Beauty products, ‘medical grade’ or ‘over-the-counter’?

Which beauty products are better, ‘medical grade’ or ‘over-the-counter’?

In partnership with SA’s top medical aesthetic companies

The difference between the two categories is that while medical beauty products are prescribed and dispensed by doctors, over-the-counter products are available in pharmacies, department stores, salons and anywhere else where products may be sold without a doctor’s prescription.

Over-the-counter skincare products are sometimes sold with advice from a sales person, but often you are left to your own devices, making your selection based on the packaging or advertising claims.

Price is not necessarily indicative of how good a product is. Prescription products tend to be more expensive, but there are many over-the-counter products that are also expensive.

There are three simple reasons why there is often a remarkable price difference between prescription and over-the-counter skin products:

  1. Active ingredients

Active ingredients are formulated to address particular conditions, but with over-the-counter products being formulated for the average person, the number of active ingredients used in these products is limited by law. This applies to the number of ingredients, the grade or quality of the ingredients, and the concentrations or dosages.

Dr Jennifer Irvine explains that medical grade products such as Dermaquest mostly contain plant stem cells. These are able to stimulate our own skin’s stem cells to produce new cells, elastin and collagen. This results in improving wrinkles, and slowing down the development of new wrinkles and fine lines.

Generally, the level of active ingredients in medical products is much higher – both the number of active ingredients used and the concentrations thereof, making the products much more effective. The medical doctor prescribing the product will also be focusing on a specific condition, with specific results in mind.

  1. Penetration into the skin

With limited active ingredients, less sophisticated delivery systems and lower concentrations of actives, the over-the-counter products may not penetrate as deeply into the skin, and therefore the results may not be as pronounced.

In prescription products, the active ingredients are formulated to reach the deeper layers of the dermis. It is at this level of the skin where collagen is restored, elastin is affected and the causes of skin ageing are addressed.

For anyone who is serious about anti-ageing, it is essential to use products that are able to reach the deeper layers where the skin is transformed.

A medical grade products such as Obagi Nu-Derm Fx system penetrates the skin’s surface to transform the skin’s appearance and helps correct the damage within, revealing healthy, younger-looking skin. While NeoStrata actives are all 500 Daltons to ensure penetration into the deeper layers of the skin.

See before and after pictures of a client who used the product for eight weeks:

  1. Scientific backup

Over-the-counter products often claim to deliver certain results on the packaging and in advertising campaigns. It is scientifically proven that medical products are able to achieve better results and with clinical data that can support this. This clinical data is based on testing the complete product, not testing only one or two of the ingredients in the product which is often the case with over-the-counter cosmetics.

Due to the fact that the active ingredients reach the deeper layer of the dermis where all the important transformative functions are performed, medical products such as Dermaquest, Skinceuticals, Obagi, Lamelle and Neostrata are better able to achieve effective, long-lasting changes in the skin.


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