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With so many skincare brands on the market promising amazing results and social media making products look so attractive, it can be very difficult to choose the correct products to invest in that will actually make a difference to your skin.
Many have decided to go makeup free during the pandemic and there has been a great shift to focus on good skincare to achieve healthy, beautiful skin. Choosing whether to opt for medical grade skincare vs over the counter products can be hard as at face value ingredients can appear to be the same.
Let’s go through the basics.
What is medical grade skin care?
Medical grade skincare is prescribed under the supervision of a medical professional who will analyse your skin and offer targeted solutions for your concerns. The products are much more potent and are heavily researched and tested so that they have the purest, most effective and stable concentrations of proven active ingredients.
Medical grade skincare products can offer dramatic results but can also have unwanted but expected side effects before your skin adapts. However, under the supervision of a medical professional who can guide the use of products and advise about anticipated reactions, you can have confidence in sticking with your skincare routine to achieve the desired results.
What is over the counter skin care?
Over the counter skin care products are those which can be bought in any drugstore or online without needing a medical consultation. You can read descriptions of the products yourself and decide on which best suits your skin concerns.
Over the counter skin care products have much more gentle formulations. Although they still contain active ingredients, they are in much lower concentrations so it may take longer to see results.
Over the counter skin care products can still be effective, clinically tested and recommended by dermatologists. These are some keywords to look for when purchasing OTC skin care products.
Is medical grade skincare better than over the counter?
The simple answer to whether medical grade skin care is really better is that it depends on what your skincare concerns are and their severity. The key with any good skincare routine is consistency. If your routine is working and you are happy with your skin, then stick with it.
Here are some factors to consider when deciding which is best for you:
- Concentrations of active ingredients. They are much higher in medical grade skincare products which means results can be achieved more quickly. However, depending on the treatment option, you may experience some anticipated but unwanted reactions such as redness, peeling, flaking skin.
- Availability. Some active ingredients which are used to treat certain skin conditions just aren’t available without prescription. These can include prescription retinoids and hydroquinone.
- Your skin concern. For those who have very mild skin concerns, over the counter formulations which are dermatologist recommended can be very effective to maintain healthy skin.
- Potential skin purging. Medical grade skincare products have been formulated to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin – the dermis, which means results can be more dramatic as this is where collagen production is stimulated, but again expect some reactions as your skin adapts.
When choosing your OTC skin care, look for products with proven active ingredients such as Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, Retinol, Salicylic Acid, Niacinamide etc. Check whether they have been tested to show efficacy and if they are dermatologist approved/recommended.
Medical grade skincare can be more personalised and targeted for your specific concerns. In addition, routines combine appropriate products for layering of ingredients so that they remain active.
When should you go for medical grade skincare?
You may be struggling with a skin concern such as acne or hyperpigmentation, and you feel like you have tried every product under the sun, but it’s not getting any better. In that case, visiting a medical professional is probably your best bet.
It’s easy to be swayed by product reviews or before/after photos on social media but beware this is one individual commenting on their personal experience. When it comes to skin care, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. Moreover, be mindful that photos may be adjusted so you might not even see what their skin looks like in reality.
On the flip side, social media has helped reduce the stigma of suffering from skin conditions such as severe acne. With more and more people posting their unedited photos, people are starting to manage their expectations when it comes to skin care products or “good genetics”.
There is a growing awareness that over the counter skin care simply doesn’t work for everyone.
For example, aggressive acne products may be causing even more breakouts and irritation because your skin barrier is damaged. If you are suffering from severe acne which has left scarring, it is advisable to seek help from a medical professional as often the scarring can be more difficult to treat and more damaging to your self-esteem than the acne itself.
Severe wrinkles and years of sun damage can also be very hard to treat with over the counter skin care products which do not penetrate deep enough to be able to see any real effects.
Some products which are the gold standard for treating these conditions can only be prescribed by a medical professional.
So, if you feel you have given drugstore products a try with no results, it may be time to consider booking a consultation with a medical professional offering medical grade skincare. They can appropriately analyse your skin, explain which ingredients will target your specific skin concerns and recommend the best products for you.
They can also warn you about any anticipated side effects so that you remain encouraged to stick with your routine.
Price can often be seen as the limiting factor when considering medical grade skincare. Thankfully, in 2021 there are a range of different medical grade skincare brands with various price points.
The amount of research and development that goes into making these products, along with the formulations and purity of ingredients as well as the quality of packaging to ensure stability of ingredients means medical grade skincare products are generally more expensive.
Over the counter skin care products are easily accessible and tend to be less expensive. They can be just as effective in treating milder skin concerns if you choose the correct active ingredients. However, a medical professional will be able to correctly analyse your skin and customise your medical grade skincare routine to best suit your budget by advising you to use a few specific products targeted at your concerns.
So, no more trial and error by self-diagnosis and because the products are more potent a little can go a long way, saving you money in the long run.
How to get medical grade skincare?
Medical grade skincare is sold under the supervision of a medical professional so it can be purchased from a skin or medical aesthetic clinic or medi-spa after a consultation.
Some products from medical grade skincare brands which don’t need prescribing can be sold online as well. There are also subscription services available which provide prescription strength formulations for treating specific skin concerns after having a consultation with a doctor.
Top Medical Grade Skincare Brands
Research and innovation are at the core of SkinCeuticals. It is founded on the ground-breaking research of well-known skin scientist Dr Sheldon Pinnell. All their formulations are backed by multiple studies. They are famous for their studies of Vitamin C concentrations to create potent and highly effective antioxidant formulations.
Founded by world-renowned dermatologist Dr Zein Obagi, ZO combines their 3-step approach to skincare with powerful technologies and product education to achieve dramatic results for any skin concern.
Experts in Vitamin A, Medik8’s unique and patented formulations are based on years of research to achieve results without compromising on experience. They also value sustainability and their products are all vegan.
Top Drugstore Skincare Brands
Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe cleansers and moisturisers contain essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid to restore the skin's natural protective barrier to treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and dry skin.
This brand has been developed with and is recommended by dermatologists. It offers highly effective and clinically tested products that can be tolerated by the most sensitive skin types and have ranges to target a range of skin conditions with key active ingredients.
Another dermatologist-recommended brand, Eucerin products are based on honest skin science. Their reliable, proven and effective products offer superior skin tolerability to sustain and restore skin’s health.
Developed by dermatologist Dr Howard Murad, their products are created with high performance technologies and formulas that are clinically proven and meet the meticulous standard for safety and efficacy. Their approach to skincare is based on four pillars of skin health: eat your water, awaken your body, be kind to your mind and nourish your skin.