beauty

Everything to know before taking the leap on prescription skincare and cosmetic procedures.

If you're a dame who likes to dabble in skin things, chances are you'll feel that when it comes to all different professional treatments and facial procedures out there, things can get pretty confusing. 

Whether we're talking medical skincare, anti-wrinkle injections, fillers or everything in between - it may all seem a little overwhelming.

And we're right there with you. 

Watch: I asked "The Doll Maker" what she'd do to my face. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

That's why we've had a chat with some experts about what we should know - specifically when when it comes to prescription skincare and cosmetic procedures. 

Cause these areas of beauty are absolutely BOOMING, but there are some pretty crucial things you should be asking before undergoing any kind of facial treatment or procedure.

To save you the hassle, we've pulled some of the most important questions into a big ol' article.

So, please - grab your notepad and let's make a start, shall we?

What to know before starting medical skincare.

If you consider yourself a bit of a beauty afficionado, chances are you've heard of 'medical skincare' or 'prescription skincare'. It's everywhere right now. 

There are approximately eleventy million Facebook groups touting the stuff, prescription brands are all over your Instagram, your best friend swears the stuff cleared her acne, etc. etc.

And it makes sense why it's blown up. Everyone's skin is different - and beauty brands are starting to notice that skincare is not a one-size-fits-all kinda deal. In 2021, there are more customisable options to suit individual needs than ever before.

What makes medical skincare products different?

Good question! Important question.

"Quite simply, prescription products work - and we have good-quality scientific evidence to prove it," said Dr Scott Ellis, Medical Director at Qr8 MediSkin.

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Listen: Find out what else you need to know about prescription skincare services, on this episode of You Beauty. Post continues below.

"In Australia every prescription medication is rigorously tested for safety and to make sure it's effective at what it claims to do. In contrast, non-prescription (or over-the-counter) skincare products are not required to prove that they work at all."

Anyone else find that... jarring?

"In fact, almost all 'cosmeceutical-grade' skincare in Australia is officially listed under the cosmetics category alongside lipsticks and foundations." 

INTERESTING. 

Wondering why your over-the-counter products don't have to be tested to prove they work? 

One word: marketing. Knew it!

As Dr Ellis says there's a big ol' marketing loophole in our laws that allows companies to talk about the benefits of certain ingredients that are in their products, without having to provide evidence that the product itself has those benefits. 

You know all the buzzy words that are slapped on the front of packaging? Yeah - that kinda stuff. No wonder skincare is so confusing.

"This is an issue, because there are many factors that influence whether skincare works - the form of the active ingredients, what other ingredients are present in the product (and whether they interact) and the pH of the product all have significant effects," said Dr Ellis.

"Unfortunately, many people are using expensive products believing that they will improve their skin biology - the reality is that there is no quality, scientific evidence that they influence the skin more than a nice foundation."

Sad face.

"Prescription skincare, on the other hand, is held to the same standards as any other medication that doctors may prescribe - meaning that we know it works when used for its intended application."

Are prescription ingredients better?

According to Dr Ellis, the fact that prescription skincare is evidence-based makes it generally more effective and well-researched than run-of-the-mill products.

"As an example, a much-loved over-the-counter ingredient is a form of vitamin A called retinol. It's often referred to as the 'holy grail' by skincare companies, marketed as an anti-acne, anti-aging, skin brightening [solution]."

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"In reality, the benefits listed on many products containing retinol are based on studies of the prescription medication," he said.

Whilst both over-the-counter retinol and the prescription version are classified in the vitamin A family, Dr Ellis said the prescription version has been shown to be approximately 20 times more effective than retinol. 

"Incidentally, retinol products are also often much more expensive than prescription versions - meaning that many [people] are often paying more for less result."

However, it's important to note here that prescription ingredients aren't without some drawbacks - and some specific ingredients can come with important limitations. 

If you're familiar with prescription skincare, chances are you've heard of someone who has messed up their skin with prescription vitamin A because they went too hard and too fast. But this is why, unlike over-the-counter products, prescription skincare requires medical supervision.

According to Dr Ellis, the most common mistake he sees is someone using their prescription cream too often when first starting out - which is a very dangerous game to play.

"These ingredients are generally very active, and as such need to be introduced to the body incrementally," he said. "Always follow the introductory protocol that you are provided, and make sure you have clear instructions from your doctor as to what that protocol recommends (it's useful to have a written copy to refer back to later)."

