Skin is a big deal. As a teenager, acne can make or break a young person's self esteem and skin continues to be a huge factor in self-image and well-being well into adulthood. Women in their 20's worry about hormonal breakouts and women in their 30's find themselves battling tired skin, discoloration, and the first signs of wrinkles. More mature women worry about wrinkles and sagging skin.
To answer these varying needs, the skincare market is saturated with active ingredients, botanicals, and trends. Some products are inspired by cultural skincare practices, bringing you methods from South Korea, Japan, and even India, while others claim to have higher and higher percentages of the next magical ingredient, whether that's patented yeast extract or a rare berry from the Amazon.
The promises these products make are huge, but do they really deliver? How can you know if the money you spend on these skincare solutions really comes with the returns you expect. Are they even safe?
On the other hand, there are medicated and prescription skincare solutions. These options offer a clearly delineated set of benefits and risks and you need to consult a clinician before accessing them. Needing to talk to a clinician to access a product can be an inconvenience, but having access to a clinician's opinion really provides you with the peace of mind and confidence you need to try a new and powerful product.
So is it always best to go the prescription skincare route? Or should you go with what you can buy over-the-counter? Let's discuss your options and which options are best for who.
In recent years, over-the-counter skincare options have advanced tremendously. There are more ingredients, price points, and products available than ever before. With the rise of the 10-step Korean skincare trend, users are left trying to figure out what exactly their skin needs from an array of choices from cleansers to toners to serms, balms, creams, and masks. Western beauty companies have hopped on board and now there are more beauty products than a woman could possibly use.
Over-the-counter skincare options focus on a select few ingredients to get a select few effects. You will see compounds such as alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and humectants like hyaluronic acid or glycerin. Higher-end brands offer yeast extracts and patented technologies, but none of these ingredients have been scientifically proven to do any specific thing for your skin.
To add to the confusion, many of these ingredients cause paradoxical effects. For instance, the supposedly moisturizing hyaluronic acid is known for drying some people out and some botanicals cause irritation instead of soothing the skin as they are supposed to.
Over-the-counter skincare is not all bad. A lot of research and development goes into the creation of new products, and many of the companies are dedicated to bettering their products and providing their customers with the best skincare experiences they can.
If you are someone with relatively hardy, normal skin and your only skincare concerns are oiliness, dryness, or dullness, you could very easily benefit from the skincare that is already on the market.
Further, if you're someone who likes the process of pampering your skin and you use your skincare routine to take a break, meditate, and take care of yourself, then you should absolutely continue to use the over-the-counter skincare products that suit you.
The main prescription skincare solutions are higher concentration retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, and antibioticsThey are all prescribed to those who suffer from acne or are looking for anti-aging solutions. Retinoids such as Retin-A and tretinoin are derivatives of Vitamin A and have been shown as effective in treating acne, wrinkles, and dark spots. Benzoyl peroxide is a topical antiseptic and works to chemically treat acne on the surface of the skin.
Retin-A, tretinoin, and 10% benzoyl peroxide are all prescription treatment options, which means that you must consult with and receive a prescription from a doctor.
Prescription skincare is for people who have skin concerns such as chronic acne, hormonal breakouts, skin discoloration or dark spots, and wrinkly or saggy skin. These skin concerns are all notoriously difficult to treat, and over-the-counter products typically just aren't enough to do the trick.
Many of these concerns, including acne and discoloration, can have underlying causes and you should speak to a clinician anytime you notice an onset of new skin symptoms. Further, it's much easier to treat the symptoms when you know what is causing them. If you are having hormone issues that are causing hormonal acne, then speaking to a clinician will help you treat the hormonal cause of your problems.
That's where prescription skincare comes in. If you feel like your skin's condition is deteriorating, or if over-the-counter options have not been enough, then it's time to seek prescription options.
In reality, the question about whether you should choose prescription medication or over-the-counter is not as cut and dry as picking one or the other. There will be times in your life that over-the-counter products will suit your skin just fine and there will be times where you may need a little prescription level effectiveness. It's really a matter of figuring out where in your skin journey you are at this moment.
If you are suffering from any of the chronic skin conditions discussed above, don't hesitate to sign up for a consultation with our Alpha Clinicians here at Alpha Medical. We're ready to listen to your concerns and help you formulate a plan to combat your skin issues!