What Is The Difference Between Medical Grade Skincare And Skincare At Retail Stores?

by Nana Tamakloe
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Deciding on a skincare product and plan can be a daunting task for many people. You may want quick and effective results but you also don’t want it to cost a fortune. The cosmetic world provides two options for people; medical grade skincare or over-the-counter skin care.


Medical skincare is that which the doctor recommends and has prescribed for you to use. On the other hand, over-the-counter skin care is any skincare that is bought in retail stores and pharmacies.

Deciding on what action plan to use needs a careful examination of the advantages and drawbacks of either option. You will also need to weigh the cost of each product from both stores. So, the question is, what are the differences between medical grade skincare and over-the-counter skin care?


Differences between medical skin care and over-the-counter skincare?


1.Where they can be purchased
Medical grade skin care products are prescribed by doctors and sold by specialists in medical spas and clinics. The right dosage and product to be used is administered by these specialists at the places where they work. These experts have skin care knowledge about the ingredients contained in each product and the effects of each product. You will only get a medical grade product or treatment in a medical spa or clinic.

On the other hand, over-the-counter skin care can be purchased in retail stores and pharmacies. Such places are easily accessible to users, unlike medical spas and clinics. Here, the products and skincare treatments are sold and administered without a prescription from medical professionals.

In some cases, the sellers of these treatments and products rely on their experience in deciding the dosage and the frequency with which the product is to be given to the users. Furthermore, over-the-counter skin care sellers usually do not have a lot of advice to offer on products or treatments. This is unlikely for medical grade products where the medical aesthetician or doctor can provide necessary information that will help the product or treatment usage.

  1. Quality of ingredients used
    The doctor prescribes medical grade skincare. This usually means it contains the best grade of ingredients. You can be assured that the ingredients used in making the products and skin treatments are sourced from the best places. As such, you expect them to work effectively and produce results within a short period. Medical grade skincare products are only approved after several tests have been carried out on the product. The team of experts look for the best places to get ingredients that will produce good skincare effects that are desirable.

In contrast, over-the-counter skin care cannot always be said to be made from the best grade of materials. You may be lucky to get a good product that will work effectively and produce timely results, but there is no guarantee of this. Instead, over-the-counter skin care products and treatments are said to be usually made from average quality ingredients that produce results after some period of usage.

The effects associated with the high quality of ingredients is that it produces better results and gives you your desired skin. Quality ingredients means quality products which leads to achieved skin goals. If you are looking for the best quality of ingredients for skincare and treatment, then medical grade skincare should be the option you choose.

  1. The concentration of ingredients used
    Another distinct difference between medical grade skincare and over-the-counter skin care is in the concentration of the ingredients used. Ingredients of any product or treatment are usually listed in terms of their concentration. The concentration of ingredients would be listed in order, down the list of ingredients on every product. Medical grade products have concentrations that are higher than those of over-the-counter skin care products. This means that medical grade products and treatments allow the products to work well during treatment.

However, too high a concentration can harm the skin as well. Different people who use medical grade products have frequent complaints of skin reactions caused by the high level of ingredients in the products. Even though over-the-counter products and treatments have lower concentration, it might also give you adverse reactions. Mostly, skin reactions happen because of allergies, harsh products, or skin type.

Medical grade products are prescribed by a doctor or medical aesthetician to solve a particular problem you are facing. This means that you can protect yourself from reactions by discussing the side effects of a product with your doctor. You can ensure that even with higher concentration of products, you would have only mild reactions that your doctor will tell you about.

4.Delivery of the product or treatment to the skin

Over-the-counter skin care products and treatments are designed to work faster than medical-grade skincare. The primary reason people get these products over their medical grade counterparts is because of the cost-to-timely results that they can produce.


Nevertheless, the timely result that they produce comes at a price. Over-the-counter skin care products are only deposited on the surface of the skin. To get excellent and long-lasting results from skin care, the treatments and products should be geared towards the inner layers of the skin. Medical grade skincare may not produce quick results that everyone desires but they offer a lasting solution to skin problems. Over-the-counter products are targeted towards the first and second layer of the skin. The problem with this is that these layers are constantly being shed off by the skin.

In contrast, medical grade skincare is targeted towards the dermis of the skin. This layer is located deep in the skin. To get products and skin treatments to penetrate deep into the skin, use medical grade products.

  1. Generality or uniqueness of the product to a patient

Medical grade skincare products are prescribed by the doctor to a particular patient. As such the doctor prescribes a product or treatment that he/she feels is going to solve the skincare problems of the patient. He does not have the public in mind, and the prescriptions cannot work on everybody’s skin. This is where over-the-counter skincare beats its medical grade counterpart.

Over-the-counter skin care is made to suit any skin type and their different conditions. The manufacturers of these products and the administers of the treatment are thinking about the entire public. That is why a product that works for someone you know will work for you as well. There are no restrictions to who can use over-the-counter products and treatments. Retail-sold products also allow you to decide on what skin solution you think will work for you based on its effectiveness on other people.

However, to get long-lasting solutions to treat a particular skin problem, you are facing; you should opt for a medical grade product or treatment that can handle your needs.

  1. Testing and research
    Medical grade skincare products are made using the best standards, unlike over-the-counter products. Medical grade products are tested and researched rigorously in the laboratories and clinics before use. That means that they have data and research to prove their effectiveness. Over-the-counter products, on the other hand, are not thoroughly researched, and they do not usually have studies that show that they are effective.

To many people, the research and data that supports a particular skincare treatment are inconsequential to the effectiveness of the product. This is wrong as relying on hearsay for the efficacy of a product (like over-the-counter products do) is not the best approach.


