The skin care world is complex to navigate. According to PR Newsrwire, the cosmetic and skincare market could reach $194,961 Million by 2024. This industry is so large with thousands of products to choose from no wonder why we get overwhelmed and have a pile of products that sit on our bathrooms. There are so many variables in choosing a skincare line that varies from one individual to the next.
Even as a professional aesthetician, I have struggled with questions like:
- Are these claims and results real or part of a marketing campaign?
- Is this product going to do what it says it will do or am I being seduced by the sleek packaging?
- Is this a medical grade or over the counter skincare?
I have used both over the counter skincare products and medical-grade products and there is a big difference when using certain lines. It’s like comparing apples and oranges and here is why.
Medical Skincare vs. Over the Counter
Higher Concentration of Active Ingredients
Medical grade skincare have high quality ingredients with a higher concentration. Medical grade products are required to contain ingredients that are 99% pure¹ . Products that are purchased at department stores, drug stores, or on Amazon are not held to the same standards. They may contain fillers.
Medical Skincare are Held to a Higher Standards by FDA
It comes down to the claims and the intended purpose of the product. The FDA states that “products intended to affect the structure or function of the body, such as the skin, are drugs , or sometimes medical devices , even if they affect the appearance. So, if a product is intended, for example, to remove wrinkles or increase the skin’s production of collagen, it’s a drug or a medical device” You can access the full FDA article here. In another words, if you think of aging as a disease, and a product claims to “treat it” by affecting the skin, this product could be classified as a drug by the FDA which has a rigorous list of requirements. Hence why you need a medical professional to purchase this product, like Medical Spas. For Example: Products that have Hydroquinone (skin brightener) at 4% concentrations or Retinols (chemical retexturizer/exfoliant) at .5% or 1% concentrations.
Research Backed by Scientific Studies
Medical grade skincare lines have to back up their claims by clinical studies. These studies are a type of research that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease. Also called clinical trial². These studies are in a controlled environment with a sample of people
Medical Grade Skincare Lines:
- Zo Skin Health – founded by world-renowned dermatologist Zein Obagi, leading authority on skin health and rejuvenation, he developed the line with advanced skin therapy technologies, unique delivery systems, bioengineered complexes and exclusive formulations.
- PCA Skin – founded in 1990 by an aesthetician and developed by a dermatologist. PCA SKIN is the innovator of one of the most popular chemical peels, the Jessner’s peel. Over one million PCA SKIN peels are performed globally each year.
- Skinceuticals – founded in 1997 by Dr. Sheldon Pinnell. The line was created after decades of skin cancer research that led to breakthroughs in antioxidants and high potency formulas.
Professional Organic Skincare Alternative:
Eminence Skin Care, founded in 1957, focuses on natural, organic and Biodynamic® ingredients which are void of all chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This line goes through rigorous certification process to ensure their active ingredients are pure and of the best quality. I have experienced the line in spas and I have purchased a handful of products that I enjoyed. Their lactic acid helped my skin to clear from build up sebum in my pores.
Are Medical-Grade or Professional Skincare Lines Better than Over the Counter?
The bottom line is that Medical Grade or professional skincare products are held to a higher standard. They follow different guidelines. They have a higher concentration of active ingredients that need scientific studies that can proof their claims. When you pay for a medical grade product you don’t necessarily pay for the brand (think of the overhead in Sephora) and little goes a long way so they certainly last longer.
Current Medical-Grade Skincare Routine
Shelley Jumbrey at Bombshell Aesthetic Med Spa introduced me to Zo Skin Health. I knew it had to be good once I heard that it was founded by Zein Obagi, he is the Steve Jobs of skin and skincare! I needed a line with active, potent ingredients to target elasticity and texture. I started seeing results after 8 weeks. I mainly notice that less redness and smoother texture, and more firmness around my smile lines. This is what I do at home to compliment the PRP microneedling treatments I get at the Med Spa. When it comes to aging, you have to hit it from different angles. I will walk you through my medical-grade skincare routine.
I use ZO® Gentle Cleanser which has glycerin and a botanical blend that cleanses oils and impurities while hydrating the skin.
I tone with one of my favorite products from the line: Oil Control Pads. It comes in a jar with 60 pads ready for use. It contains 2% salicylic acid to exfoliate and dissolve excess sebum in pores, Rosa canina (dog rose) fruit extract to minimize appearance of pores and oil, Urea to help restore moisture and hydration.
ZO® doesn’t have a moisturizer. Dr. Obagi doesn’t believe in moisturizers. He believes the prolonged use of moisturizers can affect the skin’s natural balance of water, lipids and proteins. The products in this line work with skin to promote natural hydration.
In the morning: my medical-grade skincare routine includes the Daily Power Defense which provides antioxidant protection to combat the appearance of free radical damage. It has a unique blend of ingredients:
- Ultrasomes (UV-endonuclease) and roxisomes (glycosylase): Introduces enzymes to help speed up the skin’s natural repair process.
- Ceramide 6: Helps restore barrier function.
- Matrixyl 3000 (palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7): Firms and re-densifies.
At night: I use two products. The first one is the Firming Serum which key ingredients are Sodium DNA to support fibroblast activity (the healing and building of collagen) ZCORE™ complex: a biomimetic tetrapeptide (tetra means 4 peptides are amino acids). Sweet yellow clover supports the anchoring fibrils (collagen) for dermal-epidermal junction integrity (the zone between the dermis and epidermis) ZO-RRS2® Anti-Inflammatory System: Exclusive plant stem cell complex that provides powerful antioxidant protection.
The second and always last product in my routine is Growth Factor Serum, has a unique ingredient called ZPRO® and Buddleja stem cell which helps prevent future signs of aging.
Does this Medical-Grade Skincare Routine Work All Year?
No, I changed my routine frequently and add products like Retinol and switch my toners in the summer. Every season brings its challenges so you have to roll with the punches and see how you skin feels to address its needs each season.
Is ZO® Skin Health Vegan and Cruelty Free?
I contacted the company to ask them and they were very kind to provide me with this statement: “ZO Skin Health, Inc. is fully committed, and makes every effort, to ensure that our products do not contain any ingredients derived from, nor in any way harms mammals. ZO® does not conduct animal testing on any of its products or ingredients and does not ask any third-party to do so on its behalf. We strive to ensure that all of our ingredient suppliers follow our same principles and guidelines. At ZO®, we develop and deliver innovative skincare solutions that optimize skin health around the world, and we are committed to continuing to maintain the highest possible standards of consumer safety and cruelty-free conduct.”
Where do I Buy ZO® Skin Health?
ZO Skin Health Regimens are created by a physician only. You can purchase some products online; however, they might require a prescription. You can find a physician near you to help you customize your own medical-grade skincare routine.
If you are in NH, ME or MA, you can visit Shelly Jubrey, a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over ten years in the medical field, at Bombell Aesthetics Med Spa. You can schedule a consultation to guide you and discuss what to target first without feeling overwhelmed or breaking the bank.
¹Medical Medical Grade vs Over The Counter. Face Forward Aesthetics https://www.faceforwardmedical.com/blog/2019/1/31/medical-grade-vs-over-the-counter-skin-care-in-2019-top-7-things-you-should-know
²Clinical study definition cancer.gov https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/clinical-study