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Topical skin care has come a long way since the days of my mother’s  Ivory soap and Noxzema. Beyond the explosion in available products from drug stores, retailers and doctor’s offices, the potential capability and claims of contemporary skin products at times seem extraordinary if not unbelieveable in many cases. But the hope that miracles do exist in a jar or bottle will always continue to drive consumer sales of these products which topped $10 billion dollars in 2011.

While the number of exotic ingredients in skin care has continued to expand, so has what they promise to do and what consumers now expect them to do. This is discussed in a recent article in the August 23rd 2012 Wall Street Journal entitled ‘When Skin Cream Gets Bossy’. As skin care products have made increasingly bigger claims, the level of expectations of consumers has similarly increased. And with the price tag that many of these products have, they had better deliver or consumers will stop buying. This is where better instructions are needed in how to properly use the products to get the best result. (the bossy part)

How to improve and ensure compliance with today’s skin care products is essential to seeing their potential benefits. From package inserts, the design of the dispensers to online webpages and videos, companies are educating and coaching consumers like never before. Consumers no longer need to rely on the sales person at the department store counter to learn how to use them. This is not as true for physician-dispensed products as there is more of a one-on-one relationship with the doctor or aesthetician and a higher level of credibility given their education and expertise. There is also the opportunity for follow-ups and monitoring progress in the amount of skin improvement.

One of the cleverest marketing and educational approaches that I have seen from manufacturers is the inclusion of laminated cards with either instructions, skin color or wrinkle tracking photos and phone numbers to call skincare advisors. This allows the consumer to engage with the company and provide some measure of their progress. Consumers buying over-the-counter products are much more fickle and will quickly abandon a product if they don’t see very quick results. This is why I tell many female patients that I can go to their bathroom and finds half-empty jars, bottles and tubes of products that they no longer use but won’t throw away. (until they are all dried up and useless to anyone)

Despite the improvements in over-the-counter skin care product lines, most of what they can accomplish is still largely preventative or maintenance. That feat is not to be minimized. But real improvement in brown spots, wrinkles, pore size and skin texture require topical skin care supplemented with more aggressive exfoliative therapies .(e.g., microdermabrasion, chemical peels, light and laser therapies) This is particularly true in those who already have some significant skin damage and aging changes.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

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