OTC Skin Care vs Medical Grade Skin Care Products

If you’ve been using Over-the-Counter (OTC) skincare products since for years, you’re certainly not alone. All over the country, millions of Americans continue to invest large sums of money and energy in search of the perfect skincare regimen to fight acne, remove dark spots and scarring, and keep their skin looking younger and healthier.

Throughout this search, it’s likely you’ve accumulated a fair assortment of skincare products—from face lotions and anti-aging serums to eye creams and more – that have overtaken your bathroom! But do any of these skincare products really work? Do they leave your skin healthier? Are you satisfied with your skin’s appearance, or do you find yourself back in line at your local cosmetic store looking for a better alternative?

When the topic of medical-grade skincare products arises, there’s many misconceptions that often prevent men and women from making the switch, including, but not limited to,

  • Medical-grade products are too expensive
  • All medical-grade products require an Rx
  • Only older patients need medical-grade products to improve their complexion

The reality is medical-grade products add more value to your skincare routine and help you spend less time searching for products (that end up not working) and more time treating your underlining skin condition. While many medical-grade products require a prescription, most products are available for sale at your local dermatology clinic. When you schedule a consultation with Tennessee Telederm, you’ll meet with Kristen Stirling, a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner, who will assess your skin concerns, review your goals, and guide you to the best products for your skin type. In addition, medical-grade products are ideal for any age group, and the earlier you start incorporating them into your daily routine, the greater chance you have to prevent early signs of aging and protect your skin against future damage.

To help you decide whether or not to make the switch, here’s a brief comparison on OTC skin care vs. medical grade.

Although you may think your skin is getting all the essential ingredients it needs to maintain (or restore) a healthy, younger looking complexion, the truth is OTC skincare products are highly ineffective when compared to medical-grade skincare products. Why the discrepancy? For one thing, OTC products are required by law to reduce the amount of active ingredients in its formula. When you see product labels that claim to be “clinically proven” or “dermatologist recommended”, this only means the product contains a small portion of active ingredients so that it won’t harm your skin, if not used as directed. And what this alludes to is your skincare products are far too weak to treat your individual skin condition and enhance your skin’s natural beauty.

In contrast, medical-grade skincare products are thoroughly researched, repeatedly tested, provider supervised, and FDA-cleared for patient use. Why? Because they contain a higher level of active ingredients; therefore, they must first undergo a thorough examination to ensure safety and efficacy for your skin. Another great feature of medical-grade products that work in your skin’s favor is they offer a better delivery system to help penetrate the skin, allowing the ingredients to delve deeper and treat the core issue of your skin condition, whereas OTC products can only treat the skin’s surface.

Customizable for Your Unique Skin Type: Every skin type is unique, which means the acne treatment gel or face wash that works for your friend may not be as effective in treating you for the same condition. And depending on your skin’s sensitivity, it may cause unwanted side effects, such as dryness or skin irritation that can damage your skin. With medical-grade skin care, a dermatology specialist will work with you to provide a customized treatment plan to accurately address your individual skin condition, saving you time and money in the long run. In addition, the specialist will work with you to adjust the treatment plan if necessary to ensure you’re receiving the right products or if you decide to change your skincare goals. You benefit by having a licensed professional you can trust working with you and guiding you to the best care for your skin.

You Get What You Pay For: In your quest to find the best skin care regimen, it’s easy to waste a lot of time (not to mention money) on products that don’t help you achieve your skincare goals. Although medical-grade skincare products cost more than the average OTC product, the investment will save you in the end. Think back to our earlier example of a bathroom cabinet filled with various products to treat a variety of skin issues (e.g. crow’s feet, oily skin, acne, etc.). When you add all those products together, it may surprise you of how much you’re already investing in skincare products. Now, imagine having one or more products in your cabinet that actively work to treat your skin and also provide fast results. You may discover that investing a little more money into a quality product now can actually save you money later.

Your Skin Will Thank You: As the body’s largest organ, our skin is exposed to toxins, pollutants, chemicals, and UV rays on a regular basis. So, to give it the best care possible, you need the best skincare products on the market. Think of medical-grade products as a long-term solution for your skin’s health and wellness. Because higher doses of ingredients are working at a much deeper skin layer, you can expect better results in less time, and the longer you use it, the less likely you are to need cosmetic treatments to correct a skin condition as you get older.

