top of page

Medical Grade Skincare

“Medical grade” in the skincare world is another unregulated claim that has no specific meaning. Read more...



medical grade skincare

Photo: Wix

Disclaimer: This page contains an affiliate link to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through this link.

What is Medical Grade Skincare?

“Medical grade” in the skincare world is another unregulated claim that has no specific meaning. In general, it tends to refer to products that have limited access and are not readily available at routine beauty stores such as Sephora or Ulta. They are often found at doctor's offices, medspas, or online at various sites. There are products labeled as “medical grade” for just about every skin-related concern. These products tend to be pricier. The claims of these products focus on potential studies and the quality of ingredients used, however, there is no uniform definition of this claim across brands.

What are the benefits of using medical-grade skincare and who might most benefit from its use?

This is difficult to answer as there may be a place for these products in a skincare routine under specific circumstances. The average person with a routine skincare regimen without specific skin complaints may not need to use medical-grade skincare. That being said, there are some skincare challenges such as hyperpigmentation from a number of sources- hormones, sun damage, inflammation, etc - that may benefit from potentially better absorption and higher-quality ingredients. The options available for addressing pigmentation challenges are challenging to navigate. By prescription, hydroquinone and some hydroquinone combination products with tretinoin and other ingredients are available. These can address the immediate need to fade pigmentation but hydroquinone-containing products in particular cannot be used long-term. This is where other ingredients such as vitamin C, glycolic acid, ferulic acid, kojic acid, tranexamic acid, etc, may have significant benefits. However, the availability of some of these ingredients in commonly available brands or products may be limited. This is where medical-grade skin care may actually be of some benefit to addressing these day-to-day challenges more effectively.

What are the active ingredients in medical-grade skincare products in general?

Many worthy topical vitamin C-containing serums will often be combined with ferulic acid and vitamin E. This is because the combination can actually increase the effectiveness of vitamin C eightfold. Products with vitamin C are generally in a dark bottle - if vitamin C is exposed to light it can be deactivated in the bottle. This makes it useless by the time it gets to your skin.

AHA or alpha hydroxy acids in medical-grade skincare have the potential for increased potency based on absorption and may provide added benefits for exfoliation.

Resveratrol is a unique botanical antioxidant in that it has been shown to both directly search out damaging free radicals and also upregulate our cells to make more naturally occurring antioxidants. Interestingly also is that resveratrol is considered a phytoestrogen- it can provide the skin benefits of estrogen for anti-aging without the risks of estrogen.

What are the best medical-grade skincare brands you can recommend?

The medical-grade skincare brand I tend to favor is Skinceuticals. Their product line offers clear and distinct benefits for specific challenges our patients face. It is a well-informed brand in that each product offers a unique advantage over other brands over the counter or prescription.

Does using medical grade really make a difference to the skin?

The benefit of medical-grade skincare is specific to the challenges the patient wishes to address. This is where the volume of products available makes it challenging to say if a brand as a whole is reasonable to use or just specific products within the line. For example, it is difficult for me to understand the benefit of a medical-grade cleanser over a regular facial cleanser. However, a medical-grade cleanser with AHA for someone who cannot seem to tolerate retinols or other AHA products as leave-on products may actually benefit this niche of patients seeking some benefits of AHA without leaving them on the skin. Most people, again, will not fall into this category.

In terms of timing of onset of benefits, this may vary in terms of better absorption of ingredients to potentially lead to a faster onset of action. However, this is more likely to be seen with products that have specific targets such as hyperpigmentation or hydration.

Where can I get medical-grade products?

Oftentimes, medical-grade products are found at doctors' offices, medspas, and specific online sites. They do not tend to be at drugstores or routine beauty stores and tend to have a higher price point. They do not need to be prescribed by a doctor, however, it may be helpful to discuss the role a product may play in your skincare routine to achieve the results you are seeking. Considering the price point, it would be disappointing to spend a lot of money on a product that may have no added benefit to your overall skincare goals.

Are there any drawbacks to using medical-grade skincare?

In general, it makes sense to start with routine skincare products and consider medical-grade products to target specific concerns based on the advice of your skincare professional. The potency may be too high for some skin types leading to tolerance issues in addition to challenges navigating the wide range of available options.

Are there any tips for when using medical grade to protect skin and avoid irritation/overdoing it?

The best way to protect your skin from excess irritation from products is to start with every other day or every third-day use and work your way up to every night as tolerated. In terms of the amount of product to use, consider a pea size amount of product that will adequately cover an area the size of the palm of your hand once evenly spread across. The dip, dot, and smear methods of applying products can help with even distribution.

medical grade skincare


Get in the know!

Join our email list and get access to specials deals exclusive to our subscribers.

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page