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"Well-chosen prescription ingredients are generally better - but the wrong ingredient, applied to the wrong skin in the wrong formulation has the potential to cause problems. That's why the doctor prescribing the ingredients is just as important as the ingredients themselves."

Where can you buy medical grade skincare?

"There's a number of different options for accessing prescription skincare, but they all involve consultation with a doctor. Most commonly they are dermatologists, cosmetic doctors, or general practitioners with a special interest in skin," said Dr Ellis.

"Traditionally, this was always accessed through a physical clinic or hospital - however, thanks to technology, it is now possible to safely and conveniently link with experienced doctors virtually."

Yep, this is a thing friends. There's now a slew of different online services that allow you to have your skin assessed remotely by a dermatologist or doctor in order to obtain a prescription.

Easy as pie!

"Qr8 Mediskin uses technology that takes a person's photographs, and generates a three-dimensional model of their head and neck that allows us to rotate, zoom in and out, and examine the skin in extreme detail."

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"After filling in some general information (including what we just discussed) every patient has a secure telehealth consultation with our doctors, during which a treatment plan is developed that is specific to them."

Just a heads up, in case you're wondering if this is the same thing as getting a skincare prescription from your doctor, services like Qr8 MediSkin use a more customised approach.

"There are actually two types of medical grade treatments - general prescription (where your doctor will prescribe a pre-manufactured prescription product) and compounding prescription (where your doctor has the ability to personalise your cream with a combination of carefully selected ingredients at exact concentrations to suit your skin)," explains Dr Ellis.

What are some things you should know before trying prescription skincare?

It's obviously important to do your homework before you choose where to have your consultation - you want to make sure you're seeing someone experienced, so you can recieve the best possible outcome from your prescribed skincare.

"Be sure to engage with a doctor, service or clinic who has a good reputation and experience with prescription skincare - generally you will find reviews and results of past patients available on the web," said Dr Ellis.

"Ensure that they're engaged during your consultation and allow you to ask questions. A good indicator is also a doctor who will explain, in plain language, why they've prescribed a certain formulation and how it works. If they're excited to share the information with you, it's a good sign that they're a fellow skincare nerd and likely know their stuff."

Another important thing to be wary of is incorporating the right skincare with your prescription products - something Dr Ellis said is often overlooked.

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"You should walk away from a prescription skincare consultation with not only recommendations as to what ingredients should be used in your treatment cream, but also exactly what supporting skincare products are recommended for your prescribed treatment."

What to know before having a cosmetic procedure.

These days ducking in for a cosmetic treatment is almost as normal as getting your nails done. And while we don't want to sound like a total Debbie downer, as the popularity of cosmetic treatments continues to rise, so too does the number of botched procedures.

In a perfect world, undergoing a cosmetic procedure wouldn't be difficult, confusing or dangerous. But the reality is, shady cosmetic work is actually way more common than you might think.

So if you've ever considered a facial cosmetic procedure - whether it's minimally invasive (like anti-wrinkle injections or fillers) or more invasive (like a nose job or a brow lift), it's important to do a few key things before committing to that treatment.

Because we're not experts, we reached out to Dr Imaan Joshi, a cosmetic doctor and the founder of Skin Essentials, to unpack exactly what you need to know before undergoing a cosmetic procedure.

What should you look for in a cosmetic clinic?

First and foremost, you need to do your research. We know, we know, easier said than done - but there are a few crucial things to look out for when it comes to ensuring the qualifications and experience of a practitioner and clinic.

To start, Dr Joshi recommends following the clinic or practitioner on social media to gauge what kind of work they do. "Follow their page for a while and see if you like the results that they post (not all will have patients consenting to sharing pics sadly)."

"Look at the face of your treating clinician - if they look crazy, chances are, you will too!"

Another key thing is to find out where the clinic is located. Dr Joshi said to be wary of clinics that have non-sterile or unhygienic environments or lack of care for privacy.

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"See if they’re set up in a dedicated clinic as opposed to working out of makeshift salons; this is controversial, but need not be - if you accept these are medical procedures, would you consent to having your skin check in a beauty salon?" 

"The risks are small, but fillers are, ultimately, implants that sit under your skin - and having a clean medical environment is to me, non-negotiable," explains Dr Joshi.

