In a perfect world, your skin care routine would include a regular visit to a dermatologist. Obviously, a high-maintenance routine like that would require you to set aside ample time—and money—to get the fast, more dramatic results you’re after. But because not many of us have the luxury of time and extra dough in the budget, opting for professional skin care brands is the next best thing.
Skin care consumers are becoming savvier and demanding more from their products—and, as a result, professional skin care brands are having a serious moment. But what exactly does “professional skin care” mean? What are the benefits? And is it possible to assemble a professional-level skin care routine without the professional-level price tag?
What does “professional skin care” mean?
According to Donna Hart, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist at Texas-based Westlake Dermatology, there isn’t any definite set of criteria to define professional skin care lines. But in the general sense, professional skin care refers to products formulated by brands historically sold in dermatology offices, or brands developed by dermatologists themselves.
“[These] are companies that have often devoted a lot of time researching their ingredients and delivery vehicles to ensure the most effective delivery into their target area of skin, whether it be more superficial for pigment improvement, or deeper for things like collagen promotion or anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Hart. “[Professional] brands often got their start being sold in dermatologists’ offices so they have been tried and tested. Therefore, you can have an increased level of efficacy and quality with these brands.”
“In my opinion, what defines professional-level skin care is a commitment to developing novel products with ingredients that are rigorously scientifically tested to produce specific and reproducible results,” adds Dr. Margo Weishar of Springhouse Dermaesthetics, a Pennsylvania-based practice.
Are professional skin care brands worth the price tag?
So, now that you know what professional skin care is, let’s talk about who can benefit from it. And the answer? Pretty much everyone. All the time and energy devoted to research, development and sourcing the highest-quality ingredients typically yield much more effective products—and, with the right regimen, you can experience professional-level results you’d be hard-pressed to find with drugstore products.
“These products are so diverse that really most patients can benefit from professional lines,” says Dr. Hart. “In particular, patients with a specific area of concern such as dry, sensitive skin, pigmentary issues or signs of photo-aging may additionally benefit from certain professional products, as many have proprietary ingredients to best target these concerns.”
Now, there’s no denying that professional skin care brands are going to cost you more than something you pick up at CVS. But, like most things, you get what you pay for—and the extra cost is a direct result of the extra time, energy and quality that go into professional products.
“Professional-level product lines (or medical-grade skin care, as it is often referred to) may spend more money on developing and testing new ingredients, introducing new concepts to the public, using cosmetically elegant bases and luxury packaging. They are ‘smaller batch’ and therefore more expensive to produce than mass-marketed products,” says Weishar. “They often cost more than drugstore brands—and are worth that cost when the degree of benefit is many times what a basic product can produce.”
Tips for building a professional regimen—without breaking the bank
Professional skin care lines may be more expensive than other products—but that doesn’t mean you have to completely blow your budget to get great skin. Here are some tips on how to build your professional skin care routine if you’re just starting out.
1. Start with your dermatologist.
Before you blow your entire paycheck on professional products, talk to your dermatologist, especially if you have sensitive skin. “These products may contain higher levels of ingredients which are not suitable to all skin types and must be recommended by professionals with a deep knowledge of all aspects of your skin, taking into account [your] specific needs, goals and challenges,” says Weishar. “Visiting your trusted dermatologist is always a great first step, because we can often help navigate the milieu of product choices available and recommend certain ingredients to look for (or to stay away from!) in products,” says Hart.
2. Supplement pricey professional products with more affordable staples.
Professional-grade products can be expensive, but you don’t need them for every single product in your regimen. Professional products are great for more targeted treatments, but if you want to save some cash, it’s fine to supplement them with more affordable basics.
“Don’t forget the basics—cleanser, moisturizer and DAILY sunscreen—before going on to add higher-level products,” says Weishar. “These are the foundation of your skin care, and it’s worth seeking out the best combination of these products for everyday use before adding [more expensive] professional-level products.”
3. Choose one skin care concern—and treat it with one professional product.
If you want to experiment with professional skin care, there’s no need to go out and buy the entire line. If you want to see how a professional line works for you (and not blow your budget in the process), choose one skin care concern you’re struggling with and invest in one professional product to see how it reacts with your skin.
“If you are trying to build a regimen on your own, start with ONE product from ONE category and use it for several weeks—both to see how you tolerate it and to see whether you are seeing benefits,” says Weishar. “Most topical products take about 12 weeks of constant use to produce results—so stay with it for that amount of time to give it a chance to work.”
Professional skin care brands for every budget
Professional skin care brands are a must-try for anyone who wants to see serious results with their skin. And the best part? You can try them at any price point. Let’s take a look at professional skin care brands that will deliver transformative results for your skin—no matter your budget: