Over-the-Counter Versus Professional Products: Let’s Meet in The Middle

Written by Shelly Steadman

Everything about shopping for beauty products is appealing – bright colors, a myriad of scents, helpful sales associates, sampling stations that make it easy to feel, smell, and experience any product you can purchase. In a nutshell, it’s fun! Before you were an aesthetician, odds are you were obsessed with finding and trying every single new skin care item that came onto the market. I can’t think of a single skin care product line that I didn’t own or at least try. So, why would aestheticians think their clients would be any different? They aren’t. If you see clients on a regular basis, odds are that client is using at least one over-the-counter product. They just hide it, so you won’t yell at them. Stop yelling, my fellow aesthis. The over-the-counter world and the professional world can work together harmoniously, because there is no other choice.

 It’s as simple as that. Clients are not going to stop using over-the-counter products. They are plentiful, easy to access, and, in a lot of cases, much cheaper than the professional skin care we sell and use in the day to day spa world. And, before you argue that the brand you use is cheaper than some of the over-the-counter brands – I get it. But, it’s hard to fight name recognition, stellar marketing, celebrity endorsements, and the fact that every single person a client associates with uses the same thing. Now, I’m not saying you should give clients a buying guide for over-the-counter products. What I’m saying is, you shouldn’t make them feel guilty about using them. If they love their store brand toner and it’s not hurting their skin, let them use it. Instead, focus your energy on getting them to upgrade their moisturizer or eye cream. The only exceptions to my philosophy that over-the-counter and professional products can live in harmony are acne clients. When the skin is in that fragile of a state, it’s important to know exactly what, when, and how clients are using their products. Most acne clients comply very quickly if you’ll explain your logic in dealing with their skin and give them an outline of how you see things progressing. Timelines are a must with acne clients, or they get discouraged quickly.

 I’m sure some of you are saying “but, Shelly, my products are far superior to anything a client can order online or pick up at a big box store.” While this may be true, it doesn’t discount the fact that some over-the-counter products may offer value to clients, as well. If you’re in to ingredients – and most likely you are because, hey, you’re an aesthetician – a quick perusal of several high-end, over-the-counter websites may show that the ingredients in their products are high-quality, active, and, in some cases, kind of groundbreaking. I happen to like several over-the-counter brands and use them whenever I think my skin calls for it. I’m also slightly addicted to K-beauty brands. Nothing says “aesthetician of the people” like sandwiching a $15 hydrating booster in front of my $170 vitamin C serum, right? But seriously, have you tried a K-beauty pimple patch? Life changing invention, I swear.

All I’m saying is, don’t alienate clients by discounting the things they’ve grown to love. Encourage them to try new things, and caution against things you know would be detrimental to their skin long-term, but be open to the idea that over-the-counter and professional products can work together beautifully.

Shelly Steadman is a licensed aesthetician and educator with over 11 years’ experience in the skin care industry. After spending the last six years of her career behind a teacher’s podium training new aestheticians, she transitioned back into a treatment room. Steadman is currently working as an aesthetician at artistrySPASALON in the beautiful city of Franklin, Tennessee.

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