Professional vs OTC

I am always asked about drugstore type products. As an esthetician, I only want to recommend products that I believe in and that I know will be good for the skin. The professional lines that I use and retail were chosen because of the research I did. I didn’t just pick them because they are professional but because I know they will do what is expected. I know that the products I retail are high quality and results driven. I know there are a lot of active ingredients that will make changes in my clients skin. And by looking at some of the over the counter products (this includes places like Target and Nordstrom), the prices aren’t always higher for a professional line, especially the ones I use and retail.

So let me tell you the difference between professional lines and the over the counter ones…

Professional Lines

  • Made in small batches
  • High levels of active ingredients
  • Chirally Correct- meaning only those ingredients that are molecularly appropriate for the human body to use
  • Does not contain colors or dyes
  • pH adjusted- meaning the products help keep our skin at a healthy pH
  • Smaller molecules so that the good ingredients can get in and do their job!

Over the Counter Products

  • Made in large batches and preservatives are added so they can last longer
  • Usually have lower percentage of active ingredients because they are sold as “for all skin types.” This means that the products need to be more basic and simple so as to not cause issues.
  • Formulated by chemists (not estheticians or those who have worked closely with skin)
  • Contains fragrances, colors and dyes to make products look and smell better for the consumer but can irritate the skin
  • Contains fillers and low quality, inexpensive oils that can clog pores.
  • High SPF numbers that mislead people into thinking that they are more effective with there is no scientific proof. So more chemicals, not more protection
  • Just because the bottle, jar or tube says that there is an ingredient in it, doesn’t mean there is enough to do anything for the skin

So let’s talk about some over the counter favorites.

Cetaphil– Cetaphil has sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is one of the most overused synthetic cosmetic ingredient that strips your natural lipid barrier. This surfactant and how it effects the skin makes you more susceptible to external irritants, increases internal inflammation while your skin cells become stressed, intensifying redness and possible breakouts as it negatively impacts your natural pH. It’s important that our skin is pH balanced since it’s first thing protecting us from bacteria.
It says that the Cetaphil cleanser is pH balanced, which it just might be, in the bottle. As soon as it comes in contact with our skin, it interferes with our own pH.

St. Ives Apricot Scrub– The walnuts used in this scrub are too big and with jagged edges. They will tear at your pores, enlarging them and also spreading bacteria from one side of your face to the other. Please never buy this again. If you currently have some, use it on your feet.

CeraVe– Some are ok to use, some products contain pore clogging ingredients and some can trigger rosacea flare-ups. I know they are all about barrier support but there are ingredients that can cause problems but not for everyone. If you went on vacation without your moisturizer, I would probably suggest this line.

Micellar Water– If you like it, it’s fine to use but only a pre-cleanse or makeup remover. I wouldn’t use this as your only cleanser.

Biore Strips– Are people still using these? Please don’t. It looks very satisfying when you pull that strip off your nose because there is stuff on it but guess what? That’s only getting the surface and not what’s under the skin. Just wait 2-3 days and it’s all coming to the top again. Go see a professional and get extractions. That’s what will help your blackheads!

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Cetaphil. Is it Actually Good For Your Skin?

Cetaphil is definitely one of the most common cleansers that I find my new clients using. It is a deceitful product and most think that it is a “pretty good” cleanser and gentle for the skin. At one point, years ago, I used this cleanser too. Now that I know better, I would never recommend it to anyone and I always get annoyed when I hear that a Dermatologist has told my client it is good for the skin. Below is an excerpt from a blog post that I found about Cetaphil. She explains it better than I can.

Why Not Use Cetaphil?

I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I have spoken to who have been recommended to use this cleanser, for their so named ‘sensitive’ skin concerns. I would love to share my professional knowledge regarding the Cetaphil cleanser formulation, with specific regard as to what it is actually doing for your skin – and the topic regarding ‘sensitive’ skin is one best left for another day!

There are a multitude of reasons why skin breaks down, creating inflammation – otherwise known a ‘sensitivity’. For a cleanser that is advertised worldwide by Galderma as “developed by dermatologists especially for sensitive skin, [this] soap substitute preserves your skin’s natural protective oils”. I’m quite adamant that they have missed their mark… totally!

