I often get asked if there is a difference between drugstore products (e.g. Neutrogena, Oil of Olay) and professional skin care products (e.g. Jan Marini, Skinceuticals) and my answer is a big “YES!” Professional skin care companies do a lot of scientific research on all of their products, formulations, and ingredients before their products are out on the market. All of the new technology in skin care is usually founded by doctors or scientists that work for the professional skin care companies. The drugstore brands also do some research on their products, but they are usually “cheaper” imitations. That good old saying “You pay for what you get” definitely rings true when it comes to this subject. *The one big exception to this is I am not including department store brands in this, because you may pay the big prices, but you get the efficacy of a drugstore product.
The main example that I use to explain this is Vitamin C. The difference between a drugstore product that contains Vitamin C and a professional brand is going to be the molecular size of the molecule. Most likely if you were to look at the product under a microscope, you would see that the molecular size of the Vitamin C in the professional product would be smaller. This is better because the Vitamin C molecule has to travel to the receptor site, which is in the dermis (the deepest layer of the skin), in order for the skin to truly reap the benefits of the Vitamin C. If the molecule is too large it most likely will not penetrate the skin deep enough, therefore it would not be as effective. This is the same for if you were to just squeeze an orange and use the juice to put it on your face. The molecular size would be too large and you would only superficially benefit.
If you truly want to see results when it comes to treating acne, lightening pigmentation, or anti-aging, it is best to use professional skin care products. Drugstore products may feel and smell good, but most likely they will not be as effective or results oriented as a professional product. I know these days everyone is watching their pocket book, so the products that I feel are ok to purchase “over the counter” is cleanser and sunscreen (with UVA protection!). When it comes to serums or the “treatment” portion of your regiment, please don’t skimp and go for the professional brands.
Many will connect professional brands with big prices, but most of the time the professional brands are LESS EXPENSIVE than fancy department store brands. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, so take care of it properly!