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What is medical grade skincare and do you really need it?

According to EV experts, if your current skincare arsenal is devoid of cosmeceuticals, you may well be missing a trick

Using the right skincare is essential. It keeps your skin in the best possible condition, slows down ageing and strengthens the skin barrier. It tackles issues such as acne, pigmentation, dryness and fine lines and of course, it lays the foundation for any aesthetic treatments you may have – ensuring better and longer-lasting results.

It's no wonder then, that medical-grade skincare is growing in popularity, as we demand the same level of efficacy from our at-home skincare as the products used on us in clinic.

What is medical-grade skincare? 

“We define it as skincare backed by clinical evidence with published trials,” says EV Expert Dr Emmaline Ashley. “Medical-grade skincare contains highly active ingredients at proven concentrations that can penetrate more deeply into the skin, often using novel delivery systems.”

This means, it’s more likely to be recommended and used by aesthetic clinicians, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons to complement and support their in-clinic work.

In fact, most medical-grade beauty brands, were (and continue to be) set up by scientists and industry-leading dermatologists.

The purity, higher potency and concentration of the ingredients used in medical-grade products also means this type of skincare – also know as cosmeceuticals – tends to have a much higher price point to most regular over-the-counter beauty products. This is because over-the-counter brands often contain filler ingredients with only trace amounts of the clinically-tested active to keep prices down.

 Why should you use medical grade skincare?

“The higher potency of the formulas means that medical-grade skincare really works,” explains Dr Ashley. They also  deliver quicker results than their beauty aisle equivalents.

“Because these products are so powerful, it means that they need to be used correctly, and this is why prescription formulations and many of the medical-grade skincare lines, are impossible to buy without a proper consult first,” says Dr Ashley.

This targeted approach at point of purchase also means you can really address specific skin issues. “Medical-grade cosmetics are great for skincare concerns such as redness, blemishes, fine lines and wrinkles and hyperpigmentation,” adds Daniel Isaacs, Medik8’s Director of Research. “While prescription-only products can be extra potent for targeting skin issues such as acne or rosacea.”

The Best Medical Grade Skincare Brands To Try

ZO Skin Health 

Founded by dermatologist Dr Zein Obagi, ZO Skin Health has many hero products. We love the Retinol Skin Brightener 1% in particular. Packed with antioxidants to help support cellular turnover, it brightens skin and evens skin tone.


Committed to clean beauty, the education of their customers and seriously illuminated skin (it’s in the name after all), this medical grade brand is one to have on your radar. A must-try product is their EverActive C&E + Peptide. This high-strength serum is packed full of vitamin C to brighten and tackle signs of ageing. But unlike other vitamin C products that can lose their potency, this stays fresh because you mix the vitamin C into the serum when you’re ready to use it. Plus, the vitamin C is also delivered in the most bioavailable form of L-ascorbic acid – meaning better results.


Founded by biochemist and cosmetic scientist Elliot Isaacs, Medik8 is all about utilising science to get better results for mature skin. And the brand’s Crystal Retinal range does exactly that. Containing retinaldehyde (which is the closest type of vitamin A/retinoid to the prescription-only form of vitamin A, retinoic acid), this super potent product works much faster than other retinols. It’s also formulated to be released gradually overnight – resulting in less irritation.


With a mantra of 'Prevent, Protect, Correct', SkinCeuticals was created by scientist and dermatologist Sheldon Pinnell, whose research into vitamin C completely changed the beauty industry. Which is why their C E Ferulic is a must-have for every beauty shelf. Promising to neutralise free radical damage by delivering eight times more environmental protection, this powerful antioxidant will turn back time – reversing signs of fine lines and wrinkles.

iS Clinical 

Founded by biochemists, science is also at the heart of this brand. Their Active Serum, suitable for all skin types, is the ultimate piece of skincare kit for those with acne. Not only does the willow bark extract work to cleanse pores, but the kojic acid rich mushroom extract keeps blemishes at bay thanks to its antibacterial properties. With spots tackled, this serum also fades post-acne pigmentation damage.

Emmaline Ashley, Aesthetic Doctor

I'm Dr Emmaline Ashley, the founder of Ashley Aesthetics. I'm passionate about beauty, wellness and science. I wanted...

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