Professional-Grade vs. OTC Skincare Products

Have you ever wondered if there is truly a difference in professional-grade products versus products that can be purchased at places such as Sephora or department stores? Or maybe you have experienced first hand that certain products you have purchased in the past just don't seem to be effective or provide any results. This can be extremely frustrating, especially because many skincare products on the market are NOT cheap! You will likely be even more frustrated when I tell you that it is true, these products can be expensive and in-effective. Let's break down the differences between professional and non-professional skincare products.

Purity & Quality of Ingredients

Our skin is our biggest organ. Everything that is applied to our skin is absorbed by our body. What we apply to our skin is extremely important. Professional-grade skincare products undergo a significant amount of testing to ensure that they are of the highest quality. This ensures that the product will do it's job and do it very well. Over the counter skincare products can contain lower quality ingredients. The testing that is done with these products is not nearly as tedious as professional-grade products, thus resulting in lower quality, not-as-effective skincare products, which brings me to my next point:

Strength of Active Ingredients

Professional skincare products have a high concentration of the active ingredient that the product contains. With OTC products, not only is the active ingredient not as concentrated, but the product also contains a significant amount of fillers and buffers, lessening the concentration of the product even more. A lower concentration of active ingredients plus a high amount of fillers and buffers equals less effective skincare products.

Molecular Size & Correct Molecule

The molecular size of the active ingredient is just as important as the quality and concentration of it. Professional-grade products contain a smaller molecular size than OTC products. Why is this important? The molecular size is extremely important for penetration depth. The smaller the active ingredient, the deeper it can penetrate the skin. In order for an ingredient to be effective, it needs to go past the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) and penetrate to the lower layer of the skin (the dermis). This is where a change in the skin takes place. OTC products contain a larger molecular size that cannot penetrate past the epidermis, thus not being effective for the claims the product is making.

Along with the molecular size, the correct version of the molecule is needed in order to benefit the skin. Just like we have two sides to our body, molecules also have two sides. However, only one side of the molecule is beneficial for our skin. With all of the extensive research and testing that goes into professional-grade products, this ensures that the correct side of the molecule for the active ingredient is being used. OTC skincare products may contain the incorrect side of the molecule, which can in turn either not benefit the skin or it can irritate the skin. The molecular size and correct molecule is important for seeing results within your skin, hence why people that switch from an OTC product (such as one that contains vitamin C) to a professional-grade product will start to see quicker, better results with their skin.

pH Levels

The pH scale ranges from 1-14, 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. The skin has an AVERAGE pH of 5.5. The skin needs to maintain its natural pH in order for the skin to remain healthy and balanced. Using products that are too alkaline strip the skin of its natural oils, resulting in dry, irritated skin that can also result in breakouts. On the other side of the scale, when the skin becomes too acidic, it can become red, oily, acneic and sensitive. Professional products are great at helping to maintain the skin's natural pH level, again due to their extensive product and ingredient research as well as testing.

Changing the Appearance vs. Altering the Skin

Over the counter (cosmeceutical) products can only claim to change the APPEARANCE of the skin while professional (pharmaceutical) grade products can claim to ALTER the skin. For example, say you are looking to use a product that will help with fine lines and wrinkles around your eyes. If you purchase a cosmeceutical product, this product will only change the APPEARANCE of the fine lines and wrinkles. If you purchase a pharmaceutical product, this product can actually ALTER the skin to diminish lines and wrinkles. This all has to do with quality, strength, molecular size and the correct molecule that are being used in products.

Differences in Labs

Many professional and pharmaceutical grade brands use FDA labs to create their products. This does NOT mean that the products are necessarily approved by the FDA, however, FDA labs have many regulations as opposed to other, non-FDA approved, labs. Even if the company is not using an FDA-approved lab, professional-grade products are consistently using higher quality labs than OTC brands. This ensures that the product is being made safely and effectively.

Batch Size

OTC products are created in such large batches. Think about a really popular skincare brand you know of that may be sold somewhere such as Sephora. Now think about how many Sephora's there are in the world. If every (or even half) of the Sephora's around the world sell a particular brand, they need an incredible amount of that product. Thus, the company and labs are making the product in such large batches and the strength of active ingredients can be lost here. With professional products, the batches are much smaller with a higher concentration of ingredients.

You Get What You Pay For

When most people think of professional products, the first thing that usually comes to mind is "that's got to be expensive". Not all professional brands are more expensive. Think about it. With all of the points mentioned above, such as quality, strength and molecular size of products, you need to use much LESS product with professional-grade products. While you are using much less of the product, you are seeing better results due to the quality of the ingredients. When you use OTC products, you are using much more product and also not seeing as great of results, again, due to the quality of ingredients. When you purchase OTC products, you are purchasing fillers, buffers and watered-down products. When you purchase professional products, you are purchasing highly concentrated, high quality products. Your skin gets what you pay for.

Are you irritated now? So many of us have spent so much money on products we think will actually benefit our skin. I am not here to bash brands or non-professional skincare products. However, I am here to inform you of the differences in each so you can make the informed decision of what skincare products you want to invest in. I say invest because skincare is an investment. It is a skinvestment. You are investing in great, beautiful skin. Our skin may shed daily, however, this isn't Fortnite. We only get one skin. So let's treat it right! Struggling with your skin? Schedule a virtual skincare consultation with me!

Xo, Jess