You should always check that the ingredients of a product are adequately researched and tested before using it.

  1. Cost of products
    One must go to a medical spa before he/she gets a particular product or service that he requires. To do so, a medical appointment with a doctor needs to be fixed. Also, some certain fees must be paid to cater to the different registrations and processes required.


Furthermore, for the doctor or specialists to correctly prescribe a drug, you must take various tests. All of this contributes to an increased cost of medical grade skincare products and treatments.

Over-the-counter skin care products, on the other hand, have a lower cost. This is because they are easily obtainable in retail stores and pharmacies near you. There is no elaborate process that you have to undergo before obtaining the treatment, that is, your skincare product. There is also no need to see a specialist or take series of tests because patients self-diagnose themselves and prescribe their own treatment.

If you are looking for a cheap product with short-lived results, then over-the-counter products should be your skincare solution. Otherwise, opt for medical grade products and skin treatments to get the best and lasting results.

  1. Accessibility of the product or treatment

Another difference between medical grade and over-the-counter products and services is in their accessibility. Over-the-counter products are made with one goal in mind; to make profit. That is why they are advertised and marketed extensively unlike medical grade products and skin treatments. High level of marketing and advertising increases the accessibility of the products by the consumers.

Over-the-counter products can be found in any pharmacy or retail store of your choice. The manufacturers maintain their goal of making a profit and so make the products available in different stores. Medical grade products and treatments, on the other hand, can only be found and are accessible in medical spas and clinics. The goal is not to make a product that can be used by everyone in public, so they are only available in select places. The effect this has on most consumers is that the products that they frequently see are usually the ones that they are drawn to purchase and use.

  1. Effectiveness of the product or skin treatment
    An almost noticeable difference between the medical grade and over-the-counter product and services is their effectiveness. You will have to be very patient with medical grade products as they rarely produce the skin result that you desire on time. The advantage these products have is that when they eventually produce results, they last long and improve the skin conditions of the user. They have been developed and tested by experts, and so you will need to give it time to do its work.

In contrast, over-the-counter products are highly effective in the short run. They can produce the result you desire, but cannot produce a long-lasting effect. Within a short time of using them, you will begin to see changes. The only snag is that these changes are only to the epidermis of the skin. If you are looking for a quick solution that you can use often, then over-the-counter skin care products are what you should use.

10.Frequency of usage

Medical grade skincare products and skin treatments are made to suit the individual needs of the person. Hence, not everybody can use the same product or treatment. Doing so can even cause adverse effects for the user since the product or treatment may not match their skin type. Also, since they are personal products and treatments, they are not required to be used often.

The specialist’s prescription dictates how frequently they would be used. To get the desired results, one must follow the frequency that is stated. It is also evident that the treatments and effects do not require frequent dosage to get the results that you desire. This is because the products have been designed to address the personal skincare issue of its user.

In contrast, over-the-counter products and treatments need to be used frequently to get desirable results. Such products are made to suit a wide range of skin types, so it takes time before the particular skin problem that is faced by the user is treated. Users of over-the-counter products and treatments have to be committed to continuous usage before they can get the effect they want.

  1. Level of preservatives
    Medical grade products are prescribed by specialists to treat a condition quickly, even though it may take a longer period before the changes are noticeable. Users of the products need to apply the skincare treatments for a couple of weeks. Since medical grade products and treatments would not be used for an extended period, they contain a low level of preservatives in them. This low quantity of preservatives is put in them to last for the period they will be used for.

On the other hand, over-the-counter products have a high level of preservatives contained in them. This is to cater for the long shelf life that is desirable for the products. Since the product or skin treatment may require frequent usage, it is expected that they should also last longer. This is why most manufacturers of over-the-counter products and treatments put a high level of preservatives in them.

If you are looking for a product that will have a long shelf life, then over-the-counter skincare products and treatments should be your solution.

12.Scientific backup

Medical grade skincare products have a robust scientific backup to every skin problem they claim to be able to solve. There is a lot of data that show that every claim of the products and treatments are valid. As long as instructions regarding the right process and dosage are followed, the expected result will be obtained. Also, since the product itself is a prescription from a specialist, the authenticity of your medical aesthetician should give you some confidence in buying the product or service.

This is not the case with over-the-counter products and skin treatments. They usually have little or no scientific backup for their ingredients, concentration, or their claims. This is somewhat like a gamble, and you never know if the product will work or not. However, if you have information on the effectiveness of the product, the scientific backup should not be much of a problem.

You will need to be careful and beware of reactions and conditions that can arise when using over-the-counter products and skin treatments.

  1. Diagnosis of the skin problem
    Another notable difference between medical grade skincare treatments and products, and over-the-counter products and treatments are in their diagnosis. Medical grade skincare requires that the patient visits a medical spa. Series of tests are conducted by the specialists to determine the cause of the skin condition or illness.

This is not the case in over-the-counter products and skin treatments. The patient only follows the product or treatment that is given to him by the medical professional. In a nutshell, the diagnosis of the problem is made by the specialist, and your job is to follow the prescription given.

For over-the-counter skin treatments and products, the diagnosis is made by the patient himself/herself. He/she examines and predicts the problem. They come up with a prescription they think will work to treat the skin condition or maintain the skin for their customers. This approach is not without fault.

Self-diagnosis is very risky, and you should avoid these practices. They can cause great harm and even worsen your skin. It is advisable that you allow a medical aesthetician or any other specialist to diagnose and prescribe a product or treatment for you.

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