Nerium, Avon, & Mary Kay: Should You Buy Skincare Products from Your Neighbor?

Parker Center for Plastic Surgery

There’s a woman in your yoga class who sells Nerium, and she looks fantastic—and you’ve been hearing more and more about its wrinkle-fighting prowess from a long-distant friend on Facebook. Couldn’t hurt to give it a try yourself, could it?

Well, you may want to read on before trying the next “miracle” skin cream, no matter how promising it seems.

Be Cautious: Your Skin Deserves the Best

The truth is that skin care remains something of a “wild west” industry. Although they can contain powerful ingredients, most over-the-counter cosmetics and topical creams do not require FDA approval—they fall into a grey area that allows them to go straight to the market without undergoing the same rigorous process of clinical trials required of pharmaceuticals like BOTOX®. Unfortunately, this means that safety studies are often performed by or paid for by the companies themselves (even “independent” studies can potentially be funded by the product’s manufacturer).

So while they may seem like a good bargain, many of these products are ineffective or don’t deliver what they promise (and all you lose is the money you spent on them). At worst, these companies are using ingredients that have not been suitably studied and may cause adverse reactions in some users. For instance, NeriumAD, a product that’s getting a lot of buzz lately, contains extracts from nerium oleander, a plant which is known to be highly toxic and even lethal to humans in certain doses. Without transparent, scientific safety data, unanswered questions about product risks and efficacy remain. Given that, we think it’s best not to apply it to your skin!

Moreover, multi-level-marketing based (a.k.a. pyramid scheme) companies like Nerium, Mary Kay, and Rodan & Fields make it easy for anyone with a little start-up cash to become a dealer. These companies provide marketing kits designed to make their salespeople sound like experts without any medical skincare training, which means you could be getting risky product recommendations based on guesswork and advice that is not much more than hearsay. Given that skin is your largest organ, we think it is much safer to get skincare advice directly from a doctor or trained professionals working under a physician’s supervision.

But my BFF is a Mary Kay Consultant and I want to support her!

We’re not saying that all cheaper skincare options are snake oil or poison, but you should proceed with a healthy skepticism. Just follow these basic common-sense guidelines (courtesy of your trusted Parker Center skincare professionals!):

  • If you don’t have any specific problems and are simply looking for basic skin care (cleansers, moisturizers, make-up, etc.), you’re probably okay. Just be sure your expectations are realistic and that there are no ingredients that could produce a negative reaction. But if you need treatment for acne, rosacea, or any other medical skin problem, skip the Avon party (and the Internet) and go see your doctor.
  • Don’t expect to find the fountain of youth in one of these bottles. If it seems too good to be true, it is—no probably about it. Don’t fall for the hype. Not even the best over the counter skin rejuvenation plan can give you the skin of a 20-year-old if you’re over 40.
  • Ask about a brand’s warranty or money-back policy in case you are not happy with a product or it doesn’t produce the marketed results. Reputable companies will offer to replace a product or issue a credit or refund if you are unhappy with your purchase. Don’t buy anything if you cannot easily locate contact information for the company—this is a tell-tale sign of a questionable product. Finally, be warned that it probably won’t be any fun asking for your money back if you’ve bought the product from a friend; it’s yet another reason to avoid buying skin products from friends in the first place.
  • Take a little time to do your research before handing over your cash. Red flags will usually present themselves very quickly; for instance, just a quick Google search will reveal a plethora of discussions over the “is Nerium toxic?” controversy. If anything seems fishy about a product’s safety or authenticity, it’s best to say no.
  • Be very careful about buying skin care online. The lack of control over online sales of skin care products has resulted in many frightening—and frighteningly common—instances of fraud. Counterfeit versions of popular products, which often contain nothing close to the correct formula, are cleverly disguised by legitimate-looking packaging and can all too easily end up in the hands of unsuspecting buyers looking for bargains.

The best way to ensure that the skin care products you use are safe, effective, and worth your hard-earned money is to get them from a board certified plastic surgeon, dermatologist, or experienced aesthetician working under MD supervision. This is smart for three big reasons:

1. You’ll get personalized care for optimal improvements in skin health and appearance. Medically trained aesthetic professionals place their highest priority on patient outcomes and are not trying to build a sales network. Visiting a professional on a regular basis helps ensure your at-home skin care regime continues to provide optimal benefits. Plus, it builds automatic time into your schedule for regular screenings to help detect any skin problems before they become too serious.

2. You’ll see the results you want more quickly. Only licensed physicians can dispense prescription-strength skin care products, which contain a higher potency often needed to deliver the desired improvements in a suitable amount of time. Over-the-counter products, including those from companies like Mary Kay or Avon, contain more diluted formulas in comparison, meaning it can take more product—and a lot more time and money—to notice any improvement.

3. You can rest assured you’re getting the product you are paying for. The only way to be certain that you are getting the real deal with skin care is to buy from an authorized physician’s office which you trust. Doing so shields you from the swathes of phony, counterfeit products on the market that are ineffective and possibly dangerous.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It’s just as important to keep your skin healthy as it is to keep your heart in top shape. The best way to improve your skin’s appearance is to work with an experienced medical professional when choosing skin care products. Although you may (or may not) pay a little more up front, you can be confident that what you are putting on your skin is safe and effective for your needs. That means no more wasting money on useless products and achieving results that speak for themselves. Now that’s the real bargain!

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