into the skin.  Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, and they are responsible for the development of collagen and elastin in our skin. They can be made from plant-based growth factors or from human stem cells.   These peptides can help brighten the skin, reduce sun damage and kick start collagen production.

Another very important skin care ingredient is retin A which is probably one of the most effective skin rejuvenating products ever invented. Retin A will increase turnover of the skin which will improve skin conditions, such as aging and acne. Yet, this product must be used with care and under the supervisión of a physician. It is not advised to use this in a pregnant woman or if you intend to get a lot of sun exposure.  

What products do not need to be “top of the line”? Some areas where you can buy good,effective products are cleansers, toners and gentle moisturizers.  Although I prefer glycolic based medical grade cleansers to exfoliate your skin, there are some perfectly good OTC cleansers that clean, exfoliate and remove your makeup and are also reasonably priced.  I usually recommend Cetaphil or CeraVe as they are gentle and effective cleansers.  Toners are really efficient for doing one thing which is to rebalance the ph level of the skin. So, if you use a cleanser that has salicylic acid, alpha hydroxys or benzoyl peroxide, then you need a toner.  Any toner will do this, even good old fashioned witch hazel.  If you are using a gentle cleanser, such as CeraVe or Cetaphil, you do not need a toner as your ph is normal.  Gentle moisturizers are fine for applying on top of your active ingredient products at night.  This is when I recommend doing an OTC moisturizer to save cost, such as CeraVe to lock in your high end peptides or retinol products. 

In short, I think it’s worth investing in some key high grade medical products which contain retinoids, peptides or growth factors. See a licensed skin care professional to discuss your individual skin problems and get her or his advice on the best products for you. Then save on your cleansers, toners and gentle nighttime moisturizers.  

by Ashley Ackerson