Your Guide To Skin Treatment

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Over The Counter vs Pharmaceutical Skin Care Products

How do pharmaceutical grade skin treatments differ from over-the-counter skin care?

This is a question we are asked most often at our Kelowna based skin care clinic. It comes down to two key aspects:

  • The concentration of active ingredients
  • The ability of the skin care product to penetrate the skin

Over-the-counter (OTC) skin products

Over the counter skin care products are those which can be purchased off the shelf without a prescription or advice from a trained professional.

As such, these products do not contain many active ingredients and are much less capable at penetrating the deeper layers of the skin.

The ability of OTC products to create significant changes in the skin or deliver long term results is limited in comparison to their pharmaceutical grade counterparts.

This is most evident in the treatment of aggressive skin conditions such as hyperpigmentation, acne and wrinkles.  

Pharmaceutical Grade Products

Pharmaceutical skincare products are only available through a licensed professional. They contain high levels of ‘active ingredients’ which are designed to physically change the function of your skin.

They are also FDA regulated and must contain 99% pure active ingredients, be backed by scientific research and demonstrate beneficial effects on the skin structure.  

These skin care treatments can effectively address issues such as:

  • Acne
  • Anti-aging concerns (wrinkles, unwanted facial lines)
  • Photo damage
  • Rosacea
  • Hyperpigmentation

What are the main differences between professional skin care products and OTC products?

Skin care specialists such as estheticians and dermatologists spend many years acquiring the professional knowledge required to analyze patients’ skin and prescribe appropriate skin treatments customized to each patient.  

Some of the key differences between OTC and professional skin care products include:

  • Regulation: Pharmaceutical products are strictly monitored while OTC cosmetics are significantly less regulated.
  • Potency: OTC skin care products are not strong enough to penetrate the epidermis (the ‘dead tissue’ or outermost layer of the skin) while pharmaceutical products are specifically designed to penetrate the epidermis and target the dermis, the living tissue. This makes them better suited to treat more severe skin conditions.
  • Customization: Unlike OTC products, which are made for ‘one-size-fits-all’, pharmaceutical skin care caters to a wide variety of skin types, allowing for a personalized and more effective skin treatment.
  • Results: Pharmaceutical skincare products yield much better and more effective results than over-the-counter ones.

Whether you are looking for an effective acne treatment, an anti-aging solution or a customized skin care plan, we offer the most advanced skin treatments that will support beautiful skin at any age.

For a personal consultation on products that would be the most beneficial for you, contact our clinic at 250-868-9290.

Book a consultation today.


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Donna McAteer

Donna McAteer

Donna is the general manager and has been with the Okana­gan Skin Care Cen­tre for over 10 years. She is a certified Es­theti­cian and previous business owner with over 17 years enjoying the skin care industry. Her passion for knowledge, integral client care and maintaining a syn­er­gis­tic team that represents professional excellence in skin care remains her focus.


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