5 Key Differences Between Medical Grade and Over-The-Counter Products

What are Medical Grade Products and why do they matter?

If you’ve ever bought products from a grocery store, pharmacy, Sephora/Ulta, or department store (who hasn’t?), you may be wondering why those products just aren’t making it happen when it comes to seeing the changes you want to in your skin. Have you ever wondered why your medical spa doesn’t sell any of the same brands as any of those stores listed above? 

The reason: because there’s a class of products called medical grade skin care products. 

What are they?

Let us tell you…

Medical grade skincare products are the purest form of the most quality ingredients at the right strength and combinations backed by clinical research studies.

Sounds good right? It’s because it is.

We know it’s not easy to navigate the skin care world on your own, which is why we exist.

It takes patience, time, energy, and money. All things that most people aren’t interested in wasting. So, let’s get it right the first time, shall we? It’s why having a trusted aesthetician on your self-care squad is so important.

At Facial Aesthetics, we can’t stress the use of medical-grade skin care products enough. Without being pushy, we’ll encourage their trial and the switch from your over-the-counter product lines. And NOT ever because of money. Go buy it wherever you want, just let us introduce you to the best products out there, that’s really all we want to do.

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Let’s jump in and tell you the 5 key differences between medical grade vs. over-the-counter skin care products:


Medical grade products are backed by clinical research studies and safety that is regulated by the FDA. When they make claims about their benefits, they mean them. Did you know that over-the-counter skin care products are not required to have clinical studies or research to make a claim about how the product will work on your skin? Maybe you already knew that…but maybe you didn’t.

Some mainstream brands may tout their Vitamin C or retinol as an incredible skin-transforming product, but even if there are trace amounts of active ingredients, it’s usually likely that they’re paired with synthetic additives or fragrances, which are false claims medical-grade brands don’t stand behind. Over-the-counter products cannot state that they treat a condition unless they have clinical studies and research, which is a truth for all medical grade product brands. 


Medical grade products contain better quality ingredients. They are required to contain the purest form of their medical ingredients – ingredients that are 99% pure. Products that are purchased at Sephora, grocery stores, or online are not held to the same standards. Always buy from an authorized licensed skin care professional or from the brand directly so you can ensure you’re getting the medical grade products that aren’t expired.


When we talk about quality, it’s also important to talk about potency. Medical-grade products are made with higher concentrations of active ingredients. This helps the product be a more quality product. The active ingredient in an over-the-counter product may not be enough to have an effect, or it may take much longer to get a result. Usually, because of the potency of the ingredients in medical-grade products, you will see visible results in a much shorter time frame vs. the use of an over-the-counter product.


Our skin is made of layers. Medical grade skin care products are formulated to be delivered deeper into the dermis than many over-the-counter brands. Over-the-counter brands may benefit the outermost layer of your skin, but chances are good that’s as far as it’ll get. We often talk about “boosting collagen”. Believe it or not, it’s not just something we say because it sounds nice.

The reason most medical grade brands can effectively make this claim is that they penetrate through the outermost layers of the skin, into the dermis where the collagen-producing cells live – in other words, where the “magic” happens. If you’re looking for real change from a product, medical-grade products are an excellent choice because they can deliver in this way…deep into the dermis.


Sure, go get advice from a friend, or a beauty store employee, but unless they’re a certified aesthetician, a medical aesthetician, or a dermatologist, we don’t advise you to follow their advice. What may work for your friend may not work for you. What someone “thinks” your skin will love, it may hate. One of the beautiful things about medical grade skin care products, especially at medical spas that carry different medical grade brands because everyone has different needs, is the assessment.

Our Visia Skin Analysis will help to determine the underlying causes of your concerns. And here at Facial Aesthetics, we cut the guesswork out for you. When we bring a brand into the clinic, it goes through an extensive training period to ensure our providers love its products, can visibly see the benefits, and believe it to be beneficial for our patients. This saves you to trial and error, or should we say: lots of skin freakouts, time, and money.

Is a prescription required for medical-grade products?

The answer is no – medical-grade skincare products do not require a prescription. Some brands, however, do sell both medical grade and prescription products – and for those prescription products, it’s usually because their active ingredient is at an even greater strength that it categorizes under a different class which requires a script. Obagi Tretinoin is a good example.

We hope this information is helpful for the next time you set out on the hunt for the best skin care products for your skin. Don’t forget about your trusted skin care professional, and if you don’t have one – this is your sign to book a quick skin care consultation right now.


A skincare assessment will determine the perfect skin care regimen for you. Start small, or buy it all, that’ll always be up to you. We just want to be your trusted partner on this journey.

Oh, and cost. Almost forgot to mention. Medical grade products, even though they may sound fancier, don’t mean more expensive. We carry many different brands at many different price points. Some areas less expensive than store brands but most often they are very comparable to over-the-counter brands. 


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This is the month to book that med spa treatment you’ve been wanting.

All month long, we’re offering 10% off all skin care products when you get treated with us.


Check out our medical grade skin care products here. 

You can shop some brands online, and ALL brands in clinic.