Ready to dump the old skincare routine? To learn more about medical-grade skincare products and how they work to treat your individual skin condition, contact Tennessee Telederm at tntelederm.com.

How to Spot a Melanoma Skin Cancer

A mans back with moles to represent getting a skin cancer screening

Many of us have moles or freckles on our bodies that we see every day. In Tennessee it is common to have sun spots as well. Sometimes, we forget about their existence entirely—that is, until we notice a subtle change in their appearance, whether it’s the shape, color, or size. When this happens, it’s essential that you reach out to a skincare specialist to identify whether these differences are a sign of something more serious.

What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a severe form of skin cancer that starts in the skin cells, which are called melanocytes. These specific cells produce melanin, the pigment responsible for our skin’s color. And the longer these cells are exposed to sunlight, the more they produce melanin, giving you a darker complexion.

After a long, hot summer, many Tennesseans may be examining our skin for concerning spots. When your skin receives too much UV light, your body’s melanocytes may start to grow abnormally and become cancerous, which is an early sign of melanoma. Melanoma typically affects the upper body, head, and neck, but it can also develop in the lower legs or other areas of the body.

Is Melanoma the Same as Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Although melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) are types of skin cancer, BCC is much more common. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in the world. This is the case in Tennessee as well. Basal cell carcinoma typically occurs on parts of the body that are more susceptible to sunlight, such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, BCC typically doesn’t spread to other areas of the body but remains in a concentrated area.

Melanoma is a different story, however. If left untreated, melanoma can actually grow deep within the skin cells and spread to other parts of the body, including other internal organs.

FAQs About Melanoma
Because melanoma has the potential to spread to other areas of the body, early detection is essential to your long-term health and wellness. Below are some common questions to help you understand and recognize it symptoms.

What Symptoms Are Associated with Melanoma?
According to the Melanoma Education Foundation, the ABCDEs of Melanoma include:

(A) Asymmetry

(B) Border

(C) Color

(D) Diameter

(E) Elevation

Unlike benign moles, which typically have a symmetrical shape, even bordered, single color, smaller diameter, and consistent size, melanoma has the complete opposite effect. If you notice any changes in a mole or freckle, or if you discover the onset of a new mole changing shape or color, it’s best to contact Tennessee TeleDerm to have it checked by an experienced dermatology specialist.

How Fast Does Melanoma Spread?
Melanoma can happen at any time, with little to no warning (UCSF Health). There are four stages of melanoma, with stage IV being the most severe (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance). Though it’s hard to predict how fast the disease can spread, detecting symptoms in its early stages is the best defense against this type of skin cancer.

How Can I Avoid the Spread of Melanoma?
It’s recommended that you examine your moles and freckles every month to get familiar with their size, color, and shape, so it’s much easier to detect any subtle—or not so subtle—changes. Remember the earlier you can detect melanoma, the less chance it has to spread and become a threat to your health.

In addition to regular self-examination, be sure to reduce your sun exposure, wear plenty of sunscreen, and avoid tanning beds. If you’re going to be outdoors for extended periods of time, remember to cover your head with a hat and try to stay in shaded areas. Sun protection is especially important in Tennessee, where the sun’s rays are strong many months of the year.

Is Melanoma Hereditary?

According to the American Cancer Society, “Around 10% of all people with melanoma have a family history of the disease…The increased risk might be because of a shared family lifestyle of frequent sun exposure, a family tendency to have fair skin, certain gene changes (mutations) that run in a family, or a combination of factors.”

If anyone in your immediate family has already experienced symptoms of melanoma, it’s recommended that you meet with a skincare specialist to check your moles regularly and stay clear of tanning beds. The American Cancer Society also notes that if you are male, you may be at a higher risk of developing the disease, especially if you are over the age of 50, so be aware and get checked!

Is Melanoma Treatable?
Because melanoma is a serious and sometimes life-threatening cancer, it must be treated in its early stages to prevent it from affecting other areas. In fact, once melanoma has spread to other parts of the body beyond the skin, it may be difficult to treat. Therefore, it’s important to contact Tennessee TeleDerm so that an expert in dermatology can check for your skin early signs. At Tennessee Telederm we can perform a biopsy of any suspicious mole or growth to confirm the diagnosis. If it’s determined that you have melanoma, we may recommend excisional surgery to remove the entire growth, along with the surrounding border of normal skin to ensure all affected cells are removed.

