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Over the Counter Skincare: What Do I Do When it Doesn't Work?

Dr. Roberta Beals

This is a large subject to cover in one blog post. We have other posts for you to reference if you have further questions.

Cleaning your skin does not take much time and is an important step to keeping your skin healthy. Even if you just use Dove moisturizing soap, it is a great first step. Elta MD offers both a deep pore cleanser and a creamy cleanser for sensitive skin.

If you feel your face gets grimy/oily or dries out too fast, it is not the cleanser that is the problem. It is the Ph or amount of acid or base the skin is reacting to. So, using a harsher or more drying soap can make the problem worse. Neutralizing the Ph can be accomplished with a toner for younger skin types. This is where problem skin is better treated with specific Ph targets. For example: Salicylic acid is in toners for oily to normal skin. If you have sensitive skin or older skin you will need to use a Vitamin C and E serum. There are many available, but few work: our Skin Medica Vitamin C & E serum has the technology to get these nutrients into the cell where it will work. Most products over the counter stay on top of the skin and will not help you with this problem.

The next step is to protect your skin. A simple mineral like titanium, zinc, or iron oxide will block UVA and UVB rays. Many can be found with or without moisturizers to finish your routine in one step. Most products over the counter contain only a minimal amount of coverage. Usually under 15% and only UVA protection. As a reminder the American Dermatologist Association recommends SPF of 30 and both UVA and UVB protection. These products are available in creams, lotions, sprays and with some pigment added.

Any additions can be used for problem skin. However, keep in mind if a product has a drug in it like retinol or benzoyl peroxide the dosage are minimal and will only provide a small benefit. Once you have tried a product for 30 days continuing it any longer will not provide you any more benefits. Also keep in mind that the product may contain the chemical you need but if used at the wrong time a day or in combination with a neutralizing product you have waisted your money. For example: retinols should only be used at night. Vitamin C will neutralize peptides and other skin care products.

There are some over the counter products that are very effective, like Defferin, which is now available over the counter. It’s a low dose retinol, which is a good first line of treatment for mild localized acne and wrinkles. Benzoyl peroxide has been available for years to treat acne, but as it is a drying agent it can make some types of acne worse. Retinols are good for some skin issues, but the type of molecule is important here. Retin A is available in many different sizes and can help, but at the same time it could hinder you depending on the skin type and problem. Use with caution and remember if you’re not peeling, it is not working.

Shopping online: A warning to people buying on line for skin care products
This is not regulated, and you are at risk. There are numerous reports online about infections and scaring from skin care products. Just regular makeup, if not regulated, can be toxic or cause infections. Buy from a reputable source. These products are not cheap and there are scams out there.

We hope this is helpful – if you have questions, email us or make an appointment.

Remember: your skin is the largest organ in your body and it makes up 18% of your body weight. It’s important to take care of it!

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