Over the Counter vs Medical Grade Skincare Products

I have been a skincare junkie for decades and if you look in my bathroom closet you will see a graveyard of over the counter (OTC) products that I believed would work for my particular skincare issues, only to be disappointed time after time. I was a victim of marketing, flashy packaging and celebrities singing the praises of various products. One day while looking at a significant investment in unused products sitting in my closet I decided to take my healthcare knowledge to a new level. I needed to advance my understanding of skincare products not only for myself but also for my clients. As a result of my quest, I have a Masters Degree in Nursing and an aesthetician license. Let me share with you what I have learned about products, so you don’t have to face the disappointment, mounds of unused products sitting in your drawers and waste of money that I have experienced through the years.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, what is the difference between OTC and medical grade products. Simply the biggest difference is quality and quantity of ingredients used in each formula.

Quality: Remember the saying “you get what you pay for” well with skincare products this is absolutely true. Let’s talk about Vitamin C, also known as one of the Holy Grails of skincare. There are multiple forms of Vitamin C, two of which are L-ascorbic Acid and Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. L-ascorbic Acid is a very inexpensive form of Vitamin C and is extremely unstable whereas Textrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is very expensive and far more stable. This is why Vitamin C products can range from inexpensive to $200 or more. Remember to always review the ingredient list to make sure you are getting quality products.

Quantity: This refers to the amount of each ingredient in the product. For example, with medical grade products you will see a variety of Vitamin C serums in strengths 10%, 15%, 20% and higher. Whereas, some department store products may claim to have a high percentage of Vitamin C but chances are it is not the most stable form which results in a less than expected result.

Research and testing are also key factors in the difference between OTC and medical grade products. Over the counter products are not held to the same standards as medical grade products. Medical grade products must undergo rigorous testing and clinical studies to support the claims that are being made about the products. Formulators of over the counter products do not have to conduct studies or research backing their claims.

When making your buying decisions remember, OTC products have been designed to work on the majority of the population. It is for this reason, the concentration of active ingredients are relatively low. This is done specifically so as not to negatively affect the skin of the general population. By design, OTC products do not penetrate below the surface of the epidermis (outer layer) and as a result do not correct or heal the problem. Medical grade skincare products produce great results, they are designed to be more potent and penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin, the dermal layer where the collagen and elastin are contained and the basal layer where new skin cells are produced.

Achieving and maintaining healthy, beautiful skin is no small accomplishment. Long lasting results are gained through the commitment to regular professional treatments and dedicated homecare with quality products. Don’t leave your skincare decisions to trial and error or the sales clerk with no medical experience to treat what your real concerns are.

At Impressions MedSpa we collaborate with you to address your unique skincare concerns, and with your input we will develop a plan that meets your particular goals. Call today for a complimentary Visia skin analysis. This is the first step in determining your real skincare needs.

Look for a future blog on Vitamin C the Holy Grail of skincare.

Karen Boncha RN,BSN,MSN, Aesthetician

Impressions MedSpa


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