What’s the Deal with Medical-Grade Skin Care? Is It Really Better?

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There is an ongoing conversation brewing over the efficacy of medical-grade skin care versus over-the-counter options. The lack of a definitive regulatory standard adds complexity to the discussion—how do you even know what is considered medical grade and what is not? Without a governing body to authenticate products as “medical grade,” determining effectiveness becomes challenging. However, our experts tell us they are advocates for medical-grade skin care, sharing more than a few compelling reasons why they recommend bypassing The Ordinary and Drunk Elephants of the world and going the medical-grade route.

Featured Experts

  • Janine Hopkins, MD is a dermatologist based in  Southlake, TX and Monroe, LA 
  • Dr. Matthew Elias is a dermatologist based in Fort Lauderdale, FL 
  • Tracy Desmarteaux is a medical aesthetican based in Quebec

What Is Medical-Grade Skin Care?

At the heart of medical-grade skin care lies a commitment to excellence, says medical aesthetician Tracy Desmarteaux. “Medical-grade skin care, also known as cosmeceuticals, represents a pinnacle in skin-care formulation. These products are distinguished by their superior quality ingredients, they are meticulously formulated and rigorously tested.”

Desmarteaux stresses the importance of understanding the nuances of medical-grade formulations. “Consistency is key,” she asserts. “Stick to your routine to see results.” Additionally, she recommends scheduling regular appointments with a skin-care expert to optimize the benefits of these potent formulas. “Skin cells turn over every 28 to 48 days,” she explains, “So monthly treatments will keep your skin fresh and rejuvenated.”

Is Medical Grade Better Than Mainstream?

Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew Elias agrees on the superiority of medical-grade skin care. “While over-the-counter products may contain active ingredients, they often lack the stabilization and formulation necessary to address specific skin concerns effectively.” In contrast, he says medical-grade skin care boasts higher concentrations of active ingredients, meticulously calibrated to deliver optimal results.

Dr. Elias notes the transformative potential of medical-grade formulas in addressing a myriad of skin concerns. “From acne to aging, hyperpigmentation to rosacea,” he affirms, “medical-grade skin care offers targeted solutions backed by clinical evidence.” He also underscores the role of dermatologists in guiding patients towards the most efficacious routines. “Typically, there is evidence for medical-grade skin care versus over-the-counter skin care, however the evidence may be of lower quality than what is classically found in a true pharmaceutical-grade skin care compound that undergoes a double blind randomized clinical trial for the highest level of evidence. It is always best to discuss your skin care with your board-certified dermatologist, whether you are buying it at their office, in a retail store or online.”

“The medical-grade products that I recommend and offer to my patients are backed by scientific research,” adds Southlake, TX and Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD. “Clinical studies and research studies support the efficacy of these formulations. These studies demonstrate the benefits of using medical-grade products compared to OTC options in treating various skin conditions. The products I use and recommend have been proven to work at a cellular level.”

Who Is Medical Grade Skin Care For?

Dr. Hopkins says she champions the versatility of these products and recommends them to her patients. “Medical-grade skin care is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” she emphasizes. “It offers a spectrum of formulations designed to address specific conditions with precision and efficacy.” With brands like Skinceuticals, SkinBetter Science, Alastin, Jan Marini and Revision and her own Hopkins Dermatology RX collection, patients gain access to tailored solutions for their unique skin care needs. 

“In my practice,” she shares, “products tailored towards treating melasma, acne, aging and sun damage yield remarkable results.” Like our other experts, she also stresses the importance of ongoing consultation with your doctor to optimize the benefits and ensure compatibility with your skin types.

How to Identify Genuine Medical Grade 

“To identify genuine medical-grade skin care, look for brands that are sold through medical professionals, specifically your dermatologist,” advises Dr. Hopkins. “Check the ingredient list for active ingredients in higher concentrations than typical OTC products. Ingredients such as antioxidants—polyphenol and resveratrol are my favorites— peptides and vitamins C, E, and niacinamide, as well as retinoids. They are also backed by scientific research or clinical studies.”

For a comprehensive guide on the very best medical-grade skin-care products as recommended by skin-care experts, click here.

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