Selecting appropriate skincare products starts with research

February 1, 2011

How many times have patients brought in newspaper clippings, pages torn out of magazines, printed Internet downloads and scribblings on paper shreds detailing skincare products about which they want to know more? In my practice, this occurs daily.

Key Points

In my practice, this occurs daily. I am always fascinated by which advertisements capture the attention of patients, as this represents successful marketing. I am fully aware that I, too, am influenced by advertising and must remain vigilant to separate marketing fancy from medical fact.

By definition, cosmetic skincare products are without the efficacy of drugs and are not studied with scientific vigilance. This means that crafting an answer for your patients is important and requires careful thought.

The other end of the spectrum is the patient who wants a "miracle cream" recommendation. This is a very challenging situation, as it already assumes that one cream offers superior efficacy and will meet the patient's expectations.

In this case, one approach is to go to the sample closet and randomly pick a tube that looks appealing and tell the patient that this is the best moisturizer. This assumes that all bottles offer equal hope and all jars offer equal promise. This clearly is not true. Yet another option is to send the patient to your product sales area and let your aesthetician show him or her your latest and greatest creams for sale. This too is not advisable because it results in the patient perceiving that the dermatologist allows skincare recommendations to be made with a commercial bias.

Quantity abounds

The complexity in picking the optimal moisturizer is due to the huge number of products in the marketplace. This in itself suggests the answer. If there were one best moisturizer that delivered the best hope in a bottle or promise in a jar, there would only be a handful of products for purchase. Instead, there are thousands of products for purchase, meaning that all of them work somewhat.

So, how do you help patients pick the best "hope in a bottle" or "promise in a jar"? You should first ask patients where they like to purchase their products (mass merchandiser, cosmetic counter, spas, boutiques, Internet direct sales or medical offices). This lets the you know how much they want to spend and whether they value fragrance and packaging.

Ideally, you should select one or two favorite products in each category, one appropriate for dry skin and another appropriate for all skin types. This allows you to customize for sebum production, as all cosmeceuticals use a moisturizer as a delivery vehicle. The market changes rapidly, so have office staff go online and search product availability every six months.

I realize this is a simplistic approach, but it is a valuable start. The amount of science in skincare products is increasing, resulting in enhanced efficacy, but hope in a bottle or promise in a jar is still elusive at present.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and consulting professor of dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net
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