Over-the-counter (OTC) skin care products are generally less expensive and sometimes more convenient to purchase than professional products available from your esthetician. But it's important to be a savvy consumer in this choice. After all, paying a cheaper price for something that doesn't produce the results you want--and then doing it again and again in an attempt to find a cheap product that does work-- ultimately does not save you money or time. Cheaper products are generally of lesser value and not as effective as their professional counterparts. An investment in quality skin care products, combined with customized services, can help you achieve your skin care goals and the complexion you desire.

Establish a History When receiving a service from your esthetician, be sure to explain the details of your skin history. Your esthetician will be better able to provide you with the proper products and services if she knows the following: What are your skin care goals? What percentage of time do you spend indoors versus outdoors? What is your diet like? Water intake? By giving your esthetician the background and context of life in your skin, literally, the two of you will together create a foundation for moving forward with treatments.

Rely on Expertise Because labeling in the United States is subject only to Food and Drug Administration regulation, labels can be misleading, as well as hard to interpret. Your skin care professional knows how to read a label and can explain the benefits, drawbacks, and purpose of the ingredients listed on the label. Because of her/his training and expertise, your esthetician is vastly more knowledgeable than a clerk selling cosmetics in a retail store. Consequently, you can trust that the information you're receiving is valid, that your esthetician can recognize effective ingredients versus fillers, and that the professional products you are considering have been well developed and researched.

Customized Service Contrary to what OTC brands would lead consumers to believe, our skin and bodies are unique. OTC products rely on the trial-and-error, one-size-fits-all approach. On the other hand, your esthetician is in the business of providing personalized skin care solutions. The use of professional diagnostic tools like skin scanners, woods lamps, and imaging devices can help specifically identify your skin type, aiding in the development of a plan to achieve your desired result. It is a huge advantage to work directly with your esthetician to assess the situation, document it, develop a treatment plan, and track effectiveness. Complementing professional products with specified services will produce the ultimate result.

Convenience? It may be convenient to buy skin care products at the drugstore, where one also can pick up other personal care goods and some motor oil. Heck, while you're at it, you can also buy a case of soda and some dog food. But buying decisions shouldn't always be based on convenience. Just because there is a garage nearby, doesn't mean you automatically take our car there. You want to be sure you trust the mechanic and that he is experienced with the kind of car you drive. Another example: if you have a special occasion, you might prefer to choose from the wine selection at a specialty store instead of a drugstore. And many people drive long distances to get their hair done by someone they trust and with whom they have built a relationship.

This heightened interest in finding just the right professional applies to skin care as well. And when you're talking about something as important as your face, professional expertise far outweighs convenience. Your esthetician will help you establish a proper skin care regimen and continually assess the changing needs of your complexion, ensuring you're getting the right products and services at the right time.

Price and Value Mass-market strategists spend millions on advertising under the assumption they will make it back on sales volume. To maximize profits, producers cut back on production costs, often resulting in cheaper, less effective ingredients and no cutting-edge research and development. You may be paying for the label and not what's inside the bottle.

Furthermore, while professional skin care products do carry a higher price than OTC products, professional lines are more valuable. Here's why: The brand lines your esthetician has available are often more concentrated than OTC products, although they may seem more expensive, in the long run, the price difference between the two is not as great as it appears. Professional skin care products are more exclusive because in almost every case, they are better: they have been well researched, they contain higher quality ingredients, and they are ultimately more effective. Choosing professional products will help you achieve your skin care goals more quickly and effectively.

The Bottom Line The return on your investment in professional skin care products is much greater than with OTC lines. Generally, professional products are more effective, are made of higher quality ingredients, and have been well developed and researched.

In addition, because your esthetician knows you, and because she/he has expertise in product ingredients--and your skin specifically--you can be confident that you're getting a customized treatment plan designed to achieve your skin care goals.

Investing in quality skin care cosmetics will quickly pay off, helping you achieve the complexion you desire. Professional products and services are worth it, because you're worth it.