Ooo you're going to love to find this out - and be shocked! What's the real meaning of dermatologically tested, dermatologically approved or dermatologist recommended? Here’s the harsh reality.

What the Heck Does Dermatologically Tested Actually Mean?

In Anti-Ageing & Protective Skincare, Sensitive Skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

Dermatologically tested… I challenge you not to feel safe as you read these words 🤗. They mean – yes if you have sensitive skin your face will love this. Yes, you will not breakout into a rash of hives. Yes, you will get healthier, happier skin that you feel comfortable, confident and like the awesomesauce you are, in.

Or does it? Does dermatologically tested really mean a skincare product’s extra safe for you?

I get the honour of working with wonderful ladies like you every week 💛 and every week I hear you tell me;

“I used a retinoid from a dermatologist and it burned my skin horribly and they told me to just keep using it and my skin would get used to it. So I did and eventually, my skin was so sore and peeling I stopped using it and stopped seeing the derm altogether.”


“When I asked my most recent dermatologist for some recommendations she said my only option is Botox. When I saw my previous Dermatologist about what to use on my skin she said Vanicream and never wear makeup. The Vanicream doesn’t seem to moisturize enough and my skin always feels tight and flaky and I rarely wear makeup but it’s not realistic to never wear it. I went to a wedding on New Year’s Eve and my face and lips have been flared, red and itchy ever since. I just feel so discouraged.”

Psst Vanicream is a ‘dermatologically tested’ product’. More about that soon.


“I have found it super difficult to find products which suit my skin. Over the years I have reacted just as often and just as badly to natural, organic and dermatologically tested products as to more synthetic ones. A few weeks ago I had a hideous burning and rashy allergic reaction to the new-ish fragrance-free sensitive skin range from…”

Let me tell you a little more about that safety phrase my friend – dermatologically tested – and the true, actual scientific meaning of it i.e. what the heck does dermatologically tested actually mean? 🙂

Ooo you're going to love to find this out - and be shocked! What's the real meaning of dermatologically tested, dermatologically approved or dermatologist recommended? Here’s the harsh reality.

Dermatologically Tested

I’m sitting on the 7th floor staring out the window as I see not what my eyes are looking at but search for words that feel like spaghetti strung together in my mind. Bonjour. Je m’appelle Cheryl. J’habite dan un maison avec un chien. My French tutor smiles as she hears my GCSE French reborn in our first lesson together. She’s French, has lived in Japan and also speaks English fluently. Her kid, Juno, is 5 years old and already Tri-lingual.

Then there’s little old me with my GCSE French 😂

We get talking as I ask her about this word someone in the office told me French people saw all the time as a hello, hey, howdy.

She looks at me blankly (as I get a sinking feeling I’ve been saying something in French, so, so wrong) and then she starts telling me about a plane trip she once went on.

I’m wondering – ok, ok, I know my French sounds like a plane crash, but really?! 😂

My tutor’s telling me, I’m getting as cosy, as cosy as can be, ready to fly to Japan when out walks the pilot. I have a start, a moment, a gasp as I realises I KNOW this man.

I went to school with this man.

This man was the class clown who never paid attention and was always getting expelled.

She realises this man now has her life in his hands.

My glamorous French teacher tells me – it’s hard to tell sometimes who’s ‘captaining your ship’. Who you’re putting your trust in. What to believe.

This moment sticks with me like superglue. I still remember it vividly. And it’s as true as ever for this skincare claim we’re here to chat out. This claim of dermatological tested, dermatologist approved, dermatologist recommended.

Because here’s the deal…

Dermatologically Tested Meaning

While the seal of dermatologically tested sounds safe and cosy, there’s a fact I want you to know.

Dermatologically tested is not a well-regulated aka policed skincare claim. In fact in the US it’s not policed at all – anyone can technically say, heck yes I’m dermatologically tested.

The FDA i.e. the people in the US who regulate skincare claims like dermatologically tested and hypoallergenic, tell us this on their website;

There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term “hypoallergenic.” The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean.FDA

Here in the EU claims are policed by the European Commission and they ‘chair’ i.e. hold space for a group called ‘The Working Group on Claims’ – they didn’t pay a creative to come up with the name ;).

As this group meets back in 2017 they pull together a guidance document that’s telling us this about the meaning of ‘dermatologically tested’…

The claim “dermatologically tested” implies that the product was tested on humans under the supervision of a dermatologist. Depending on the presentation of the claim, it may, refer to a specific efficacy or tolerance of the product. Consumer self-perceptions studies are not appropriate to support such claims.The Working Group on Claims, 3 Jul 2017

Psst – did you see that word? Implies? It’s really loosy, goosy chilled here eh.

When you have sensitive, reactive, easily reddened skin, loosy-goosy’s the last feeling you have.

But, let me give you the other side of this fence 🙂

Is Dermatologically Tested Safe for Sensitive Skin?

Because truth is, if a skincare company’s going to win your trust and be calm, kind and sensitive to your ‘I want all the attention, all the time 😉 skin. Then they’re not going to willy-nilly print ‘dermatologically tested’ on their labels.

The likelihood is – when you see the dermatologically tested seal of ‘approval’ – this is a skincare company that are putting in a bit of extra work, some overtime towards making sure it’s extra sensitive to your skin versus.

