Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Retail vs. Professional skin care products

You may not be aware that there are two different classifications for products in the skin care industry: retail and professional. Read further to get familiar with all of your options so you can be a smart shopper when it comes time to buy skin care products.

In the professional, skin care salon/spa realm, there is a great separation between retail and professional products. For instance, I would never consider using or selling a retail product (something you could find at any department store for example) in my office. Why? Quite simply, quality. Professional products are invariably superior in quality to their retail counterparts—not always, but usually.

Retail products are sold in a retail environment, like a department or grocery store. These products are sold to the mass market. Manufacturers annually spend millions of dollars for ad campaigns on TV and in magazines, enticing you to buy their products. A retail environment is usually where the average consumer looks to purchase skin care products. 

Most people look to the department store not only to purchase skin care products, but to get their skin care advice as well. Many consumers just don’t know where else to turn. Retail, department store products are sold by counter salespeople who generally have no hands-on experience with skin. They go through product training pertaining to the line they are selling, but usually lack any practical experience in treating skin.

If you have no-problem skin, you will probably fare reasonably well in the department store because not a lot will be required from either the products or the sales staff. But if you have problems with your skin (or just want professional skin care advice), I recommend talking to a licensed aesthetician. Not all professionals excel at their craft, but at least they have training and a license to back up what they are saying.

Other retail products are sold in drug or grocery stores. In this case, you are on your own. There is no salesperson to help (or pressure) you. At the grocery store you can take your time, read labels at your leisure, and really study the products before you buy. Many times you will pay premium prices at the department store for comparable products found at the local grocery, paying for name brands in fancy bottles and their ads with beautiful models. Products at the drug or grocery store may not have great packaging and are not marketed as aggressively, but their prices reflect this.

Finally, there are the multilevel, marketing-type products, again sold by salespeople, not skin care professionals. They are trained on the product, not specifically on skin. I’m not saying that everyone who isn’t a professional aesthetician is unqualified to help you with your skin, I only recommend you look closely at the people who are giving you advice. What does their skin look like? And most importantly, are they making sense—or just a sale?

In general, retail products tend to be fairly inactive, rendering them less effective in their ability to tackle specific skin problems. This is the dilemma with retail products. They can’t really afford to be very potent or the products would no doubt be returned en masse. Even a great product can cause problems if the skin is misdiagnosed and an inappropriate product is recommended and used. What you may find with retail products is skin care advice from a salesperson plus products that do very little for your skin.

Professional products are sold exclusively in a salon or spa by a licensed aesthetician. The idea being that a professional can correctly analyze your skin and recommend appropriate products. In this professional setting, the aesthetician can take care of your skin on an ongoing basis, both through facial treatments as well as with products. Professional products can address specific needs, whereas retail products are more general or generic.
My Chicago salon 2004
Couperose skin (generally red, sensitive skin with capillary damage) is one of the best examples of this. I would be hard-pressed to find a retail product specifically made to address this common skin care problem, whereas many professional lines do. In fact, I’m sure I would have a difficult time finding a retail salesperson who could explain what couperose is, let alone have a product to recommend. The quality of the product as well as its ability to address specific skin care needs are two areas that separate professional from retail.

In almost every professional line there are specialized products that are produced exclusively for use in a facial by a professional. These products are generally not available for the consumer to purchase. Retail products are ordinarily made solely for at-home use. Occasionally you will find retail products being used in a professional environment, usually at department store day spas or salons. Using a retail product in a professional environment (in facial treatments) would be extremely limiting.

Again, there wouldn’t be the class of products required to address a client with special needs. Unfortunately, not all professional products are going to give you great results. With the myriad of products available to you (retail and professional), very few will truly meet your needs. Many clients come to me discouraged, having jumped from one product to another, never finding anything that truly works for them. But take heart, exceptional products do exist. It may just take time to find them.

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