Is "medical grade skin care" better than "over the counter skin care"?

Today I like to dive into the truth about "medical grade skin care" (often also called "cosmeceutical skin care"). You might have heard about "medical grade skin care" and just the term by itself sounds like this just has got to be good. But is it really?

Is "medical grade skin care" better than "over the counter skin care"?

Google "What is medical grade skin care" and you will find a ton of articles that claim that "medical grade skin care" is better than over the counter skin care, because it uses a higher percentage of ingredients than over the counter skincare, that the quality would be better and that "medical grade skin care" would be subject to higher clinical research or that dermatologists are involved in creating the skin care.

Yes, almost every single article that I found on google will tell you that "medical grade skin care" is the best thing in the world. But please also notice, by whom these articles are written! Almost all results for my google search are written by online stores that sell -you guessed it- "medical grade skin care" (such as dermstore, theraderm, premierlook...)

Premierlook claims for example: "Over the counter products found at department stores and drugstores are only allowed to penetrate the surface of the skin and can’t address deeper skin concerns. Medical-grade products are designed with advanced delivery methods and technologies that have the capability to penetrate deep down to the deepest level of the skin, correcting your specific skin concern directly at the source. With over the counter products, since they only sit on the surface of the skin, they can not actually change the skin or heal any skin conditions that you may have."

Premierlook also claims that: "Medical-grade products are subjected to rigorous and extensive testing and clinical studies. What that means is that these products have years of research and data proving that they work, before they are even made available for you to purchase. Over the counter products do not have to have studies conducted or even years of research backing the formulation."

What does "medical grade skin care" mean?

The term "medical grade skin care" or  "cosmeceutical skin care" is simply a clever chosen term by marketers that may be misleading to the consumer. One might conclude that cosmeceuticals are required to undergo the same testing for efficacy and quality control as required for medication.

Or like Zwivel states: 
"Defining “medical-grade” skin care is an arduous task. Ask a room full of dermatologists, skin care developers and aestheticians, and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers."

However, the FDA
"does not recognize any such category as "cosmeceuticals". 
A product can be a drug, a cosmetic, or a combination of both, but the term "cosmeceutical" has no meaning under the law".

BTW the FDA sends regularly warning letters out to companies that use drug claims on their skin care (it has happened for example to Strivectin, Tata Harper, Peter Thomas Roth or Loreal- find the complete list here)

So, there you go: either skin care is a drug (that needs approval from the FDA and a prescription to purchase- such as Retin-A) or cosmetic (that does not need any approval from the FDA).

There is no third magic category for "medical grade skin care".

The claim of the site Premierlook that "Over the counter products found at department stores and drugstores are only allowed to penetrate the surface of the skin and can’t address deeper skin concerns." is therefore also true for "medical grade skin care" because by law it falls under the category cosmetic.

It is also not true that "medical grade skin care" are subject to rigorous and extensive testing". Nope. All not true. Again: either it is a drug or cosmetic! 

"Medical grade skin care" is a made up term by skin care companies to sell you their (often) overpriced products! 

To make their "medical grade skin care" appear even more exclusive, they will often only sell it in spas or dermatologist offices. But this does not mean that you need a prescription for these products- the marketer has just simply chosen to go that route. Anyway: we are able to buy "medical grade skin care" online - completely without a prescription.

Listen: I am not saying that medical grade skin care is bad. In fact: some of the products might be really good! Often times though, you can find a much cheaper drugstore dupe that will give you the same benefits.

Here is an example: you can get the "medical grade" Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum for $166 or you get the same lovely ingredients from Timeless on Amazon for $16.45 a pop.

I am also not saying all drugstore skin care is good! There are bad and good options in either category! It is all about the ingredients after all.

And btw many drugstore brands also use dermatologists to create their skin care. So you can´t say that "medical grade skin care" is better because it is formulated by a dermatologist either. Some drugstore skin care brands do clinical research, some don´t. But there is certainly no regulation that "medical grade skin care" is subject to clinical tests either! These are all false claims.

Generally speaking, it is to the financial benefit of the cosmeceutical manufacturer that their products are not regulated by the FDA as drugs, because the FDA review process for drugs can be very costly and may not yield a legally marketable product if the FDA denies approval of the product. However, as mentioned above, the reputation of the product may be falsely enhanced if the consumer incorrectly believes that a "cosmeceutical" is held to the same FDA standards as a drug. Because it is not.

I just want to open up your eyes about the term "medical grade skin care" as there is BY LAW no such thing.

This is just a marketing phrase. It is irrelevant whether a product is sold by a physician, in a physician’s office or online. The concentration of ingredients in a skin care line is also irrelevant. In the United States, by law, all skin care products are classified as either cosmetics or drugs.

There you have it!

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