What Does Dermatologist Tested Mean?

by Gio
what dermatologist tested means

Every time I read the words “dermatologist tested” on a skincare label, I think of a man in a white coat handing a new cream to an unsuspecting patient who has no idea she’s being picked to be a free guinea pig for a giant cosmetic company…. Who knows what’ll happen to her skin?…

Ok, that’s not probably how it goes. But… how does it go then?

Do skincare brands send dermatologists random stuff to review for free or do they pay them a pretty penny for the privilege of stamping those two little words, “dermatologist tested” on the labels?

Do dermatologists test the products themselves or do they ask their patients to do it? Or do they simply take a look at the ingredient list, see nothing toxic in it, give their stamp of approval and pocket the check? Mmm….

The more you dig, the more this claim stinks. What you thought was a pretty professional and trustworthy claim at first is turning out to be anything but…

The Truth About “Dermatologist Tested”: What Does It Really Mean?


“Dermatologist tested” is one of those terms (like hypoallergenic) that is not regulated in any way.

Of course, if you want to print “dermatologist tested” on the packaging, you need a dermatologist to test your product. But, with no standard test a product must pass to get this pledge of honour, a company can do any test it wants.

Usually, these tests are pretty shallow. Often, a dermatologist simply applies the product either on her skin or on a patient’s skin. If nothing bad, like an irritation, happens, the company puts “dermatologist tested” on the label.

Think that’s a joke? Wait, there’s worse.

You know what happens when there’s a negative reaction? Too often, the company doesn’t care. It prints “dermatologist tested” on the label anyway.

Wait, what? How can they get away with this crap?

Because there is no regulation that defines what the term means. There is no law that says that a product must pass the test. It just has to be tested. By a dermatologist.

So, if a company goes ahead and prints “dermatologist tested” on a product that failed the test, it’s not lying. The product was tested by a dermatologist.

Oh, wait. Sometimes this IS a lie. Anyone with a PhD can lend their support to a product. But not everyone with a PhD is a dermatologist. They may be doctors, but how well do they know skin and what it needs?

Related: Are Hypoallergenic Products Really Safer?

Want to get the most out of your skincare products? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “How To Combine Actives Like A Pro” cheatsheet.

Are Dermatologists Paid To “Test” Skincare Products?

You bet they are. Whether a product passes these tests or not, the dermatologists do pocket their share.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all dermatologists are dishonest and would promote anything to make a quick buck. Lots of skincare products out there are truly amazing and any dermatologist would be proud to promote them.

But, whenever money exchanges hands, people must know. Bloggers are required by law to disclose sponsored posts, so why should dermatologists get away with hiding the sponsorship? It’s not fair.

The bottom line

“Dermatologist tested” is a meaningless claim. Don’t pay any attention to it. Instead, learn about cosmetic ingredients and which ones your skin needs. I know, it’s a lot more work, but it’ll save you lots of money and skin woes in the long run.

Do you buy beauty products because they are “dermatologist tested”? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Makeup Morsels May 22, 2013 - 5:07 am

Love it when you do posts like these! I can’t believe companies are still getting away with this even though, as you said, it’s just not possible to regulate/enforce. At least now I’ll know to ignore that when considering whether or not to buy new skincare.

beautifulwithbrains May 22, 2013 - 6:36 pm

Makeup Morsels, I wish they regulated the term because, once it has a clear definition,
companies wouldn’t be able to use it in such misleading ways anymore. And the consumers too would know exactly what kind of tests are done and judge accordingly. Until then, there’s nothing we can do about it bar ignoring it.

Marianthi May 22, 2013 - 4:49 pm

See, that’s what I always thought. “Dermatologist tested” means that a test/many tests have been performed. What I would like my product to say is “passed it’s dermatologist tests”. Because even if a product fails miserably, technically speaking it *has* been dermatologist tested, right?

beautifulwithbrains May 22, 2013 - 6:42 pm

Marianthi, writing “passed it’s dermatologist tests” on the packaging would definitely be an improvement as now even those products that fail the test can be advertised as dermatologist tested, which isn’t fair. Although usually a dermatologist simply applies the cream on his skin and waits to see if there’s a reaction, but even if he doesn’t get one, it doesn’t mean no one else won’t react badly to it either. Brands should be forced to specify exactly what kind of test they did and how as well, otherwise the term means very little, if anything at all.

