A healthy and glowing skin is desired by all, but getting to a definitive derma solution for our skin care regimen can be a daunting task. For starters, the wide variety of skin care products in the market often leave us perplexed. Which one of the many should we choose? How long should we test a product before including it in our skincare regimen? Are we shelling out extra bucks when home remedy could work just as well?

The paradox of choice deepens further – TV commercials feature brand ambassadors endorsing luxury products, magazine ads bring in celebrities with flawless skin, and doctors might recommend pharmaceutical products for skin problems we hadn’t recognised before.

To clear some of the mist, we spoke to dermatologists on our platform and here’s what we learnt.

Broadly speaking, skincare products can be classified into four categories: cosmetics, cosmeceuticals, over-the-counter products and home remedies. The major difference between drugstore products, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals is the strength and potency of the ingredients used. What would determine a right fit for your skin is the combined action of the active ingredients – the products you should choose are the ones that have the right ingredients in the right proportions for a specific skin type. Let’s explore each of these product types in more detail:


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Cosmetics are the most commonly used products and can only be applied externally on one’s skin. They are incapable of penetrating the dermal-epidermal joining, which is the area between the epidermis and dermis. But they can clean, maintain, protect, make fragrant and improve the appearance of the skin.  When it comes to cosmetics, it is easy to fall into marketing traps and buy something that may not suit your skin. One thus needs to be extra careful in testing and sampling cosmetics.

It is also important to bear in mind that cosmetics have negligible amounts of active ingredients. The presence of active ingredients hardly matches up to the scientifically proven levels so as to prove beneficial for the skin.

These products are widely available in department stores, salons and supermarkets, and are sold over the counter because they are considered safe. They only cause harm when used in excess or regularly over a period of time. Since cosmetics can’t seep through and access the deep layers of skin, they provide only temporary results and refresh the complexion for a few hours, after which the shine tends to wear off. Thus, cosmetics do not cause any structural changes, nor deliver long-lasting effects.


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Cosmeceuticals are a mix of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. In contrast to cosmetic products, cosmeceuticals are capable of penetrating the epidermis. The active principles, present in them in large dollops, pass through the epidermis and reach deep within the dermis. The active ingredients need to be at the scientifically proven levels of concentrations to leave a positive impact on the skin. These are dermatologically tested and mild in nature. Also, they do not strip the skin of its natural oils. They are thus preferred over cosmetics. 

Despite the presence of active ingredients, cosmeceuticals aren’t classified as drugs. They can help treat common skin ailments such as severe acne, re-hydrate the skin, diminish the appearance of aging and reduce the damage caused by sun, resulting in a healthy, glowing complexion. These products have been developed scientifically to produce long-lasting and noticeable corrections to the skin by making changes at the cellular level.

Over-the-counter / Drugstore Products

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Most skin care products available in the market come within this category. The local drugstores, departmental stores and supermarkets are where these can be found commonly. Ranging from cheap to economical to costly, these over-the-counter (OTC) skincare products carry within them a similar concentration of ingredients. They are designed to address the popular skin concerns and do not contain active compounds. Instead, they have fragrances, preservatives, and inactive compounds. Many of the OTC products might claim to have peptides, vitamin C, retinol or antioxidants in them, but the concentration is so insignificant that it doesn’t make much of a difference to one’s skin. These are mild products meant to mainly soothe disorders and heal surface ailments of the skin. Some of the popular products in this category are those manufactured by Forest Essentials, Kama and Plum.

Home Remedies

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For routine skin care, home remedies present the most viable solution that work for different skin types. These remedies are considerably cost-effective, easily available, and have a higher credibility as they are passed down to us by the elders of our family. Items like Multani mitti, aloe vera and honey work well for oily skin, can treat acne to a large extent and soothe irritated skin. Nonetheless, home remedies too must be chosen with caution and care. For instance, using toothpaste or raw lemon juice frequently and in huge amounts can be too harsh on the skin and damage it altogether for weeks. It can cause erosion of the top layer of the skin, resulting in redness or rashes. Similarly, coconut oil is a comedogenic product – meaning it can clog one’s pores, leading to blackheads and whiteheads. Since the home remedies do not really have a scientific backing, there is no clarity on the duration and intensity of such treatments, because of which some of these can also cause irreversible harm. 

Summing It Up

Proper skin care leads to positive treatment outcomes. However, for the right skincare regimen, one needs to be appropriately advised on drugstore, OTC or cosmeceutical products as erroneous usage can lead to unpleasant and unintended consequences, which might prove irreversible in certain cases. Consider getting an expert’s assessment of your skin type and suitable products for routine care and treatment of conditions, if any.

This article is a part of the Keen on Perfect Skin series. For more tips from skin experts, explore below!

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