Buyer Beware: What You See, Isn’t Always What You Get

Heather Duda, pharmaceutical grade No Comments

Recently, I have been getting the question “Is the skincare that is being sold via Facebook any good?”.

I constantly remind my patients that there are big differences in pharmaceutical grade skin care products and over-the-counter (OTC) skincare.

OTC skincare is defined as anything that can be sold without a prescription, online or purchased from a store. Pharmaceutical grade products must be sold under the discretion of a licensed physician and are NOT available for purchase on-line.

The skin is composed of 2 layers — the epidermis and the dermis layer. The epidermis layer is the outermost layer of the skin and consists of dead skin. It’s main function is to act as a barrier. The dermis layer is the living layer full of live cells and contains collagen and elastic fibers. These two components, collagen and elastin, in speaking about skin care are vitally important because they hold the key in creating more healthy, youthful looking skin. If a product doesn’t have the ability to reach the dermis layer of the skin, then the product doesn’t have the capability to dramatically change the health of the skin. OTC products do NOT have this ability.

There are two main reasons why OTC skincare products don’t have the ability to penetrate through the epidermis layer into the dermis layer.

  1. The pH balance of products must be acidic to reach the dermis layer because our skin pH is slightly acidic. Therefore, for a product to be able to penetrate through the epidermis layer, it must be acidic. All of the products sold OTC are alkaline based. This is because these products are sold to the masses. On the other hand, Pharmaceutical grade products are acidic and have the ability to reach the dermis layer.
  2. Pharmaceutical grade products also contain higher levels of active ingredients so that they have the ability to reach the dermis layer of skin where the live cells are housed. OTC products might contain some of the same ingredients but it’s important to remember that the quantities of these ingredients are not high enough to reach the dermis layer of skin.

The reason why OTC products don’t contain high levels of active ingredients and are alkaline based is because if a patient were to use OTC skincare products improperly, a patient could suffer minor skin burns or irritation. With pharmaceutical grade skincare, a medical professional is instructing a patient on the products proper use of the product and maintaining records of this instruction for liability reasons.

Another thing to look for when purchasing some of the skincare kits offered on-line are the ingredients that their products contain. For example, one of the popular skin care lines sold on Facebook, uses a chemical called Avobenzone as their active ingredient for protecting our skin from UVA rays. Avobenzone is a chemical that has been listed as dangerous because it degrades in the sun, resulting in the release of free radicals which increase our risk of developing cancer. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays and dispersing them. The problem is that the warming up of the skin cells can still cause premature aging. All Pharmaceutical grade products contain physical blocks, not chemicals. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the only physical blocks available. These blocks work by deflecting the rays off our skin.

So what did we learn? Get educated about the products you are investing in because OTC products are often just as expensive as pharmaceutical grade products but don’t live up to the claims they make about drastically improving the skin. Pharmaceutical grade products also have clinical backing to support their claims, unlike OTC brands. So be smart and invest wisely.

Got questions? Ask one of our Skincare Nurse Specialists — we are happy to discuss your options!

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