People often wonder and ask us:
“What’s the difference between an over-the-counter (OTC) skin care product and a professional or cosmeceutical skin care product?”
As we’ve come to learn over time… OTC beauty products are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can only penetrate the first layer of your skin…aka the “dead layer”. Professional products (cosmeceuticals) are not controlled by the FDA and penetrate the bottom layers of the epidermis… aka “live tissue”!
Now you may be wondering how this is possible… Let me explain.
The FDA recognizes two categories: pharmaceutical and OTC cosmetics, which are defined as…
Pharmaceutical or drug:
“Articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1)].
Topical pharmaceuticals penetrate through the layers of the epidermis and affect the structure and function of the skin (think of prescription topical steroids or Retin-A).
“Articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or function.” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)].
Since many consumers “self-diagnose” when choosing a skin care product from a department/drug store, these products must be made safely. Meaning, big cosmetic companies cannot afford to have a huge number of consumers with issues from using very active products — so, that skin care product may feel good and smell good, but, most likely won’t have a lot of activity in its formulation.
Also, since cosmetic companies really don’t have to prove efficacy, the special active ingredient listed in the formula only has to appear somewhere on the ingredient list – ingredients are listed in content order, from most to least, so if you see that ”active” on the last half of the list (usually alphabetically) you can bet you are getting a tiny percentage (enough to be effective in the formulation?) of that specific ingredient.
Lastly, OTC cosmetics are also manufactured and distributed in very large batches, and are packed with almost as many preservatives as “active” ingredients! Many over-the-counter cosmetics simply do not penetrate the skin barrier, where the ingredient formula would have a therapeutic benefit to the skin.
Oh, and by the way… Sephora, Macy’s, Nordstrom, & Saks products (to name a few)… Are all OTC!
The term “cosmeceutical” was created in 1990s from cosm(etic) + (pharma)ceutic. It’s a cosmetic product claimed to have medicinal or drug-like benefits. Cosmeceutical products are marketed as cosmetics, but reputedly contain biologically active ingredients. While drugs are subject to a review and approval process by FDA, cosmetics are not. In other words, the formula does not technically have to prove efficacy or safety, but it does contain an ingredient that may have activity in the skin.
FYI… it’s not just about one really fabulous ingredient — it’s the mixture of the right amounts of active ingredients working together that works best in the skin, similar to how oral multivitamins work internally in our bodies with a mixture of vitamins and minerals for best absorption.
So, since nurses & estheticians do not prescribe pharmaceutical products, offering a well formulated and tested cosmeceutical line, like SkinMedica, is the next best option to pharmaceuticals. Cosmeceuticals that are professionally recommended by a licensed skin care professional generally have a higher amount of active ingredients with proven and safe formulations, and offer delivery systems that reach targeted cells in the skin. To put it simply… It really works and you will see results!
Request an Appointment with an Esthetician in Frederick, MD
Have more questions? Call Frederick Dermatology at 301-662-6755 to schedule an appointment with one of our high-skilled and experienced Estheticians. They can help you determine the perfect skin care product for you!