For most of us, when we start falling ill, and show the usual signs of our body admitting defeat, we’d turn to popping or downing medicine we can buy off-the-shelves at the drugstore. It’s only when it becomes dire and your overdosing on Panadols doesn’t work, you’d turn to your GP for some stronger meds to knock the cold out of you.
But does the same ring true for medical grade skincare?
According to Dr Rachel Ho of La Clinic in Paragon Medical, the term ‘medical grade skincare’ is one that is “used very loosely as it is not regulated by Singapore’s MOH and HSA. That’s why some skincare brands that consider themselves to be medical grade, like Skinceuticals, that retail at clinics but can be bought over the counter without a consultation.” However, for the purpose of this article, we will be referring to skincare obtained exclusively from a clinic and the products formulated exclusively for the doctor or clinic.
Personalised Treatment + Potent Products
Dr Ho explains that “medical grade skincare is obtained or ‘prescribed’ after a consultation with the doctor to assess your skin type and concerns; or as aftercare post treatments.
One advantage of this is a personalised approach to your skin and concerns, instead of experimenting with skincare that may not be appropriate for you. This may cause irritant contact dermatitis or comedones.”
She adds, “Medical grade skincare formulated by doctors or exclusively for clinic use may contain active ingredients at higher concentrations; active ingredients with greater potencies or ingredients that can only be dispensed with a doctor’s prescription such as pigmentation lightening ingredients like hydroquinone.”
Look no further if you’re looking for examples. Dr Ho says that while “you can obtain retinol in over the counter skincare products but high potencies and higher concentrations of retinol can only be obtained from a doctor or medical grade skincare. [It’s because] these ingredients (especially retinoids) can cause adverse reactions if they are not administered properly.”
Vitamin C is another one. “Most over the shelf formulations usually use a less active form of vitamin C and at lower concentrations. In my practice, I usually start my patients on the only active form of vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) at a higher concentration. Under my medical supervision, I can be assured of faster results with lower risk of skin irritation (one of the drawbacks of using vitamin C) by tailoring the regime for my patients,” explains Dr Ho.
When Does It Come In Handy?
Medical grade skincare tends to be recommended after a treatment, particularly, according to Dr Ho, for “treatments that intentionally ablate the skin, for example , fractional CO2 laser, which is commonly used to treat depressed acne scars and fine wrinkles and pores. Fractional CO2 causes the epidermis to be transiently more sensitive and it takes approximately a week to recover.”
“Stem cell serums (a misnomer, they do not contain stem cells; but mainly growth factors and proteins) are usually prescribed as after care to speed up the skin’s recovery so that the downtime is reduced. High grade and high concentration stem cell serums usually can only be obtained from a clinic,” she explains.
We know that asking a dermatologist whether or not she trusts medical grade skincare is akin to asking a pharmacist if she trusts prescription pills. But Dr Ho is one we trust. After all that, she spills, “However, there are decent over the shelf skincare products that are more cost effective for most people.
If you’re looking to get a condition managed, especially for conditions like acne and pigmentation, using skincare products with the correct active ingredients and the appropriate dosages will be more effective.
Using the same example of acne and pigmentation- over the shelf skincare containing lower concentrations of retinoids or acids is usually not effective or will take a much longer time to see some results. Switching to medical grade skincare with a higher concentration of active ingredients will be more effective and efficient.”
Consider us sold.