Janessa May 23, 2013 - 6:11 am

I used to think it meant something a few years back and I still hear people say how a product is better if it says dermatologist tested and even see some pick a product just because it says that meaningless phrase. I always wondered what they tested and I never bought into it along with “hypo-allergenic” just because I’ve used products with those claims irritate my skin. Great post, Gio! It’s important to spread the truth. That’s how we can make a difference as consumers in these murky systems.

beautifulwithbrains May 23, 2013 - 2:28 pm

Janessa, that’s so true. It’s so important to know the truth so that we can make the right decisions and don’t fall for the nonsense brands throw at us. These products aren’t neither safer nor more effective, yet sadly too many people still believe otherwise and especially look for that term on the packaging before making a purchase.

Janessa May 23, 2013 - 6:13 am

My response: No, I am my own dermatologist when it comes to picking out products. And I judge the ingredients for myself, not the phrases on the packaging. 🙂 thanks for teaching me so much.

beautifulwithbrains May 23, 2013 - 2:29 pm

Janessa, that’s a smart approach to skincare shopping! 😉 And you’re welcome. 🙂

Hannah December 24, 2016 - 12:07 pm

Wow this has 0 facts in it. Basically dermatologilogy tested means its been actually tested on a real human for a specific reason. It has not been tested on a poor animal in a laboratory being forced to test it for you and if you knew the reality of testing you would join cruelty free international as its barbaric!
So stop being selfish and ignorant to the fact if you want to use it on YOUR skin you need to start facing the ugly truth that sometimes.you skin wont like it and thank goodness your not strapped down having it dripped in your eye or rubbed in a wound…
Do some research before posting a crap article next time and you may have an ounce more compassion for ethical testing.
God forbid you test your own dam product, who would do such a thing…… I think you need the mask maybe.

Gio January 7, 2017 - 11:35 am

Hannah, your comment is completely out of order. Not only it is very offensive, but it totally misses the point of the article. Did you even read it?

Nowhere in it, I’m even remotely suggesting that cosmetics should be tested on animals. I’m simply pointing out that dermatologist tested doesn’t mean what people think it means. We assume that it means that a dermatologist has done some special test to make sure the product is safe even for the most sensitive of skin and that contains only actives that work when in fact, they just rub some lotion on the skin and call it a day. And some of them, if paid enough, don’t care if it contains something irritating.

Next time you leave a comment on a blog, please bother to read the entire thing. And if you still disagree, you can do so in a civilized manner without attacking people.

Char June 10, 2018 - 5:09 am

Gio, a very civilized answer to a very uncivilized comment. Some people on a mission are blinded and misguided by their rightousness. How did she misunderstand what you wrote? She could not have possibly read your article which was very clearly NOT about animal testing.

Gio June 16, 2018 - 10:51 am

Char, thanks! Those were my thoughts exactly. I’m not sure where the animal testing comment came from either!

Kathleen February 23, 2019 - 10:15 pm

GIO, Thank you! How can the two be confused? If animal testing is her concern, she needs to check the list of cosmetic companies that don’t do animal testing.

yuel September 14, 2017 - 1:24 am

I agree with you Gio, I bought my cosmetic products not because of the ‘Dermatologically Tested’ or ‘Hypo-allergic’ and whatsoever. Its claim nothing for me. Because my skin is very sensitive so, I need to choose products based on the ingredients and main function of it. Not because it Dermatologically tested. There are millions type of skin around the world and not every single person have same skin problems its just more or less. So dermatologically tested claim nothing.

Gio September 17, 2017 - 7:54 am

Yuel, well done! You need to be careful with sensitive skin. Falling for these nonsense claims can be dangerous.

Kathleen February 23, 2019 - 10:17 pm

I also get a kick out if iT cosmetics claiming their products are tested by PLASTIC SURGEONS! WHAT?!?

Gio February 28, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Kathleen, it’s appalling what they can get away with, isn’t it?

Comments are closed.