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Professional Skincare vs.Over the Counter

Have you ever spent money on a product only to have it sit on your shelf because it didn't deliver? Or maybe you used the entire bottle and still didn't see results so now you have to spend more money on something else...? Or maybe something new and shiny made by a gorgeous celebrity came out and you have to try it..?

Relatable? If you're reading this you probably agree that it can be overwhelming to find the right skincare -the options are endless and your skin is complex.

My goal is to remove the guesswork for you.

Think of me as your personal guinea pig! At one time I was a bit of a skincare junkie. I wanted to try EVERYTHING. The amount of samples, subscriptions, and products in my bathroom was out of control. I was dealing with teenage acne and wanted to improve my skin, but despite ALL the product - improvements were NOT happening. In reality, I was damaging my skin, some of it irreversible.

Let me share with you what I've learned through ongoing training as an esthetician.

Is professional grade skincare really better than over the counter skincare?

In a word - Yes. There are several reasons why but I'm going to focus on the 2 that are most relatable as a consumer. Over the counter skincare (OTC) refers to products sold at grocery stores, pharmacies, department stores and yes, even Sephora/ULTA fall into that category.


Professional products are way more effective because they are more potent. There is a higher amount of ACTIVE ingredients - those are the ingredients that make a difference in your skin; the ingredients that deliver results.

Yes, the products you bought at Ulta may boast whatever ingredient is trending, but as mentioned, it's not enough to actually benefit your skin. Why?

BY LAW nothing you buy over-the-counter - not at Walgreen's, not at Target and not even at Sephora or department stores - is allowed to actually penetrate the uppermost layer of your skin or make any physical change to the skin. It can only sit on the surface and work on the most superficial level.

That's why you don't need a license or education to sell them. (Same goes for all those MLM products your friend/aunt/high school acquaintance is selling)

For example, the package may boast Vitamin C but they are only allowed to put 5% in the bottle, while your professional product can have up to 30%. This is just an example but demonstrates why one would clearly be more effective than the other.

Professional product lines require specific training, in addition to your license to understand the products before an esthetician is allowed to sell/use them.

Would you rather purchase your skincare from a licensed and trained professional that actually cares whether or not you see results or from someone with little to no training just punching the clock?

Additionally, over the counter (OTC) skincare is not tested for effectiveness and not held to the same standard as professional grade skincare. Since there is no regulation required, OTC products are made in very large batches and full of cheap fillers and preservatives so they can be shipped all over the world and sit on store shelves for years. Then you put them on your face...

(-Side note- for the above mentioned reason, professional skincare available on Amazon, Ebay, Marshalls, etc. is usually out of date and/or counterfeit and no longer very potent. Ask me how many times someone has called with a rash or skin issue from some deal they found at Marshalls..) (The answer would be A LOT of times)

Professional grade skincare is created in smaller batches which results in more quality control and better ingredients. (This is an annoying reason my Lira Clinical products go on back order) Professional skincare is formulated to perform. A lot goes into the selection of each ingredient as well as the science to ensure that it is the best fit for the formulation and that it will perform within the skin.

Moral of the story: Professional products are tested and are made with high quality and high quantity of active ingredients that have proven results with proper use.

I must give credit where credit is due though - OTC skincare companies are good at marketing! Beautiful packaging, flawless models, and big promises. They are literally able to make any claim that they want without the proof to back it up.

No Such Thing As," One Size Fits All" When It Comes To Skin

Nobody's skin is exactly the same and each person requires a unique skincare regimen to achieve their desired results. Over-the-counter skin care products allow the consumer to self-diagnose their skin problem. Unfortunately (no offense) 9 times out of 10, the consumer misdiagnoses and uses a product that does more harm than good. Let's say you purchase an OTC product for oily skin, it likely has ingredients that will dry you out, making you appear less oily, but in reality you've probably caused more damage than good.


Two scenarios I see all of the time: 1. You don't actually have oily skin, you're just using harsh products and your skin is freaking out causing MORE oil production to try and protect itself. 2. Maybe you are truly oily but it's also very likely that's not the only thing going on with your skin. For example, maybe you also have skin sensitivities- but you've now purchased this basic product for "oily skin" with no professional guidance. So it may help with oil production but also causes a reaction because the ingredients are harsh and tackling one issue while causing others.

The bottom line: Your skin is not basic. It is quite complex and should be treated with care. It is definitely not a one-size-fits-all-blanket-product situation. It’s important to invest in skincare products and services that are recommended by a trained and licensed professional. Our skin is meant to protect us, yet it needs protecting - skincare should be gentle, yet effective. My skincare offerings are a combination of science and nature, results driven and always cruelty free. If your not into getting a facial treatment nor do not have the time, that is ok. Through a skin care consultation we can create a personalized regimen that will work for YOU and your skin’s needs!


your local skin nerd, Erica

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