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How Medical Grade Skincare Products Differ from Those Purchased Over-the-Counter

How Medical Grade Skincare Products Differ from Those Purchased Over-the-Counter

If you’ve tried putting together your own optimal at-home skincare routine, you know how confusing and long that journey can be. Even though we are privileged to have so many options available for our skincare regime, how do you know what’s good?

Thanks to the internet, the skincare industry and the world of cosmetic education are bigger than ever and continue to grow. However, because of the popularity of skincare influencer content, it can be hard to know who to trust for safe and effective product recommendations. 

What is medical-grade skincare?

Here at Orange Coast Dermatology, we recommend opting for medical grade skincare when building your routine. In reference to skincare, “medical grade” denotes products that are sold through your dermatologist’s office, often exclusively, instead of just over-the-counter. 

What makes a skincare line medical grade is not an FDA-regulated term, but it generally means that those products have been formulated or approved by board-certified dermatologists, ensuring that they are safe, effective, well-formulated, and comprehensively lab-tested. 

Our providers recommend looking for medical-grade skincare as an easy way to find quality products among a sea of over-the-counter companies that can make any marketing claim they want without requiring evidence-based, scientifically backed ingredients and formulation.

Over-the-counter products can be a bit of a gamble regarding safety, potential for irritation, and guarantee of results. There are many OTC products that we and our patients love, but it’s hard to know what you’re really getting when shopping for cosmetics blindly. 

Although there is plenty of well-performing over-the-counter skincare, the market is so oversaturated with products and promotions that it can be somewhat risky to try to figure out what to include in your routine without the guidance of a dermatologist. 

Our favorite medical-grade products

Whether you’re near any of our three SoCal locations in Rancho Santa Margarita, Orange, or Mission Viejo, you can access our expert guidance with our telehealth options and shop for medical-grade products at our online store

Though medical-grade skincare stands out by being dermatologist-approved, those products aren’t considered topical medications, so you don’t need a prescription to purchase them. Here are a few of our favorite pro skincare lines from which our patients have seen incredible results:

ALASTIN Skincare 

Established in 2015, ALASTIN Skincare is a cutting-edge, medical-grade skincare brand that we love because of its focus on rigorous clinical research and testing. They are well-known for their TriHex Technology® peptide blend and pre- and post-procedure supportive products.

Skin Better Science 

Although we love the entire Skin Better Science line, they are most famous for their revolutionary AlphaRet® Overnight Cream. This cream combines glycolic acid with retinoids to penetrate deep into the skin, producing similarly impressive results to prescription Tretinoin with much less irritation.


Originating in Barcelona, ISDIN has been revolutionizing the European skincare landscape since 1975. They are particularly well-known for their sunscreens, which use their patented DNA Repairsomes® technology to reverse aging sun damage while the SPF prevents it.


If you’re in the market for a well-tolerated and proven effective SPF but need a more approachable price point than something like ISDIN, EltaMD is the top sunscreen brand recommended by dermatologists. Our patients with sensitive skin love it. 

OC Derm Line 

Here at Orange Coast Dermatology, we also formulate our own products, so we can best tailor to our patients’ needs. Available products include our Benzoyl Peroxide washes for acne (at 5% and 10%), Gly/Sal 2-2 exfoliating pads, Ultra Lite Facial Cream and Fortified Moisturizer.

The key to building the best skincare routine for you without wasting time, energy, and money is to consult a dermatologist for their recommendations, whether you opt for medical grade or over-the-counter skincare. We’d love to help you, so contact us to get expert advice for your routine!

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