Many people mistakenly assume that all skincare products are alike in terms of quality and results. Whether you buy a budget-friendly over-the-counter (OTC) option from your local drug store or invest in a higher-quality medical-grade alternative, it’s important to understand the difference between these products and how they impact your skin health so you can make an informed decision.

What is Medical-Grade Skincare?

Medical-grade skincare products are developed by scientists, dermatologists, and other medical professionals. They utilize high-quality ingredients with higher concentrations to ensure consistency in delivery and results. OTC options do not usually have the same concentration of active ingredients as they are not formulated by professionals who can ensure the ingredients are working as needed without causing irritation or damage. Additionally, medical-grade skincare products are formulated to address specific skincare needs and skin conditions like melasma, rosacea, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. You can rely on medical-grade skincare products to deliver on their promises because they’ve been developed by knowledgeable professionals who know skin as well as the safety and efficacy of the active ingredients of skincare products.

The Science Behind Medical Grade Skincare

In order to be deemed medical-grade, skincare products need to be research-supported and undergo clinical testing. Medical-grade skincare products often receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval or clearance for the treatment or management of certain skin conditions. The formulations use only the highest quality ingredients in higher concentrations compared with OTC option. Innovative skincare technologies ensure the ingredients are absorbed into the skin and deliver the expected results with minimal irritation or the triggering of flare-ups in skin health concerns.

OTC Skincare: An Overview

OTC skincare products often contain many of the same ingredients found in medical-grade products. However, the concentration of these ingredients is much lower. Even the strongest OTC products use concentrations of ingredients that are at the lowest possible level to ensure they can safely be used for just about anyone. This means those who need products to manage moderate to severe skin concerns will not usually achieve their desired results using OTC products. Additionally, the application mediums of OTC products are often not as effective compared with medical-grade products. That means the active skincare ingredients may not be absorbed as well or provide as much benefit as medical-grade options. OTC products frequently contain dyes, chemicals, fragrances, and other synthetic ingredients that perform no function as part of the skincare process, but they can irritate skin. However, OTC options are often more easily accessible to the general public.

Comparing Efficacy and Results

Compared with OTC skincare, medical-grade products offer a more consistent end result. They are formulated with specific skin types, conditions, and needs in mind, so they are frequently more effective than OTC products, which are usually formulated with lower concentrations of active ingredients to be useful for a wider range of skin types and skin health concerns. OTC products are often more affordable and more easily accessible. However, online retailers like Derm Skincare have made medical-grade products accessible to more people. In short, medical-grade skincare products offer more consistent and dramatic results that are safely formulated for their specific skin type and skincare needs. OTC products are designed to meet the needs of a wider range of people, so they lack the level of customization to achieve results for many skin health concerns.

Featured Medical Grade Brands

Below, we go through some of our most recommended medical-grade skincare brands and discuss what sets them apart.

ALASTIN Skincare

ALASTIN Skincare is well-known for its innovations in technology and skincare ingredients. The goal of ALASTIN Skincare is to deliver products that transform the skin health industry. One of the most important contributions they’ve made to the industry is the cutting-edge TriHex Technology. As the “tri” in TriHex implies, this technology delivers a three-fold skin health benefit by removing damaged collagen and elastin, stimulating the production of healthy collagen and elastin, and replenishing the skin’s general appearance.

MD Skin Essentials

Developed by dermatologists to meet some of the most common patient needs while exceeding expectations, MD Skin Essentials offers a unique range of products that have been painstakingly curated to achieve the desired results. Specifically, they have worked to fill gaps in the skincare market that they’ve noticed through their work with patients who have challenges with chronic skin conditions or with achieving their desired appearance. In short, they developed the skincare products they always wanted for their patients.

Revision Skincare

The Revision Skincare team is dedicated to creating skincare products to achieve three goals:

  • Lead the industry in creating unique, high-quality skincare products.
  • Change the standard in skincare for the better.
  • Provide clients with beautiful, long-lasting skincare results.

Winner of numerous awards, Revision Skincare was the first to utilize anti-aging peptides, use Tetrahexyldecly (THD) Ascorbate as an alternative to l-ascorbic acid, and develop an all-mineral tinted sunscreen. They were also the first to develop skincare products specifically designed for the sensitive skin on the neck and chest. All Revision Skincare products use potent, stabilized ingredients to ensure skincare efficacy and consistent results.

Skinbetter Science

Founded in 2016, skinbetter Science was developed by skincare experts, entrepreneurs, chemists, and dermatologic researchers with the goal of transforming the current skincare paradigm. They set out to develop skincare products that could address skin conditions and improve skin’s appearance as well or better than more invasive dermatologic treatments performed in clinics. From hyperpigmentation and skin sensitivity to fine lines and wrinkles, skinbetter Science found innovative ingredient formulations and advanced delivery technologies for traditional ingredients like retinol and antioxidants.

ZO Skin Health

ZO Skin Health is a high-efficiency line of skincare products with scientifically supported ingredients and formulas approved by dermatologists developed to treat chronic skin conditions and skin health issues. The ZO Skin Health line of products centers around their three-step skincare approach that includes:

  • The getting skin ready protocol – to cleanse, exfoliate, and tone skin, preparing it to fully absorb other products and ingredients and maximize the results.
  • The prevent and correct protocol – treats specific skin health concerns and chronic conditions like acne and psoriasis.
  • The protect protocol – sunscreen to prevent skin damage before it begins.

Making the Right Choice for Your Skin

Whether you decide to use OTC or medical-grade skincare products, talk to your dermatologist to get their opinion and feedback. They know your skin’s needs and understand all the ingredients and potential drawbacks or benefits of any skincare product. Some of the reasons dermatologists recommend medical-grade skincare products include:

  • Scientifically developed – through years of research conducted by scientists and medical professionals, new skincare technologies and ingredients are tested to deliver a range of skin health benefits consistently.
  • Clinically tested – medical-grade products have been meticulously tested to ensure they deliver the promised results.
  • High-quality ingredients – the ingredient list on the back of medical-grade products includes high-quality ingredients that have been meticulously tested and proven effective.
  • Formulated for specific skincare needs – high-quality ingredients and cutting-edge skin health technologies are maximized to meet the needs of specific skin types and skin conditions.

Create the Best Skincare Routine for You

Always consult with a dermatologist to create a skincare routine that utilizes the best products for your unique needs. Dermatologists can guide you through your options, answer your questions, and point you in the right direction.

Explore Derm Skincare to Elevate Your Skin’s Health & Beauty

Elevate your skincare routine with our top medical-grade products. Explore our selection on Derm Skincare to find the perfect match for your skin's unique needs. And, remember to check our blog regularly to get more recommendations from our knowledgeable dermatologists about skin health, high-quality products, and more.