Professional Versus Consumer Skin Care Products

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According to the FDA’s definition, both consumer products and what we typically refer to as professional products fall under the same category. So what differentiates a consumer product from a professional product? The answer lies in the question.

Let’s take a look at the word differentiate.

dif·fer·en·ti·ate verb (used with object)
1. To form or mark differently from other such things; distinguish
2. To change; alter
3. To make a distinction
4. To perceive the difference in or between
5. To make different by modification, as a biological species
6. To become unlike or dissimilar; change in character

In the esthetics world we tend to define a consumer product as one that is simply available in a retail establishment. Does it matter whether or not it comes from Walgreens, CVS, Target, Nordstrom, Sacks, Sephora, or Ulta? The answer is no. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a mass-market retailer or a prestige retailer. These products are all consumer or over the counter products.

Professional Products:

– Are made in small batches with fresh and active ingredients that are made to deliver results.
– Have higher quantities and percentages of active ingredients to ensure the product does what it says it’s going to do.
– Formulated by cosmetic chemists and sold by an esthetician with hands-on experience and a true understanding of the skin and its functions.
– Have a range of products that address different skin types and skin conditions.
– No added synthetic fragrances, colors, or dyes. This lessens your chance of sensitivity and irritation to these unnecessary chemicals.
– High quality ingredients with proven results.

Consumer Products:

– Made in large batches for the masses so more preservatives are added since the shelf life will need to be longer.
– May have less or a lower percentage of active ingredients since they will be sold to “for all skin types” and therefore need to be more basic, simpler formulas. Since many consumers “self-diagnose” when choosing a skin care product to try from a drug or department store, these products must be made safely, meaning, big cosmetic companies would have masses of consumers with issues from the improper use of very active ingredients.
– Formulated by chemists and presented and sold to the public by corporate marketing specialists. The hype and clever marketing trick consumers into making purchases.
– Most products are made for “one size fits all.” If you’re looking for results, it’s imperative that you use products formulated for the unique needs of YOUR skin.
– Added synthetic dyes, colors and fragrances to heighten the sensory experience and esthetic look for the sole purpose of encouraging sales.
– Low quality, inexpensive oils with potential pore clogging properties. Retail stores are loaded with products containing mineral oil and petroleum, which are forbidden ingredients by professional skin care formulators.

Another point to consider when comparing the differences between professional and consumer skin care products is the ingredient list on products. Two products can have the exact same list of ingredients, and one will be highly effective while the other could be completely useless. The difference is the concentration of those ingredients. One product may use a very small amount while the other uses a clinically active level. Unfortunately for you, the consumer, there is no way to understand the difference. This is because all ingredients are supposed to be listed in order of the concentration used, but for ingredients with a concentration less than 1% they can be listed in any order. There’s a big difference between ingredients used at .01% versus 1%, but you would never know from the label.

A common misconception that most people have about professional products is their cost. Any skin care regimen is going to be an investment. It is better to invest in the right products with proper ingredients instead of spending your money on fancy packaging, fillers and preservatives. Professional products are highly concentrated and therefore, less is needed. A professional cleanser that ranges from $25-$40 is meant to last four to five months when the correct amount is used. Have you ever had a product that you purchased from a drug store last that long?

Choose a skin care company that you trust. If you are unsure of what line to use or where to even begin, entrust in a licensed esthetician, physician, or other educated skin care professional to guide you through making such important decisions. We all work hard for our money and there’s nothing worse than wasting it on broken promises.


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