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The New Combination Therapy: Cosmeceuticals and Prescription Medications

By: Jennifer Wild, DO
Posted: August 1, 2011, from the August 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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When recommending a cosmeceutical-grade skin care regimen to clients who are on prescription medication, it is essential to know which medications they are currently using and those that could potentially cause complications. For example, if a client is already on a prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide (BPO), it would not be recommended to suggest she incorporate another BPO product into her skin care regimen. Since BPO can be topically irritating, a calming cleanser, a daytime moisturizer with a broad-spectrum SPF and a nighttime moisturizer that do not contain high percentages of stimulating ingredients would be most appropriate. The integration of cosmeceuticals with a prescription medication is often referred to as simultaneous use.

Certain skin concerns may not require prescription intervention. A client may have only a mild case of a particular skin condition, or she may be too sensitive for prescription-strength products. Substitution refers to the use of cosmeceuticals instead of prescriptions. For example, an anti-aging client who could potentially be a candidate for topical tretinoin may instead opt to substitute a cosmeceutical product with a low-percentage retinol, which will offer similar results without irritation.

Some prescription medications are not meant for long-term use, such as a 4% hydroquinone. For clients on medications for a fixed amount of time, cosmeceuticals are often an acceptable way to maintain the client’s results. Again, it is crucial to work with the treating physician when implementing a maintenance program since the initial treatment plan may have a predetermined end date. Once that has been established, finding an appropriate cosmeceutical product to take the place of the prescription medication can preserve the client’s results. A prescription-strength hydroquinone is an example of a medication that could be switched to a cosmeceutical once the desired results have been achieved.

The new combination therapy

It is completely acceptable to combine cosmeceutical skin care products with prescription medications, as long as there is no danger of simultaneous use. As clients become more aware of what is available to treat their skin concerns, skin care professionals must also be aware of the options available in order to effectively combine treatment strategies. Although skin care professionals should not recommend prescription products, clients may require medical intervention; in which case, the skin care professional should maintain a general understanding of the various medications prescribed. This knowledge will help to avoid doubling up on the same ingredient, which could lead to overstimulating the client’s skin, and will help to solidify the client-therapist relationship to ensure repeat visits and long-term client compliance.

Jennifer Wild, DO, is board-certified in family practice and since 2004, she has pursued an active interest in esthetics and skin care, including dermal injections, lasers, professional skin care treatments and products. Her vast knowledge in both the medical and esthetic industries has allowed her to excel within the industry as an advanced educator for PCA Skin.