December 21, 2021 Beauty Editor

What Is The Difference Between Medical-Grade Skincare and Over-The-Counter Products?

by Liza Donovan, Esthetician at Gerrish MedEsthetics, Scottsdale

Which is more beneficial medical-grade skincare or OTC?

Skincare accounts for 42% of the worldwide cosmetic industry and is projected to be worth 200 Billion dollars by 2026. It’s no wonder skincare is a growing market: with lifestyle habit changes, men of all ages finally taking better care of their skin, millennials trying to prevent aging, and those naturally aging trying to pump the breaks or reverse the signs of aging.

Consumers today can purchase skincare products just about anywhere, online, at the grocery store, the drug store, department store, farmers markets, and from your neighbor doing multi-level marketing. I have even seen beauty products sold at the gym. And yes, professional medical spas.

Why consider medical-grade skincare? 

Medical grade skincare is more expensive than over the counter, but is it? How many times have you purchased something only to find out it did not do what it said it would? Then the next time you are at the store or see an ad on TV, you purchase something different, guessing, hoping, and expecting better results. Consumers already spend hundreds of dollars on over-the-counter skincare, but it just seems “less expensive” than medical-grade because we spend a little here and a little there.

I bet if you added up all the money spent on over-the-counter products, it would be equal to or be more than what you would have invested on medical-grade skincare recommended by your very own personal esthetician, nurse, or doctor.

After all, we spend money on a gym membership to look good and think about what we spend on healthy food feel good. Why would we not spend money on quality, results-driven skincare when our skin is the largest organ, and we have to live with it our entire life?

So what IS the difference between over-the-counter and medical-grade skincare?

Well, there are BIG differences between over-the-counter (OTC) skincare and medical-grade skincare.

Over-The-Counter SkinCare 

  1. When you buy over-the-counter skincare, you are buying skincare made for the masses and not your specific skincare needs, conditions, or concerns. Over-the-counter products are formulated to work on the broadest range of skin types with the most negligible reactions. Due to their one-size-fits-most formulations, they are designed to sit on the skin’s surface without penetrating, which can trigger reactions.
  2. OTC products are typically formulated using minimal “active ingredients. Cosmetic labels can be deceiving. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the manufacturer only has to list the ingredients in descending order. There is no requirement for percentages used.
  3. OTC products are cheaper to produce than result-driven med spa brands.

Medical-Grade SkinCare

  1. According to the FDA, a manufacturer must provide “claim substantiation” studies if a product makes a claim. So if a brand makes a product claim, say “improves hydration 95% in 7 days’ that manufacturer has to go through meticulous research and expensive clinical trials to legally say “it” about their product. Claim Substantiation Laboratory Tests are very expensive and can run from $10,000 to millions of dollars to produce.
  2. Ingredients. We all know that there is a big difference between a $2 burger and a $20 steakhouse burger. In theory, they are the same, but the quality and taste are drastically different. The same can be said of cosmetic ingredients. Medical-grade skincare will use higher quality raw materials and ingredients, exclusive sourcing, patented technology, natural vs. synthetic fragrances, and fewer (if any) fillers – adding up to a more expensive product to produce.
  3. Many medical-grade skincare products contain prescription or active levels of ingredients. These products require expert knowledge to know which one works best for your skin type, condition and goals. Knowing how to “step” the skin formulas and ingredients is critical. This is why it is essential to find an exceptional esthetician, nurse, or doctor to guide you in your skincare journey. You can immediately stop wasting money guessing. We will know what is best for your skin: anti-aging, acne control, rejuvenation, or just preventative. Our goal at Gerrish MedEsthetics is to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin.

Is it worth it? 

So when you ask yourself – do I want to invest money in medical-grade skincare? If you are looking for results the answer should be a resounding YES! If you are looking to “save money,” you might be saving more than you think by going with a medical-grade. It’s like shopping at a bargain chain store versus Nordstrom, you can always get something cheaper at Bargain Betty’s, but it will never be the same quality as Nordstrom. It’s the same for skincare, and you get what you pay for. The fantastic thing about your skin is that the skin you have today will be different in 45 days through the natural cell renewal process.  How you treat the skin today, shows up in the mirror 30-60 days.

Make The Switch.

Ready to take your skincare routine to the next level?  To learn more about medical-grade skincare products and how they work to treat your skin condition, contact the skincare experts at Gerrish MedEsthetics. From customized skincare plans to free consultations at our Medical spas in Scottsdale, AZ – 480.651.8110, Vienna, VA – 703.255.5580, and Alexandria, VA. 703.549.9940. We offer patients of every age advanced skincare services (facials & peels), and products needed to achieve healthy, glowing skin.

One of Liza's Favorite Medical-Grade SkinCare Products



Zo Firming Serum is clinically proven to visibly improve skins elasticity.

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Liza Donovan, LE, CLT, CMT

Liza Donovan is a licensed medical esthetician and licensed medical laser technician who has worked in the medical aesthetic field since 2010 after relocating to Arizona from Chicago. Liza received her esthetic license from Aveda Institute in Phoenix and her laser license from National Laser Institute and is certified through ARRA.

Skincare is a passion of Liza’s and she truly understands and listens to her client’s needs and skincare concerns while quickly building trust and producing results that keep her clients coming back.

Liza has taken over 50 advanced training courses over the past 12 years to stay at the forefront of her profession and plans on continuing to educate herself as she loves to learn.

Liza is skilled in DiamondGlow, IPLmicroneedling, fibroblast (plasma pen) skin tightening, and a number of other laser treatments.

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Gerrish MedEsthetics is ready to design the ideal treatment plan so you love, love, love what you see!!