Should You Buy Your Skin-Care Products at the Derm?

There's a new wave of dermatologist-recommended skin care being sold through your doc's office, and it may be your answer to next-level results.

Woman buying dermatologist-recommended skin care
Photo: Morsa Images/Getty

SkinMedica, Obagi, Alastin Skincare, SkinBetter Science, iS Clinical, EltaMD — you may have seen medical-sounding brands like these in your doctor's waiting room or on their websites. These dermatologist-recommended skin-care products aren't always shelfie worthy, but they produce results.

"These products are usually made with dermatologists and their patients in mind, so they have more science-backed ingredients and studies to support their efficacy, safety, and stability," says Elyse M. Love, M.D., a dermatologist in New York. That adds up to real, measurable differences in the way your skin looks, plus less irritation. Here's why dermatologist-recommended skin care could be just what you need.

You'll get a customized lineup.

Many people don't really know or understand their skin type, which is where dermatologist-recommended skin care can help. "Self-diagnosis is not always accurate. Sometimes people think they have a problem and want to treat it, but their chosen method isn't necessarily what's best for their specific skin," says Jennifer Levine, M.D., a facial plastic surgeon in New York.

"We do an exam to become familiar with a patient's concerns, skin type, and lifestyle. Plus, we know what ingredients are in these products and take into account any prescriptions you're already using, so we can make sure you don't start with a retinol that's going to be too strong or layer formulas that won't work well together. We put together a very informed regimen." (

You'll get less irritating skin-care products.

The smartest dermatologist-recommended skin-care buys at your doc's office are serums and treatments. They tend to have the highest levels of the active ingredients that affect skin most (think retinol, vitamin C, glycolic acid). "They also have technology that releases the actives slowly and soothing ingredients to reduce irritation," says Dr. Love.

And these dermatologist-recommended skin-care goodies stay stable. A vitamin C serum sold at a derm's office, like SkinMedica Vitamin C+E Complex (Buy It, $102,, is made to last, thanks to its UV-blocking and airtight packaging.

NeoStrata, another derm-sold brand, is known for its supercharged glycolic acid formulation — try the Dark Spot Corrector (Buy It, $30,, which has a 10 percent acid concentration to help even skin tone.

NeoStrata Dark Spot Corrector

NeoStrata Dark Spot Corrector

Alastin Skincare products like the Restorative Skin Complex (Buy It, $198, are designed to help improve and strengthen skin in combination with procedures like lasers and injectables.

And EltaMD is lauded as the brand with the highest-quality sunscreens because of its sophisticated textures and ingredients. We like UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 (Buy It, $37,, a 100 percent mineral SPF with antioxidants.

EltaMD UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

EltaMD UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

But you don't have to spend *all* your cash at the derm.

You can skip buying products that don't stay on your skin for long, like cleansers, at your doc's office. A dermatologist will tell you to save your money and buy at the drugstore, says Dr. Love. "You're washing them off, so most active ingredients don't stick around."

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Benzoyl Peroxide


Ditto if you're suffering from minor breakouts. Love recommends drugstore acne treatments like PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Benzoyl Peroxide (Buy It, $9, and Differin Gel (Buy It, $13,, which used to be available by prescription only but are now sold over the counter. "These have an incredible amount of science behind them since they've been around for so many years," she says.

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