Getting Your Skin Checked
Recognizing the early signs of melanoma on your own is important, but it’s also good practice to have a skincare specialist monitor your moles and freckles routinely, as well. It’s recommended that you schedule a full body skin cancer screening annually, or as recommended by your dermatologist. Fall is a great time to have your skin checked!

When it comes to your skin’s health, always play it safe! The next time you notice a suspicious mole, contact Tennessee TeleDerm to have it professionally examined. We’ll walk you through your options and help you find the best medical dermatology treatment to keep your skin healthy, strong, and clear of melanoma.

Expanding Access to Care with Wade Munday

TTD: Please share with readers a bit of your background. What led you to your involvement in healthcare advocacy?

My involvement in healthcare began with a mission trip. When I was in college, I traveled to Ethiopia to live and play for a summer. It was the first time I had ever flown on an airplane, and it was the summer after 9/11. During that time, I was fortunate to receive a unique education. At the end of my time there, a friend approached me. Worku was responsible for protecting our building, and I had spent hours talking with him and even more time playing soccer with him. The latter activity was quite difficult, however. As a child, a boiling pot of water had been tipped over and burned his foot, melting the skin so that his soft, pliable infant foot was connected to his shin by scar tissue. As an adult, he walked on his heel with constant pain and obvious discomfort. Yet, he found joy and happiness on the soccer pitch. 

When Worku approached me, he had a simple request: 75 US dollars so that he could afford a surgical procedure that would finally fix his foot. My grandfather had given me some money for the summer and I still had most of it. I was happy to help my friend.

TTD: Explain how lack of access to care affects Tennesseans.

There are millions of stories about families forced to make the decision between healthcare and food, clothing, or shelter. Tennessee leads the nation in medical bankruptcies. On top of that, more than 20 counties in Tennessee don’t even have a hospital.

How are we supposed to live happy and healthy lives when quality, affordable healthcare is so far out of reach? To answer that question, I think there are three essential points to consider:

  1. Government has a place. Most people want an efficient government – agencies making the best use of our tax dollars. Extraordinary sums of public dollars are spent at government safety net hospitals, community health centers, and other entities delivering care. They should be run effectively and transparently, and they should be at the forefront of utilizing new technologies that can improve patient outcomes and reduce recidivism.
  2. The private sector has a place. Most Americans have relied upon their employers to subsidize their health insurance premiums since World War II. Before that, our healthcare system operated like many low-income countries today. Patients pay out of pocket for everything and often go without even the most basic care. Not only do companies provide financial support to pay for healthcare in America, but many for-profit healthcare companies in the U.S. are designing innovative approaches to healthcare. The best companies run lean operations and have a plan for scale and sustainability that can disrupt the health sector.
  3. We have to look out for one another. Because I come from a place of privilege, I was able to help my friend Worku. Many Americans are not battling with medical debt or insurance companies, which is exactly why we must care for those Americans who are.

So how do we then go about looking out for others when it comes to healthcare? 

Neither the government nor the private sector will stop being important actors in delivering and paying for America’s healthcare system. What I propose is that all Americans become healthcare voters. Make healthcare a priority when it comes to who you elect to office, especially at the state and federal level. It’s important that we vote for candidates who want to build a stronger healthcare system now, in both the private and public sector. It’s important that we prioritize this political conversation before it comes to our household, because it’s already come to someone else’s.

  1. Be informed about a candidate’s specific plan to fix our country’s healthcare system (if they have one). And then apply your critical thinking skills to it. The biggest issue for the next election is Medicaid Expansion? You can read about it here. Why is it good or bad? What can it do to improve the lives of other Tennesseans?
  2. Hold candidates accountable. Demand that they speak to the issues affecting people’s lives. They should be holding town halls and releasing their own proposals to address problems if they don’t agree with a specific plan. Too often, politicians focus on divisive issues. They should be in the business of building up our civil society, not tearing it down.
  3. Inform your friends about how you plan to vote. Start an email and text chain and list the reasons why you’re a healthcare voter and who you believe is going to be an advocate for better healthcare in Tennessee. It doesn’t need to be combative. You’re entitled to your opinion and if it’s a well informed one, then no one should be upset about that.

We all have a place in healthcare, even if we’re not doctors. Understanding our place in the electoral process, that we are the ones who determine our future, is the best way to ensure that Tennesseans remain healthy and happy.