Professional Products vs. OTC

Hello! It's May! All last month for Earth Month in April, we discussed environmental issues around skin care and beauty products and looked at the various options for buying cleaner and greener products. Now that we've covered options like DIY and natural beauty, I'm using this month to look a little more at another option: Professional Skin Care.

This is something most estheticians are passionate about and with good reason. Working in a treatment room day in, day out I see the effects that various products have on my clients skin. I have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge base for knowing what works and what doesn't. What's good for your skin versus what's only wasting your money and potentially creating damage to your epidermis.

While I believe in educating my clients rather than selling to them, I can't undersell the benefits of professional products or what we sometimes refer to as "Cosmeceuticals." These are professional products used by estheticians and sold only by licensed professionals due to their potency and their specificity for certain skin conditions. A good esthetician should never try to sell you a product you don't need, but we do typically encourage the use of these products over the ones you would buy at a drug store or beauty shop. Why? Read on.

Because they are WAY more effective

This is Thing One. No beating around the bush. What you need to know more than anything about the difference between these products is that BY LAW nothing you buy over-the-counter - not at Walgreen's, not at Target and not even at Sephora - is allowed to actually penetrate the uppermost layer of your skin or make any physical change to the skin. It can only sit on the surface and work on the most superficial level. This includes natural products as well. No matter how high quality the ingredients may be in a holistic product, if it is sold over the counter, it is still not penetrating your skin.

Professional products on the other hand, can penetrate the skin and are designed to work within the epidermis. Licensed Professionals are allowed to then sell these products to clients using our knowledge of the skin. Many professional product lines even require specific training to understand the products before an esthetician is allowed to sell them. This ensures that the person selling you these potent products is making appropriate recommendations for your skin type and concerns. It's not quite like getting a prescription, but in some ways it is.

Because they are higher quality

There are a number of reasons why cosmeceuticals tend to be superior to OTC products but another big one is quality control. Drug store products tend to be mass-produced in large batches. This often means these products contain a lot of cheap derivatives and filler ingredients. Preservatives are also prevalent in OTC products in order for them to have a longer shelf life. Professional products are made in small batches using higher concentrations of ingredients. This means you get more of the good stuff, and have to use less.

In general, ingredients in professional products will be very specifically sourced. A lot goes into the selection of each ingredient to ensure that it is the best fit for the formulation and that it will perform within the skin. When you use these products you are getting some of the cleanest and most refined ingredients in the world.

Another favorite trick of mine is to read ingredient labels. Often clients bring me products to examine, to determine if they are a good product for that client. And I should clarify that not all OTC products are bad. Many have good ingredients in the formula. It's just that they appear so low on the ingredient deck that you likely aren't getting any benefit at all.

If an ingredient is more than a few down from the top of the list, you're likely paying more for an active ingredient such as hyaluronic acid or vitamin C, without actually getting enough to affect your skin. Professional lines however, are alllll about the ingredients. These are products designed to produce a very specific result, so actives tend to be high on the list and in their purest form.

Better Science Professional lines are designed to produce results, which means they are clinically-tested for performance. Not only the ingredients but the delivery systems used to get the ingredient molecules into your epidermis. Cosmosuetical lines are constantly competing to develop new technology, making products more and more effective.

Many drug store products don't undergo this sort of rigorous testing, if they are tested at all. As we've previously discussed, there is a lot of grey area when it comes to the FDA and product testing. As we've also previously discussed, many professional lines test on real humans rather than animals or human cells. Clinical trials ensure that you are getting the highest quality and the best version of a product you could possibly get.

Some other special considerations that go into a professional product are its pH levels -

Many over-the-counter brands are not as concerned with the pH in their product so you can end up with a product that may strip your skin. Professional products put more attention into ensuring that a product is chirally correct. Chirally correct refers to the types of molecules used. Comsoseuticals are concerned with using the purest and most stable form of an ingredient as opposed to a synthetic or manufactured version. Even molecule size is a factor when designing professional products, as it is believed that smaller molecules will be more easily absorbed into the skin.

But aren't professional products a lot more expensive?

This is a common reason why people avoid investing in skin care purchased from a professional. While it's true that some cosmoseuticals can carry a hefty price tag, there are two things to take into account. The first being that the extra cost is likely worth it. Because the products are more concentrated and potent, you have to use less and can make your product last longer. In some cases, will get the results that you want much quicker and can use less and less for maintenance. Think about how many times you've spent money on a product and then let it go to waste because it didn't work or maybe you used the whole product, didn't see a change and then had to go invest in something else? And so the cycle continues. Working with a professional to help you choose product and then investing in said product helps eliminate the guesswork and will likely get you to your desired outcome more efficiently.

The other thing to consider is that professional products don't have to be more expensive. Basic items that you go through quickly - such as cleansers, toners and moisturizers - from a comoseutical line still tend to be very affordable. You can purchase these products at a very similar price point to a department store brand (sometimes less!) and then invest in one or two targeted products like a serum or eye cream.

Bear in mind that more expensive does not always equal better product. Many brands I see at Sephora or Macy's can be very pricey, but when I hold them up side by side to a similar product from one of my lines - Skin Script RX, for example - not only are they more expensive but the potency and quality of ingredients is far inferior.

What about the stuff my friend sells?

Oh don't worry MLM folks, I've got a whole special post coming for you later, but bottom line - those products still don't work on the level that cosmoseuticals do and can be filled with harsh, toxic or irritant ingredients. They may work temporarily, but can then do more damage than good. Don't be swayed by those before and afters. Truly effective skin care is progressive and permanent. It takes time but the lasting results are worth it. Unless your skin is a licensed esthetician, you are not buying quality professional skin care.

Invest in your skin I can't stress this enough. Skin care is worth some investment. You only get one face and it's the first thing everyone sees. If you spend the tiny bit of effort to research your products and partner with a professional, you will get better results. If you spend the tiny bit of extra money on quality products, you will save yourself the larger investment of having to have more work done later in life. Correcting years of neglect or damage to your skin from using bad product, is way more expensive than just making the switch now.

I can personally attest, that even as a skin care fanatic, I didn't make the switch to pro products until just about a year ago. I thought what I was using was fine, and it was. But it was just that. It was fine. When I upgraded my product choices, I noticed an immediate difference in my overall skin health, and so did several other estheticians that I trust to work on my skin. My chronic dryness vastly improved, as did my texture and fine lines. A year later, I hardly feel the need to wear foundation or other face makeup because I am happy with my skin in its bare state. I spend less money on makeup as a result too.

So now you know why us estheticians are always singing the praises of these products. It's not because we want to sell you something. Its because we want to see you take good care of your precious face. Still have questions? Hit me up! Want to try a new product or make a swap for that drug store cream of yours? Get in touch anytime or schedule a product consultation. I'm happy to help.

<3 Jenny

About the blog:

This is a blog about everyday skin health. As an esthetician I strive to provide comprehensive skin care advice and knowledge to anyone who wants to know more.

Read on and please don't hesitate to reach out! I love educating people about their skin and am always happy to respond to questions.

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