Do Skin Care Products Really Work?

by Kate Dee, MD


A new patient said to me recently that she read that skin care products are “not worth the money because they don’t work.” After a long discussion about why this is true but not at all true, I felt I must share this discussion.

The skin care industry is not regulated. Despite what many people think, the FDA does not have any say over cosmeceuticals. You can go to Nordstrom and pay $300 for a half-ounce serum that might have .000001% retinol in it. Or you can order a $25 jar of “2.5% retinol cream” from Amazon that also has .000001% retinol. Manufacturers can put whatever they want on the label and no agency is going to check that it is what they say it is. These products are indeed not worth the money. Not one cent.

However-- there are some fantastic medical grade products that can absolutely change your skin. How do they do that? Your skin is constantly turning over and renewing itself. It takes around 6 weeks (longer as you get older) for a new baby skin cell to be born and rise to the surface of the skin and slough off. But at any given time, only about a third of your cells are active. So, really it is 6 weeks times 3-- or 4-5 months. BUT!!! In that amount of time, you will have all brand new skin-- every single cell at the surface of your skin will be new. And you can change the way those cells look and feel by using certain high-quality products and ingredients between now and then.

That’s a long time. Many people try a new product for only a week or two and give up when they see no difference in that short time. As we have seen, it takes a lot longer than that-- you have to be very patient AND religious about using the products every day as part of your skin care regimen. But it does work! Some products produce results sooner than that-- especially exfoliants which help get rid of excess dead cells-- often a great glycolic cleanser will show brighter skin within a few weeks. But most products that stimulate collagen, even skin tone and provide antioxidants to your skin, need a full skin cycle to really show results. I ask my patients to give it one cycle-- and they are never disappointed.

That said-- many products are, to be blunt, garbage. If you are looking for a cheap drugstore brand to do what a well-manufactured medical-grade serum or moisturizer will do, then you will be disappointed. Also, beware of counterfeit products sold on the internet-- there is a reason they are so cheap. These products are often a pale imitation of the high-quality serums and moisturizers they are trying to imitate, and every ingredient matters. The additives and fillers they use are often irritation or acne-causing. The containers they are placed in often do not keep air and light out of the product, which makes it degrade very quickly. And of course, just because an ingredient is listed on the label does not mean that it is in a form or amount that has any effect on your skin.

Great products don’t have to be crazy expensive. You will always be able to find better and less expensive medical grade products at Glow than you will ever see at Sephora. Save your money! All of our products are vetted by our SkinType Solutions office and are catered to your skin type. If you are interested in finding out more about your Skin Type and what products we recommend for you, please stop by, call us at 206-900-7379 for a consultation or book online.

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