"What's more, the hallmark of all medical care is upholding patient privacy and confidentiality, which isn’t always possible in salons. In these kinds of environments, clients are often seen in a large space, or within cubicles that don’t have soundproofing, meaning privacy can’t be maintained for each patient."

If they tick all the above boxes, Dr Joshi recommends making sure you have a face-to-face consultation before undergoing any kind of cosmetic procedure.

"Get a feel for them, their style, their aesthetic."

Remember, this is your chance to ask ALL the questions. A consultation won't only help you find someone who is qualified to perform the treatment safely and effectively, but also give you a chance to suss out if you feel comfortable with them.

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"Don't be afraid to ask about their experience and if they have protocols in place if there’s an emergency or complication. Are they able to handle these themselves, or do they need to call someone for help, and if so, is this person easily available to assist if that was to happen?"

"Also ask what happens in terms of aftercare. For example, if they’re located in [a shopping centre], and the shop closes at 5pm on a Saturday and you have a concern at 11pm on a Sunday, can you reach your treating clinician?"

Dr Joshi said it's also important for you to ask questions about continuity of care. 

"Will it be the same person treating you within reason, or is there a high turnover of staff every few appointments?"

"For all these reasons and more, I can’t recommend face-to-face consultations enough."

And remember, if it doesn't feel right, it's not right.

What's the best way to manage your expectations?

First off, you should always take your time when considering a treatment - don’t ever rush into a procedure. 

"I discourage walk-ins for the simple reason that aesthetic treatments are not medically necessary. There is no urgency to have your anti-wrinkle treatment today, or your lip filler this week just because (fill in the blanks)."

"While rare, the biggest regret people often have is rushing, or feeling rushed, either because consultations were complimentary/free or because they were accompanying their friend/sister who got work done, etc."

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To save yourself from a nasty surprise, you should also always ask to see before and after photos of the practitioner's work. This will give you an idea of their skill and aesthetic sense, while also managing your expectations.

"I post and show photos when and where I have consent to show what is possible for a prospective patient. However, ultimately, the caveat is always this - everyone's anatomy is different and no two results can be the same nor guaranteed."

"For me, talking about the limitations of what I can offer, being upfront about the cost and even about whether they’re willing to spend that kind of money and how (and if) those results will impact the rest of their life is an important discussion to me to have."

According to Dr Joshi, equally important is to have a discussion with the practitioner or clinician surrounding what you're hoping to achieve with this procedure. 

"Everyone’s anatomy is unique. Unlike going to the hairdresser or for a facial, we are working with living anatomy and no two faces are equal."

What kinds of risks should be expected with cosmetic procedures?

Whether you're opting for a non-invasive or surgical treatment, it's crucial to remember that every procedure carries risks - these are medical procedures.

"Low risk does not mean NO risk," said Dr Joshi. "The experience and qualifications of your clinician is your insurance against outcomes that may be catastrophic - none of us can guarantee that we will not have a bad outcome, I think we’d be lying if we did."

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So, make sure you go through all the potential risks of your relevant procedure with your practitioner. Yes, even injectable treatments.

"What I look for is things like: "If something goes wrong, does this person have a plan in place?", "Can they recognise a complication when it occurs or soon after?", "Are they willing to spend the time needed to reassure themselves and me that it is a minor and common side effect that will pass, versus a major effect that needs treatment or a catastrophic event that needs emergency care?""

"By virtue of treating you, we may inadvertently unmask an unknown issue. A great example of this is fillers for the tear trough. While in most well-selected patients the results are fine, for a minority of patients, it may affect drainage around the eyes, leading to puffy eyes - the treatment for which is usually dissolving the filler."

Dr Joshi also advises against staying clear of flashy marketing and cheap deals - because at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. And cosmetic procedures are just not something you want to cheap out on.

"It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing prices and comparison shopping, but the art of medicine is just that, an art," said Dr Joshi.

So, if you see some dodgy spa with special deals, consider this a red flag.

"We are fortunate that we don’t live in the UK where beauticians can inject fillers, but it worries and saddens me to see pop-up shops in salons."

"Choosing a clinic, with a reputable clinician, who has protocols in place including aftercare is your insurance against being left to fend for yourself should anything go wrong. Unfortunately, most people I see with avoidable complications only find this out after the fact."

Have you tried prescription skincare or cosmetic treatments before? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Canva/Mamamia