Cetaphil is loaded with the emulsifier sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), one of the most overused synthetic skin cosmetic ingredients that actually strips your skins natural lipid barrier as it ‘cleanses’ your skin. This surfactant is very unpopular with every serious skin therapist as its effect renders your skin more susceptible to external irritants, increases internal inflammation as your skin immune cells become overagitated, heightening redness & possible breakout as it negatively impacts your natural pH. Otherwise known as your ‘acid mantle’, our natural pH balance is our first line of defense that protects our skin in numerous ways, including against invading microbes. I do think it is pretty odd that Galderma call their cleanser ‘pH balanced’ – as, yes, the actual entire formulation inside the bottle may be – but as soon as there is contact with skin it completely interferes with our pH. In reality there no balance there at all!

Why not use Cetaphil cleanser Spa & Beauty Therapy Articles

Some skins will hide the presentation of inflammatory symptoms better than others, although it is important to note that it IS happening, whether you can immediately see and feel it, or not. This is what alarms me about so many products like this, and why I feel compelled to share!

SLS is used because it is cheap and easy to synthetically manufacture. You can find SLS in body washes, shampoos, toothpastes, cleansers and in cleaning products. These are all high contact products, which is a scary thought. I have certainly easily and affordably chosen to limit or eliminate my daily exposure to this ingredient!

Written by Pia Kynoch

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Dermatologist for Acne?

I don’t always post from other blogs but lately I have been hearing so many people talk about their experiences with a Dermatologist for acne. This post was written so well I didn’t think it was necessary to write my own.

Updated 8-31-17  I originally posted this 3 years ago and I still hear the same things from clients. Learning HOW to take care of your skin and using the right products for YOUR skin is what is best. No matter what.


It seemed so obvious at the time. My whole family is oily and acne prone. My siblings were both on Accutane. Dermatologists are seen as the first stop for acne problems. It was covered by insurance. After the Proactiv failure, it seemed like the next logical step.

What actually happened was a series of disappointing appointments. In each five to ten minute session, after hours in the waiting room, I was asked what skin care I was using (Blackhead Eliminating Scrub, nothing else), given a few expensive prescriptions, and sent to the pharmacist. When I told them I was getting cystic acne, they didn’t believe me because it was never present at the time of the appointments. I was never asked about my diet. I was never asked about my usual sun exposure, just vaguely told that the medications could make me more sun sensitive. I never had a proper skin analysis. I was never told what my skin type was (combination dry, not oily). I wasn’t asked how often I washed my pillowcase (not enough). I wasn’t asked whether I picked (I do).

At this point, I don’t even remember all of the different expensive medications they gave me over the years. I remember Benzoyl Peroxide, Differen, Tazorac, Retin-A, Cetaphil, and some sort of liquid blotter in a bottle. I know there were more. My skin only got worse when using any of them. I saw no decrease in acne and a sharp increase in redness, peeling, and shininess. I was mocked incessantly about how shiny my face was by the other students in elementary school. They were right- my giant forehead (fivehead) reflected like a mirror and was even more prominent than usual, something I was very self conscious about. .

The shine was a combination of raw skin and product buildup. The top layer of my forehead skin had peeled off early on and never seemed to grow back. I kept using the products, constantly hearing, “It has to get worse before it gets better.” Except it never got better. It got worse and worse and worse. My horrible tendency to pick at the flaking skin did not help at all, and I now have plenty of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This wasn’t at all helped by the 30 minutes of sun exposure at prime sun hours during recess every school day and full days on weekends. I was told to “avoid excess sun exposure,” which in my 11 year old brain meant “don’t lay out in the sun” which I didn’t do anyway. They did not make it clear to me that any sun exposure on my glow in the dark complexion was both counterproductive to my acne and would make every inflammation problem I was having far worse. Eventually I stopped using all of the prescriptions and just let them sit in a drawer untouched.

Don’t get me wrong- there are plenty of cases where dermatologists have helped dramatically. There are many that I’m sure do thorough consultations, many who truly help acne and rosacea cases. Accutane was very effective treating the deep cystic acne of my siblings. I have personally told many clients to see a dermatologist for suspicious spots, at least two of which have been diagnosed as skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma). Dermatologists help with diseases and cancer. They are indispensable.

However, as a nurse practitioner puts it, “Their product toolboxes are too small.” Beautification of skin is the entirety of what an Esthetician does. Appointments are generally an hour or more. A good Esthetician will ask in depth questions about a client’s routines, lifestyle, history and issues. Skin care routines will be recommended, adjusted, perfected. Treatments are done not only to beautify the skin but to calm the mind and body. The stress cycle will be explained and discussed. Exfoliation, extractions, and hydrating masks can be done to speed up the improvement of a new skin care routine.

Lauri Shea, LE

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