When it comes to the products we put on our skin we have certain rules here at HintMD.
1. We do not let ourselves be fooled by designer brands, celebrity endorsements and department store sales pitches.
2. We stick with treatment plans as prescribed by our derms and doctors – because they are the ones who know our skin and they are the ones who know what it requires in order to look and feel its very best.
3. We never buy cosmeceuticals from sources other than the doctor’s practice or authorized online sellers.
And it’s this third rule that has become such a tricky area. A rather ‘gray’ area if you will… Which leads us to the decidedly fuzzy business that is the ‘gray market.’
While the internet is undoubtedly one of the many wonders (and necessities) of modern life, it has totally changed the way we purchase everything from clothes and gifts, through to cars, vacations and even our pets. The internet gives us immediate access to brands, stores and products we might never have encountered if we had just our local shopping malls to rely on. Not only that, but the internet also allows us to save money and never even leave the house to make our purchases.
But tell us this: have you ever made a ‘bargain’ online purchase only to receive a product that wasn’t quite right? Perhaps the label looked slightly wrong, the item smelled funny, tasted weird, or had no bar code, manufacturer’s address or expiry date?
Been there, done that, right? But when we’re talking about physician-approved skincare brands such as Jan Marini, SkinCeuticals, SkinMedica and ZO Skin Health, is that extra $5 in your wallet really worth it? Yes, buying from untrusted, online sources might save you a few bucks, but are you willing to risk the long-term health of your skin?
“Increasingly, counterfeit skincare packaging is resembling the true brand, so it is difficult for the consumer to know what is real,” explains board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Bay Area Laser Institute, Dr Vic Narurkar, M.D.
“The least harm they can do is not deliver on any results, but there can be significant harm including irritant dermatitis, contact dermatitis and pigmentary changes to name just a few of the side effects.”
Recent reports show counterfeit skincare products have been slowly making their way into the U.S. from all manner of countries, and that pharmaceuticals, personal care products and cosmetics are among the top five products confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents.
Yes, woah indeed.
We spoke to Jan Marini, founder and CEO of Jan Marini Skin Research and one of the most respected names in the professional skincare market for her view on the subject.
“The truth of the matter is that non-authorized third party discounters may be selling product that’s adulterated, counterfeit, expired or tampered with,” she explains.
“What does this mean to your skin? Well, if a gray market product is expired, it may be unstable or have lost significant efficacy. Similarly, if a product has been tampered with, it will not have the desired effect or could be detrimental to your skin. Even worse, the contents could be totally counterfeit, which, in other words, means you could have bought an entirely different formula.”
Dr. Stephen Ronan, one of the country’s top plastic surgeon’s agrees:
“Gray market goods are items sold outside of the normal distribution lines, by companies that have little or no relationship with the brand or the buyers,” he says.
“The channels are unofficial, unauthorized and unintended by the original manufacturer. This means they may not have gone through the strict inspection and distribution process and your skin will be the one to suffer. Ever seen a fake Loius Vuitton Bag? It’s not the same quality. When it comes to your face, you don’t want the biggest discount item, you want the highest quality ingredients from manufacturers you can trust.”
Other repercussions from buying from third-party discounters include a lack of support should you have questions about your purchase in the future. And if you’re thinking about returning something you feel is not the real deal? Yeah, good luck with that.
All in all, buying from unauthorized resellers can leave you in one hot mess. Your skin will undoubtedly pay the biggest price, but if you end up having to re-purchase through the correct channels? Well, you don’t need a math degree to work out that paying twice for something is never a good deal…
The sad fact, however, is that while consumers will often purchase the first product from their doctor, only about 30 percent of patients repeat this purchase at the practice. This decreases to just 15 percent when purchasing the third time around. Why? Because everyone loves a bargain and why pay $100 again for an eye cream at your derm’s office, when you can get it for the bargain price of just $80 on www.getyourbeautybargainshere.com? (Just to be clear, this website doesn’t exist, OK? And even if it did, you’re smarter than that…)
So, how can you ensure you aren’t tricked into buying fraudulent goods? Your best bet, of course, is to buy directly straight from the doctor’s office where, not only will you receive the genuine item, but you will also be prized with trained, professional advice about your skin, its areas of concern and the prescribed products to treat it. If you ask us, that in itself is worth a whole lot more than money can buy.
“A good relationship with your plastic surgeon or dermatologist is key if you want to get the best results from your skincare,” advises Dr. Ronan.
“Without this, how do you know you’re buying the right product for your skin?” he adds.
We agree, but we also understand that time and convenience are also big factors in the way the world shops. So, how can we shop safely and effectively online?
“Always search for authorized sellers on a brand’s corporate website,” advises Jan Marini.
“We post a list of reputable online providers and offer retail sales specialists who can assist with referrals. We have a strict policy that authorized resellers must sign and adhere to and even have a legal firm whose sole purpose is to shut down these rogue sites.”
And what about reputable sites like Amazon, for example?
“One of the largest sites for product diversion and potentially expired or counterfeit products for nearly every company is Amazon. JMSR, however, has worked very closely with them to ensure that all products listed on the site are authentic and listed exclusively through authorized resellers,” adds Jan.
Bottom line? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Purchasing from an unauthorized provider means you might as well blindfold yourself, stick your hand in whatever pot of cream someone puts in front of you and slap that on your skin.
And we don’t know about you, but that idea scares us. Big time.
Written by: Georgia Gould