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The effectiveness of over the counter skin care products vs. medical grade

Skin Anatomy
Photo: Rashae Brown/ Skin Care Examiner

The term "OTC" in medicine, means drugs sold over-the-counter without supervision or a prescription. In skin care, OTC is products sold that do not contain medical strength ingredients. Non-medical strength products are available through retailers, drug stores, and direct distributors. Medical strength products are sold by licensed skin professionals and contain higher concentrates of active ingredients. For example, hydroquinone is a topical skin lightener available in retail stores at 2% active strength. However, a Dermatologist can prescribe up to 4% hydroquinone. Products containing higher concentrates are able to cut through the superficial layer of skin- triggering a faster response in the deeper layers. The result is visible improvement and effective changes to the skin. To determine which way to go (OTC or medical), ask yourself if you're looking to "prevent" or if you're looking to "change". Damage prevention can be accomplished with over-the-counter skin care and is good practice for maintaining a healthy water-oil balance, strengthening the moisture barrier, and protecting the skin from harmful sun rays and environmental assaults. If damage has already occurred and you're seeing dark spots, uneven skin tone, or lines and wrinkles, follow the recommendations from your Esthetician or skin care provider. House of Glow, a day spa in Winston Salem, offers medical grade chemical peels to lighten, brighten, and tighten. For more information go to

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