Dermatologist-Tested Vs. Dermatologist-Approved: What's The Difference?

When you're looking for new skincare products, you're looking to get the best, most reliable products you can find. You want to make sure that they are safe and beneficial for your skin. Many companies will use strategic phrases or wording on their product labels in an effort to make you feel confident about using what they have to offer. You might see words like "rejuvenating," "brightening," or "natural" to help guide you toward what you are looking for.

To some people, the credibility of a product is just as important as its benefits. This is when companies will assure you with labels that will either say "dermatologist-tested" or "dermatologist-approved." While they may seem like the same thing, each phrase carries a different meaning without much legal regulation behind either of them. "These terms are primarily beneficial for marketing as they are nonspecific and often biased," board-certified dermatologist Jessica Weiser, M.D., tells PopSugar. "Doctors may be paid consultants or offered financial incentives for either testing or approval." However you choose to approach it, it's important to be aware of what each of these phrases means to help you make the best decision for yourself and your skin.


When something is "dermatologist-tested," this means a dermatologist was involved in "testing" the product in some way. However, this could be as small or as big as they choose to do so. In other words, it doesn't always exactly mean there was a clinical trial performed by a dermatologist. The phrase can vary and mean many things. According to Cleure, "dermatologist-tested" can mean that it's possible a dermatologist was involved in the formulation process and approved the ingredients or that a dermatologist simply did a patch test on themselves or someone else. Furthermore, it's important to note that dermatologists are skin specialists and doctors that diagnose and treat skin conditions, whereas cosmetic chemists are the ones responsible for fully formulating the ingredients of a product from start to finish.

Cleure also states that this phrase has no legal definition or regulations for it, so the details behind the testing are often vague. "It means that at least one dermatologist tested the product for one observable feature — safety, sensitivity, skin tone, etc.," board-certified dermatologist Jessica Weiser, M.D., tells PopSugar. "Tested, however, does not mean that it met the expected endpoint, only that it was tested." By reading that phrase on a label, you won't know how it was tested, who the test was performed on, how long it was tested for, or if it resulted in any negative reactions from the product. However, Dr. Weiser says that these claims from larger companies are often legitimate.


If a product is "dermatologist-approved," at least one dermatologist would usually recommend the product to patients or the public. According to Cancer Wellness, this label means that a dermatologist tested the product and deemed it safe for use. However, the dermatologist may not go as far as to specify whether it will be effective for everyone or certain skin types, though many companies will create their own designation for which skin types should use it. "You're naturally drawn into the term 'dermatologist approved,' but it really doesn't say much," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jeanette Jacknin tells Cancer Wellness. Additionally, some companies will hire their own dermatologists, paying them a stipend for their stamp of approval. Sometimes, this also goes beyond whether they actually believe it will be beneficial or not for consumers.

"What to look for is the name of a board-certified dermatologist who actually has done at least consumer studies, if not clinical studies on the product," Dr. Jacknin tells Cancer Wellness. If the information still feels overwhelming when picking a product, consult with a dermatologist to target your specific needs. This will provide you with a more personalized skincare consultation to help you pick the right products and treatments for your skin.