Healthy and glowing skin is something everyone desires. But, building a skin care regimen that targets a specific skin concern can be a daunting task. For starters, there is an enormous range of counter-skin care products on the market.

So, which one of them should you choose? Before including it in your skincare routine, how long should you test a product? Are we shelling out extra bucks when home remedies could work as well?

The paradox of choice deepens further. Commercials often feature a brand ambassador applying a product on their flawless skin. And a hair removal brand shows the razor gliding smoothly on already shaved legs.

A plethora of skin care ingredients gain popularity and loses it overnight. All thanks to social media and influencers. How do you single out when every new product gets the holy grail title? How do you recognize if the product caters to your skin needs? How will you figure out if the product works?

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

Skincare products fall into four categories:

    • Cosmetics
    • Cosmeceuticals
    • Over-the-counter skincare products (OTC)
    • Home remedies

The significant difference between OTC, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals is the potency of the ingredients. A combination of active ingredients is the key to determining the right fit for your skin.

Let’s explore each of these product types in more detail:


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Everyone is familiar with cosmetics to a certain level. It is exclusively meant for external uses and does not penetrate the deeper layer of skin. It usually sits on the top layer of skin. 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.

Cosmetics have a negligible amount of active ingredients. The ratio of active ingredients is nowhere near medical-grade skin care products. The amount that is scientifically proven to be beneficial is much higher.

Cosmetic products are accessible through department stores, salons, or supermarkets. Sometimes even sold over the counter because they are safe. It rarely harms the skin and only when used excessively over time. Since cosmetics can’t penetrate the dermal-epidermal lining, their results are temporary. It can brighten the appearance or add radiance, but it tends to wear off after a few hours. 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 readily available in drug stores. Cosmeceuticals are capable of penetrating the deeper layers of skin. It contains the molecular size of active ingredients which can pass through the skin. Even the concentration level should be up to a significant extent to have an effect. Cosmeceuticals skincare goes through dermatological testing. And have a mild concentration, making them safe to use. Also, they do not strip the skin of its natural oils. Cosmeceuticals have a higher preference rate over cosmetics.

Despite having active ingredients, cosmeceuticals are not in the same category as drugs. Medical-grade cosmeceuticals help treat common skin ailments, such as severe acne, dehydrated skin, signs of aging, and sun damage. Including it in your skincare routine and its consistent use can be effective. Formulation of these products results in long-lasting and noticeable corrections to the skin as they make cellular changes to the skin.

Reading about some active ingredients would be best to understand their effects better. For instance, Glycolic acid and salicylic acids are chemical exfoliants. Meaning it removes extra dead skin cells from your skin.

Retinols, however, deal with fine lines and boost collagen production. You might have heard about the brightening effects of Vitamin C, which is true. And Hyaluronic acid enhances skin hydration levels.

Over-the-counter / Drugstore Products

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Most skin care products available in the market come within this category. Your local drugstores or departmental stores generally have these products. It can range from affordable to luxury price tags. Yet, the composition of OTC skincare products is similar across the range. Topical products address prevalent skin concerns and do not contain active compounds. Instead, they contain fragrances, preservatives, and inactive compounds, making them stable for longer. Many OTC products claim to have peptides, vitamin C, retinol, or antioxidants. But the concentration is so insignificant that it doesn’t make much difference to one’s skin. These are mild products meant to slow down concerns. Or heal surface ailments of the skin. Some popular products in this category are those manufactured by Forest Essentials, Kama, and Plum.

Home Remedies

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Home remedies have a firm hold on the Indian population. For routine skin care, home remedies present the most viable solution. It often works for different skin types and is considerably cost-effective. And almost every time, the ingredients are readily available. You might even vouch for higher credibility as it is a tried and tested formula. Coming from the testimony of family elders. Items like Multani mitti (fuller’s earth), aloe vera, and honey work well for oily skin. They can treat acne to a large extent and soothe irritated skin.

Nonetheless, even home remedies can harm your skin without caution and care. For instance, toothpaste or raw lemon juice can be too harsh on the skin and cause significant damage. 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 clogs pores. It results in closed comedones, blackheads, and whiteheads. Home remedies don’t have any clinical studies to prove their credibility. It rarely has any clarity on the duration or intensity of home treatments. Some of which can even cause irreversible harm.

Summing It Up

Proper skin care leads to positive treatment outcomes. But, it would help if you got a dermatologist consultation to build the appropriate skincare regimen. Unsupervised usage of OTC or cosmeceutical products can lead to unintended consequences. And it might prove irreversible in some instances. It would be best to consider getting a doctor’s assessment to find suitable products. Even 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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