Products in dermatologist’s offices – is it true that they are better?

I've been told by several dermatologists that over the counter skin care products will never compare to the ones I can obtain in their office. How true is this? They have explained to me that the concentration or amount of ingredients in the over the counter products is always much less than the ones sold by dermatologists.

This is generally true but not always. In general, products by SkinCeuticals, SkinMedica, NeoCutis etc. do have more effective ingredients and higher concentrations of those ingredients. Remember that usually you get what you pay for. The OTC products are cheaper because they contain less or none of the more expensive ingredients.


Take for example zinc in sunscreens. If you are really trying to protect your skin, you need zinc between 5% and 20%. 5% might be okay if you live in a rainy climate like Seattle to use in the winter. If you live in a sunny climate or have an outdoor occupation, you really want 10-20% pending on the your exposure every day. The OTC products, if they have it at all, usually have 1-3% and the formulations are chalkier. But not always!


Here’s what’s NOT true. Some dermatologists “private label” their own lines. Be suspicious of these. Usually, these are very generic products just packaged and labelled differently. They rarely contain anything you couldn’t buy at a better price elsewhere.


Dr. B I


See Dr. Irwin’s recommendations on Sunscreens & Self Tanners.

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin, and I believe that consumers need and deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

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