Medical Grade vs. Consumer Grade

Back again to shake shit up, if I’m being honest... I’m not sure how a “professional” would react to reading this, I know some will completely agree (because it’s true) and some won’t (because they have product to sell).

More marketing ”schemes” that have been around for awhile, but rarely discussed, and now becoming more and more common is the phrase “these are professional grade products” sometimes they’ll boldly call them “medical grade products”. I’m going to pause quickly and say I am NOT referring to products that are prescription only like a Tretinoin retinoid. Real prescription products are not the same as consumer grade products.Health Canada has restrictions on ingredients that are accessible via prescription only (same with the FDA and anywhere you go) and they have restrictions on the percent of an ingredient that can be in a formula - which will vary between countries. These restrictions are put in place because at a higher concentrate, there could potentially be more risks and they leave it to professionals to recommend and prescribed relevant and necessary products.

But back to the Amazon brand or random Instagram brand that’s running a sponsored ad claiming they sell medical grade or professional grade products... It is complete BS.

For starters, I already mentioned that there‘s restrictions with ingredients and because it is a law, you cannot sell products with restricted ingredients in them. This is a very obvious safety measure because if used incorrectly, there could be serious side effects. For an example, if you were to buy accutane off of eBay from a sketchy seller and you started taking it and were pregnant, that could cause potential health risks with your unborn child. That is why they leave it to professionals, such as your family doctor or a board certified dermatologist because they would know your history and be able to obviously see you are pregnant/ask if you were and would never recommend it.

Now, when it comes to Spa’s, they have certain products that are only available to registered businesses that practice Esthetics (or if you’re in America, licensed Aestheticians only). Once again, it is a precaution because if someone was to use a TCA solution on their skin at home and it was not properly done, you can end up with very serious burns to the skin. However, a lot of these businesses will take advantage of this and exaggerate/exploit the fact that they do have exclusive products and claim all their products for sale at medical grade. The program with that is this: if you can buy it with no ID/License, it’s consumer grade and is nothing special. They have to follow the same laws as any brand at Sephora, Shoppers, Ulta, Etc... The same restrictions will apply.

Keep in mind, some of these places will almost talk down on you for not using “medical grade products” because they have a target they need to hit and you explaining the products you’ve used aren’t helping solve your problems, sets them up for an easy slam dunk. Again, not everyone in this world and not every business owner is out to capitalize off of vulnerable people seeking help. This also isn’t to take away from ”spa brands” like skinceuticals who has developed phenomenal products that a lot of OTC could not compare to, but not everything is that and not always are you being recommended a good product.

Where it gets confusing is when you have a brand like Obagi who sells prescription only products and products available OTC. I’m sure there are many other brands who have the same thing, but Obagi is the one brand that instantly pops into my head because a lot of Dermatologists carry their line and certain products you can buy anywhere, but others you need to get “prescribed” to.

The bottom line is, if you can walk into a place, pick a product up and purchase it with no prescriptions, it’s nothing different from what you’re buying from a department store. The only difference is that it may be ethically sourced, the formula is clinically proven to be beneficial (visit my Clinical Study vs. Clinical Trial post for a full explanation), they have a good delivery system, and/or they’ve cut out a lot of common irritants. But, that isn’t guaranteed and doesn’t mean you should fork out hundreds of dollars. So, don‘t be fooled into purchasing a $150 Vitamin-C serum because someone said it is “medical grade”, if there is no prescription, there isn’t that big of a difference.


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