Making the case for medical-grade skincare

I’ve written blog post after blog post about my skincare, ranging from products I recommend to in-office procedures that I’ve had done. I’ve learned a thing or two on the journey to skin free of acne and acne scars. After years of trial and error, and after spending thousands of dollars, I’m no longer purchasing luxury skincare. 


There are different levels of skincare: drugstore, luxury and medical-grade (also referred to as pharmaceutical grade or “cosmeceuticals”). As someone who has had bad skin for the better part of their life, I’ve purchased my fair share of the first two. I pick up random masks, scrubs and treatments on almost every single Target run, and I strategically stock up on luxury skincare during Ulta sales, Sephora sales, and Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale.

I always assumed that luxury skincare was better than drugstore. For one, luxury skincare costs more (like, a lot more). Between the price tag and the packaging (I hate myself for how easily influenced I am by sleek, chic packaging), it seemed like a no brainer to me that it was better in quality. It turns out that probably isn’t the case.


Despite the fact that I have poured thousands of dollars into drugstore and luxury skincare, I have consistently still had issues with skin. For a long time, I struggled with cystic acne. Even after that cleared up, I still found myself struggling with regular, run-of-the-mill acne, severe redness, and lots and lots of scarring. I was religiously using a concoction of drugstore and luxury products last November when I finally bit the bullet and scheduled a microneedling appointment with Jennifer Edwards at Aesthetic Med Spa to help get my scarring under control.


I was amazed by the results of the microneedling, but was still pretty stuck in my ways when it comes to skincare. I didn’t really matter to me, because my skin was looking amazing thanks to the microneedling. Then, a few months ago, I randomly started breaking out really badly (probably due to the stress of my life falling apart, but that’s really a story for a different day). I went in and saw Jennifer and she asked about the products that I was using. Let’s see: Dove bar soap, Meijer 10% benzoyl peroxide lotion and Cetaphil moisturizer. I also used a Tula toner (which is actually good), and had a whole rotation of masks in my line-up.


I thought that poor Jennifer was going to have a heart attack. Here’s someone (me) willing to spend money on in-office procedures, but not willing to spend a little extra money on products to sustain and enhance those results.

Here’s the thing: medical-grade skincare is an investment. It might cost more upfront (depending on what products you currently use, it might not cost much more than luxury skincare), but it’s going to a) last longer b) be more effective and c) produce actual results.



So what’s the difference? Here are a few important ones.

  1. Medical grade products have a higher concentration of active ingredients.

    All active ingredients in medical grade skincare must be 99.9% pure. A higher concentration of ingredients means products penetrate deeper into the skin. Drugstore and luxury products are full of fillers and preservatives, (non-active ingredients) that sit on top of the skin and don’t produce any kind of real results.

  2. Medical grade skincare is subject to FDA-regulation and is backed by clinical trials.

    Luxury skincare—and even drugstore skincare—feel nice on your skin, and often smells really good. That’s because it’s designed to—it’s designed to be a sensory experience and not offer much more than that. Medical-grade skincare is backed by clinical research to guarantee that products effective.

  3. Each product is developed for a certain skin type or skin issue and is made to give visible results.

    Because medical-grade products have a higher concentration of active ingredients, you need less product—and the product is able to penetrate deeper into your skin, giving you more effective results.

  4. Medical grade skincare must be sold under a doctor and prescribed by a trained medical professional/licensed skincare nurse or aesthetician.

    Because of their potent formulas, medical-grade products can only be sold under the supervision of professionals. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not knocking the employees at Ulta/Sephora/high-end beauty counters, but they certainly don’t have the same expertise and training as a doctor, nurse or aesthetician. Your skincare professional will be able to give you advice on the products that will work best for your skin.


After my come-to-Jesus  intervention, Jennifer got me started on a really good regimen that is working wonders on my skin. I use the skinbetter science Oxygen Infusion Wash both morning and night.  In the morning, I follow with the skinbetter science Alto Defense Serum, and at night I follow with skinbetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream. At least once a week, I’ll use the AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads, which are arguably my favorite skincare product of all time.


Medical-grade skincare is expensive—and it can produce some serious sticker shock when you first start testing the waters. Like pretty much anything in like, you get what you pay for. Yes, drugstore and even luxury skincare products are less expensive, but medical-grade skincare is worth every penny when you break down what you get for the price.



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