10 drugstore products doctors don't recommend

what not to buy at the drugstoreStrolling the aisle of your local drugstore, it's hard not to be lured in by promises of "thick, shiny hair," "a dewy, youthful face," "firm skin" and "strong bones." But shoppers shouldn't buy into the hype. Clever words and space on a shelf are no guarantee that these products are worth the money, let alone safe.

We spoke with physicians, dermatologists, surgeons and dentists and here are the 10 drugstore purchases that they say they would never buy:

Over-the-counter weight loss medicine
: Go for a run instead

Many of the over-the counter weight loss pills sold in drugstores are not subject to the same rigorous evaluation process that prescription drugs undergo. "There is little evidence that any individual product is both safe and effective. If such diet aids safely produced the weight loss often claimed, there would likely be more evidence and recognition of that fact both in the medical community and in the press," says Dr. Fred Ralston, president of the American College of Physicians.

"It is clear that extra weight increases the chance of disease and even death, but these pills are not the best way to achieve better health. A better diet and regular exercise have health benefits of their own and are more likely to help with weight loss. When someone thinks of buying diet pills, they do understand the need to slim down, but use of these pills distracts from safer and more effective ways of achieving weight loss," he says.

Wrinkle creams: Save the cash and moisturize

wrinkle cream, anti-aging creams, drugstore itemsAnti-aging creams often make big promises and carry big price tags as a result, but some doctors say you can spend a lot less and get similar results. "Any moisturizer for the skin will make wrinkles less obvious," says Dr. Laila Almeida, a board certified dermatologist based in Morris, N.J. "The data showing improvement in wrinkles is soft. I am not convinced that wrinkle creams are any better than moisturizers. Many come in as beauty aids and they don't have to show the same criteria as if it's a drug. If you want to combat wrinkles, avoid sun exposure and smoking and moisturize your skin with any kind of moisturizer. The only cream that helps with wrinkles is the prescription Tretinoin."

"The most ridiculous drugstore items are facial creams that make promises like 'incredible lift,' 'tightening' or 'lifting.' At most, these cosmetic products can only improve the skin, since that is the only level being reached. What causes laxity is not the skin but the tissue underneath, which is what needs to be reached to improve wrinkles, sagging and loss of firmness, " agrees Dr. Payman Simoni, a board certified plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Calif. These products, which cost a pretty penny, will, unfortunately, not give you the same benefits you could receive from surgical procedures or injectables. Once the aging process begins, no lotion is going to stop it. You can, however, remember to be preventative by wearing sunscreen, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and incorporating antioxidants into your diet."

Children's cold medicine: More trouble than it's worth

children's cold medicine, cold medicine, what not to buy at the drugstoreFor kids, cough syrups and decongestants can cause more harm than good. "Cough syrup and decongestants have side effects that outweigh the benefits. Another useless product is saline nasal sprays. Not only do they irritate the mucus membranes -- kids hate them. Parents need to be patient. When kids have discomfort, you can use Tylenol, but short of that, you need patience. There is no magic bullet, " says Dr. Michel Cohen, a board certified Manhattan pediatrician and author of The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Childcare for the Modern Parent

StriVectin: Not Exactly Botox in a Bottle

"A few years back, the product took off because its ad campaign touted, 'Better than Botox?' That is like the difference between buying Tylenol and going to your doctor for Vicodin. The FDA limits potency and does not allow companies to sell medical grade products over the counter," says Dr. Anthony Youn, a board certified plastic surgeon based in Michigan. "Now they are saying they're good for stretch marks and dark circles under the eyes. I have not seen medical evidence of this. Stretch marks can be minimized but not eliminated. As for dark eye circles, they are caused by multiple factors, so there is no one treatment that fits all."

Vitamins and dietary supplements: Get your fill from food instead

vitamins, dietary supplements "People assume that taking extra Vitamin C will prevent colds or lower their risk of cancer or any other disease. Vitamin supplements have been well studied and it's been concluded that not only are they not good for you but can be harmful if taken in large doses, like Vitamin E. If you look at the consensus papers, they very consistently show that there is no benefit to taking these, but people want to believe otherwise," Dr. Richard A. Baxter, a board certified plastic surgeon in Washington and medical director of Healthy Aging Magazine.

"The only alternative is a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. If you believe you need to take antioxidants for your health, you need to get polyphenols from things like blueberries and red wine. You cannot eat a poor diet and make it up with vitamins. The only exception to the rule seems to be Vitamin D."

"Under federal law, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the manufacturer is not required to demonstrate that its product is pure, safe and effective. So consumers beware," says Dr. Gary Wadler, board certified internist practicing on Long Island and an expert on drug use in sports. "Plus, many have interactions with medications that consumers are taking. Because they have interactions, both patients and doctors need to be aware of it. And in my area of sports, athletes are testing positive, because they are taking contaminated dietary supplements."

Cellulite creams: Like slapping a placebo on your thighs

"They're selling hope in a bottle. Cellulite is caused because collagen fibers deep in the dermis are irregular, causing the puckering that we see. There is nothing topical or injectable that can eradicate it. If something worked, everyone in America would know about it. Botox works; everyone knows about it. No cellulite product has been developed yet," says Dr. Stephen B. Baker, a board certified plastic surgeon practicing in Washington, D.C. "So all these cellulite creams that you see in stores are considered beauty aids and are over-marketed. If you spend the money, you want to think you're spending your money well. But it's more likely a placebo effect."

Whitening toothpaste
: Brush carefully

toothpaste, whitening toothpaste, drugstore items not to buy"The chemical in tooth-whitening systems is carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide and this is not in these toothpastes. They contain an abrasive, so they may help some people with stain removal, but since they don't change the reflectivity of the teeth, they are not whitening them or making them brighter. They can actually make teeth less bright and wear the enamel down. I would be careful when using them. I would check with my dentist," advises Dr. Stuart Isler, cosmetic dentist based in New Jersey and Manhattan.

Hair stimulators
: You will not get lovely locks from these flops

"Shampoos, conditioners, vitamins, and serums that claim to stimulate hair re-growth are purely cosmetic products and will NOT re-grow hair. Rogaine is the only FDA-approved topical treatment for hair loss," Dr. Robert Leonard, founder and chief Surgeon at Leonard Hair Transplant Associates and past president for the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery

Proactiv: Don't pay a premium for a face wash

"Despite what the company claims, the active ingredients contained in this line of products are no different from those found in many of the washes and creams you can buy at your local drugstore. So consumers should think twice before paying a lot more for something that is really no better then far less expensive products," says Dr. Harvey Weinberg, a board certified dermatologist based in Morris, N.J.

"In my opinion, over-the-counter topical medications can be helpful on minor acne only. Even prescription topical medications aren't highly effective on more than mild acne. People who have visible and, therefore, potentially scarring acne require care by physicians who, in addition to topical medications, prescribe various oral medications -- usually antibiotics -- or in severe unresponsive case, isotretinoin (Accutane), a potent potentially curative drug. They can also do in-office minor surgical procedures, like injecting cortisone into them."


"The worst things people can buy from a drugstore are lollipops or sugar-containing breath mints. They bathe the teeth in sugar, causing rapid decay," says Dr. Bill Dorfman, a celebrity cosmetic dentist working in Beverly Hills, California.

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