Many companies who don’t make skincare also offer to do skincare testing for claims like dermatologically tested.

Psst – this is like you wanting to test if your homemade, passed down from your grandma, chocolate fudge cake recipe, really is the best in town. You can’t just ask your grandma, eh. And you can’t just ask your friends. To really know, you should go to an independent, best chocolate fudge cake competition.

Then you’ll really know.

This is why some companies do their claims validation in-house – because you have more control over the result (plus it’s usually cheaper). This is a bit like asking your family if your chocolate fudge cake really is the best.

But it’s also why other companies go to an independent – best sensitive skin care competition. They can truly know their skincare product isn’t doing any harm to your skin – but it might not be meaning dermatologically tested skincare is actually extra sensitive to your skin, I’m explaining more about this soon 😘.

Dermatologist Patch Test

For example here in the EU, just like you see the cosmetic claims police say – a skincare product should be tested on humans under the supervision of a dermatologist – to be claimed as dermatologically tested. They also mention that a consumer perception study isn’t enough.

Psst – a consumer perception study would be like me putting cream on your arm, then asking you if you think it’s sensitive to skin.

Consumer perception studies aren’t gold standard because sometimes you get the placebo effect, especially when you’re being given a free pot of cream, or if I make you feel extra special with a cup of tea and my Grandma’s best chocolate fudge cake recipe ;).

So instead what dermatologically tested is usually meaning is that a dermatologist has assessed if a product has been sensitive to skin or they do a lab test which looks at something like redness in skin before and after.

For example, an independent product testing company called Cosmeservice have 3 tests to help brands validate a claim of dermatologically tested.

They have an ‘in-use’ test a ‘patch test’ and an ‘open test’.

Psst – so this is the type of test a skincare product which claims dermatologically tested likely has;

1. An ‘in-use’ test

In this test people like me and you put a cream on in the presence of a, ‘dermatologist, ophthalmologist (eye doctor), gynaecologist (down their doctor), dentist (you know what they do :)), paediatrician (a baby doctor) – then the dermatologist or one of those other doctors decides if the cream is ‘acceptable’ or not.

P.s. this test might use people with normal, non-sensitive skin. Because Cosmeservice mentions, ‘This test allows classifying the cosmetic as “dermatologically tested”. It may also be carried out on sensitive skin. Meaning it’s not necessarily carried out on sensitive skin as a standard.

Psst – It’s the same for these next two tests.

2. A Patch Test

As a scientist and award-winning skincare formulator, this is the dermatologically tested, test I wholeheartedly prefer. Here volunteers like me or you get two patches applied to our skin, one patch contains cream and the other is just the patch – it’s the control, to make sure we don’t react to the patch itself.

We get to show these off 🙂 for 48 hours, then a dermatologist removes them and looks at our skin, plus may use some lab equipment to look at changes like redness.

3. Open Test

It’s similar to a patch test but without the patch. Here we get cream ‘squirted’ 🙂 onto our arm and gently rubbed in. Our skin’s then assessed after 30 minutes, an hour, 24 and 48 hours. Just like the patch test a dermatologist decides if there’s been no irritation.

Bottom line: dermatologically tested is not necessarily meaning a product is sensitive to skin. What dermatologically tested definitely means is that a skincare product’s tested in the presence of a medical professional – and that the skincare product was ‘acceptable’ and ‘didn’t cause noticeable irritation. But psst – remember that the test group might not have sensitive skin.

What Is Dermatologist Approved?

I couldn’t leave you without mentioning this one 🤓. Dermatologist-approved has that similar safety feeling to dermatological tested eh… but this is like me giving you a slice of my grandma’s best ever chocolate fudge cake and then also giving you £50, 000.

Are you feeling great right now? 😉😀

Next, I ask you – will you let me say ‘approved by you’?

If so you can keep that £50, 000.

I like dermatologist approved the least – because just like my French teacher says – you really never know who’s captaining your ship.

Psst, be sure to join for my 7 days of Get Great Skin Started email lessons (you get one new Great Skin email lesson each day) so you can go from feeling like your skin’s bleugh to wow – I glow so much people keep wondering if I’m pregnant 😅. Join for free here.

What Does It Mean Dermatologist Recommended?

Before I was able to go full-time working with wonderful women like you 🥰 helping YOU to get healthier, happier skin you feel like awesomesauce in, I picked up freelance work on the side. One of the sites I used to get jobs from constantly had VERY low-paid job ads like these;

Psst – I’ve literally just searched for this [I’ve pasted the ad text for you down below too].

“Looking for endorsements for a hypoallergenic laundry product from doctors, particularly dermatologists, and also chemists (or other related fields).

Endorsement must include a written testimonial/endorsement, an image of yourself (ideally a professional headshot), and your job title/qualifications.

Product will be provided for free.”

To be clear, the endorsement could come from anywhere in the world and the company offering this job will pay $50 for the endorsement. There’s not even a slice of chocolate cake 😉

Bottom line: be wary of dermatologist recommended and dermatologist approved claims. Truly, it’s the ingredients list of a product you want to be looking at – now I know it looks like gobel-de-gook, but that’s what you have me for.

Your next step: If you need help healing your sensitive skin, click this link and choose the option which best describes you.

Psst – now use that big green button below to share this blog with a friend you love 🥰