Over the Course of this 3-part blog we intend to clarify the confusion between Over the Counter Skin Care Products. vs Pharmaceutical Grade Skin Care Products. With all of the media hype and a plethora of skin care options to choose from, it’s no wonder why most consumers are confused as to what would be the best products for their skin. Should you been using OTC (over-the-counter) or Pharmaceutical skin care? Skin care is a multi-billion dollar industry estimating approximately 43 Billion dollars in revenue each year and steadily increasing. (Site) This tells us a few things…good and bad. Good news is people are concerned about taking care of their skin and are willing to spend the money in-lieu of achieving healthy, younger looking skin. Bad news is consumers are uneducated about their skin care needs and are virtually throwing money into the wind hoping the youthful skin fairy will find them. The fact that most consumers are uneducated about the care of their skin is an entire topic in itself. Our skin is our largest organ and unfortunately no one ever teaches us the proper way to care for our skin. We would like to explain the key differences between OTC and Pharmaceutical grade skin care products in hopes that consumers will feel more confident about their skin care options.
First we would like to create a visual if you will and go from there to explain the 2 key distinctions between Over the Counter and Pharmaceutical skin care products.
Our skin is comprised of two layers – the Epidermis or outer layers of the skin and the Dermis or “Live” underlying layer of the skin. The Epidermis is the upper layer of the skin consisting of 4-5 layers depending on the area of the body. The epidermis consists of dying or dead skin cells that perform an important role acting as a barrier from the outside environment. The Dermis is the deeper layer of the skin that is considered “Live” as it consists of living skin cells, and is the home of nerve endings, sweat glands, oil glands, hair follicles, and blood vessels. The Dermis is a thick layer of fibrous and elastic tissue – also known as Collagen and Elastin. These two components in speaking about skin care are vitally important because they hold the key in creating more healthy, youthful looking skin. So knowing there are 2 distinct layers of the skin: the Epidermis (outer layer) and the Dermis (deeper), let’s draw an imaginary RED line between the two; the Epidermis being Above the RED line and the Dermis being Below the RED line.
The #1 difference between OTC and Pharmaceutical skin care is their Ability to Penetrate that RED line. The FDA has placed guidelines that in layman’s terms, means that anything that Penetrates the RED line or into the Dermis is considered a Pharmaceutical grade product while the OTC products cannot Penetrate the RED line and can only affect the Epidermal layers.
The #2 difference between OTC and Pharmaceutical skin care is the potency or strength of the ingredients within the product. Thinking back to our mental picture we drew earlier, OTC products cannot be strong enough or carry the ability to penetrate the RED line or into the Dermis while the main focus of Pharmaceutical products is to be strong enough to penetrate into the Dermis to go to work on the “live” tissues. The pharmaceuticals also have the treatability or “ability to treat or affect” the live tissues of the Dermis.