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Do-It-Yourself VS. In-Office Beauty Treatments: Which Should You Choose?

By Melissa Schweiger
Posted On Mar 23, 2011

With so many at-home versions of popular dermatologist-performed treatments available today, it would seem that it’s perfectly acceptable to take skin-related matters into your own hands. Sure, there are plenty of over-the-counter creams and serums that can deliver results for the right patient, but we can’t believe all the hype that product companies use to promote and sell their products. With that said, the choice is ultimately yours, but it’s my job to emphasize the importance of medical supervision, especially when it comes to treating sensitive or problematic skin.

Topical “wrinkle relaxers” vs. Botox and Dysport

Here’s a little anatomy lesson: Muscles below the skin cause expression-related wrinkles, and there’s no topical product out there that can penetrate deep enough to minimize the muscle contractions that cause lines. The companies pushing creams that (they say) are “better than Botox” or purported to “release creases” can only say their products work like Botox because their active ingredients act on the same protein as injectables—in a petri dish. Bottom line: Wrinkle-relaxing creams are a waste of time and money.

Topical hyaluronic acid vs. injectable hyaluronic acid
(i.e. Restylane and Juvéderm)

The way hyaluronic acid (HA) is introduced to the skin ultimately determines its effect. The nature of HA—which occurs naturally in the skin—prompts it to absorb moisture from its surrounding environment, so when injected into lines and furrows, it plumps from the inside out. When used topically on the skin, hyaluronic acid can be a great moisturizer in humid climates, but it can actually be dehydrating in a dry environment when the only moisture available is from the skin itself. Bottom line: Talk to your dermatologist about HA as a moisturizer and turn to injections for plumping up wrinkles.

At-home vs. in-office light-based treatments

Dermatologists commonly use blue light in the office to improve acne, but a recent study shows that patients need treatments every three days for optimal improvement. Not so practical, right? That’s why at-home devices such as the Tria and Omnilux hold promise for keeping skin clear. But anti-aging devices are a different story. At this time, at-home wrinkle-reducing devices aren’t nearly as effective as their in-office counterparts, so while there may be an app for that as close as your phone, medically speaking it’s not going to do much for your skin. Bottom line: For acne, at-home devices are a do, but do-it-yourself anti-aging devices are a don’t.

At-home vs. in-office peels

An OTC peel may be great for one person, yet extremely irritating for another. Ingredient interaction is a major issue here, since combining products as innocuous as a retinoid and an ultrasonic skincare brush with acid-based peels can be a recipe for redness, breakouts or burns. Bottom line: I’m all for at-home peels since they are great way to keep skin looking fresh—so long as your dermatologist gives you the go-ahead.