Skin Care Product Differences & Chapped Lips

Dear Laurel:  I have spent hundreds of dollars on specialty skin care products that say they are “pharmaceutical”, assuming that they are better than the commercial products I might find at my local drug store or spa. Can you please explain the difference between these types of products and which is more effective in helping with anti-aging?
Monica ~ Arlington

Dear Monica:  The difference between pharmaceutical (or professional strength) skin care products and commercial (or cosmetic strength) skin care products is two-part.

  1. Professional strength products fall under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must have valid scientific studies and clinical trials to back a product’s claim. The FDA requires that pharmaceutical grade products contain 99.9% pure ingredients and contain .1% or less of bacteria.
  2. Commercial products, like those you may find in department, drug, and grocery stores, may only contain 70% pure ingredients and up to 30% bacteria. These products don’t contain a high enough percentage of an ingredient for the ingredient to be “active” or to cause a significant change in the condition of the skin.

The term “cosmeceutical” refers to the fastest growing segment of the skin care industry. Cosmeceuticals contain high levels of active ingredients, such as antioxidants, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s), L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), peptides, retinoids, botanicals and a number of other effective ingredients. These ingredients have drug-like effects in helping to improve the skin’s function and to prevent aging. Cosmeceuticals are not officially regulated by the FDA; however, many companies, like G.M. Collin for example, choose to follow the standards set by the FDA when developing products. Only 5% of the skincare industry falls under the scrutiny and authority of the FDA and is considered pharmaceutical grade. So if you’re looking for an anti-aging treatment, consult with your aesthetician, dermatologist or physician to find a product that will assist you in achieving the results you desire.

Dear Laurel:  I have a chronic problem with chapped lips. No matter what I do to prevent them from becoming chapped, they always seem dry and irritated. What can I do to help prevent this embarrassing problem?  
Patricia ~ Lexington

Dear Patricia:  Chapped lips bring truth to the saying “crack a smile” and are not only irritating and embarrassing, but can be extremely painful as well. There are many causes of chapped lips: exposure to wind, sun and cold dry air, constantly breathing through your mouth instead of your nose, habitually licking your lips, and lack of water (dehydration). So start the healing process from the inside out and drink lots of fluids, especially in the winter months. You should also try to avoid the dry, cold weather that can cause them in the first place. This may be a little difficult since you live in New England and moving to a warmer climate isn’t an option for most people. Try applying lip balm or lipstick before you go out and reapply whenever the mood strikes. You may also want to consider getting a lip balm that has a built-in sunscreen to protect from the suns drying rays. Practicing good lip care should help to bring a smile back to your face.

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