All obagi products and purchasing guide for 2018

All Obagi Products & Purchasing Guide for 2018: Pro’s & Con’s & More

Have you heard about the Obagi skin care line?

Do you want to know more about the products?

This guide will teach you basic information about all Obagi products including who should use which products, which products to avoid and which products are considered the best.

Let’s dive in: 


Quick NavigationThe Best Obagi ProductsPROSCONS#1. Obagi Retinol#2. Obagi Nu Derm System (6 Product Line)#3. Obagi Hydroquinone#4. Obagi 360 System (3 Product Line)#5. Obagi Eye Cream (ELASTIderm Eye Products)#6. Obagi Vitamin C Serums#7. Obagi CLENZIderm SystemObagi Buying Guide – Where can you get these Products?

Obagi: Medical Grade Skin Care

If you’ve spent any time researching high quality skin care then I’m sure you’ve at least heard of the Obagi skin care line

If not let me fill you in on the basics:

Obagi is a medical grade skin care line that was developed by a physician (Dr. Obagi to be exact) and it was designed to include high quality ingredients designed for medical spa’s and cosmetic physicians. 

Because it is a medical grade skin line, and it was intended to be prescribed by Doctors, some of their products actually contain pharmaceutical grade ingredients.

This only includes a small part of all Obagi products, as you might imagine, so not all are this way. 

But the fact that some products require a Doctors prescription is a testament to the efficacy and strength of some products. 

Really the only two ingredients that require a prescription include Tretinoin and Hydroquinone

Tretinoin being a Vitamin A derivative and Hydroquinone being a powerful skin lightener. 

Obagi also has other product lines available which include a “watered-down” version of some of these prescription products with more natural products designed to do the same thing. 

The idea with these products is to allow everyone to be able to use Obagi products and not just those who visit their Doctor! 

Obagi has been around since 1988 and is mostly found in Medical Spa’s, Plastic Surgeon offices and Cosmetic Dermatology offices

There are ways to get legitimate Obagi products through the internet (which we will discuss below) but up until recently it was hard to get them outside of these sources. 

With that background under your belt let’s talk about the specific of each product. 

The Best Obagi Products

Before we jump in let’s talk about the Pros and Cons of Obagi products in general. 

While Obagi does have some great products they certainly don’t have the “best in class” products in every single category. 

When it comes to cosmetic products there are pretty much basic categories and all major companies have their version in each category.

These categories include:

  • Vitamin C Serum
  • Skin Lightener
  • Acne Product line
  • Anti-Aging Product Line
  • Anti-Wrinkle Products
  • Other basics such as moisturizers and sun block

Almost every brand has some product that fits into these categories. 

The difference among the brands is the ingredients that they use (natural vs synthetic), the quality of the ingredients, the source of the ingredients and so on. 

You can expect that because of these variations certain brands are better at some things and worse at others. 

Obagi is no different!

It’s great in some ways and not so good in others. 

For instance:

If you were interested in anti-aging, reducing wrinkles and lightening your skin – then Obagi is the brand for you!

If you are interested in clearing up your skin from acne – then you may find better success with other products. 

Make sense? 

With that in mind we can break down some basic PRO’s and CON’s of using Obagi products: 


  • Very high quality ingredients
  • Well researched and scientifically verified ingredients
  • Great for anti-aging
  • Great for reducing wrinkles
  • Great for all skin types
  • Great for ages 20 and up


  • Expensive compared to other brands
  • Better products for those interested in acne
  • Non-organic based products
  • Products contain some synthetic ingredients
  • Powerful concentrations which may cause irritation in some sensitive people


Now that you have an idea of what Obagi is good for, let’s discuss the individual product lines.

#1. Obagi Retinol

Obagi retinol 1.0 cream

Retinol, along with Vitamin C serum, may be one of the best ingredients that you can put on your skin. 

Retinol is basically a derivative of Vitamin A that is designed to be used on your skin. 

Many clinical studies have shown that the application of Retinol (and tretinoin) reduce wrinkles, reduce fine lines and make the face look younger. 

Much of this effect seems to be mediated by the effect that Vitamin A has on skin cell turnover. 

Under normal circumstances it takes around 50-60 days for your skin to “turn over” and replace itself. 

When using Vitamin A (like retinol) this process is heavily accelerated and may go down to 21-28 days!

Basically your skin is turning over twice as fast and this effect seems to make the skin look and feel younger. 

In a nut shell that’s how it works, so how does Obagi retinol fit in here?

It turns out that not all Retinol products are created equal. 

In order to get the results that I just spoke about you need to make sure that you are using a product which has a HIGH enough concentration of Retinol in it. 

Unfortunately the guidelines for skin care are such that producers do NOT have to tell you how much of an ingredient is in their product. 

This means that hundreds of products may claim to contain retinol, but very few have enough of it in their formula to actually make a difference. 

Obagi is one of the few brands that actually does have enough which is why it can be very effective

One potential downside to using high quality ingredients (especially in this case) is that retinol containing products may actually cause irritation, erythema and dermatitis

This is a testament to the fact that they work, but it’s worth noting.

Sometimes when using Retinol products you may need to “ease” into the dosing and application to prevent the redness that may come. 

If this does happen it’s a sign that you are getting enough product and that it will work. 

But for sensitive people it may be a good idea to start out on a low dose (something like 0.5%). 

If you know you’ve used it before and haven’t had any problems then you should be fine using the 1.0%. 

What it does: 
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles (clinically proven)
  • Reduces photodamage from excessive sun exposure
  • Provides an anti-aging effect to the skin
  • Improves skin integrity
  • May help reduce and treat acne
Who is it designed for?
  • People interested in reducing wrinkles and the signs of aging
  • People who want to keep their skin looking young and healthy
  • Those people who have extreme damage to their skin from years of sun exposure
  • Those with acne
Does it work? 

Obagi Retinol is a high quality product and it tends to work for most people. 

One study (industry funded) showed that up to 90% of people who used Obagi retinol had some noticeable improvement in their skin and said they would continue to use the product. 

My experience suggests that it’s probably closer to 70-80%, but this is still a very high number! 

Where to get it: 

Learn more about using Obagi Retinol 0.5% hereLearn more about using Obagi Retinol 1.0% here

#2. Obagi Nu Derm System (6 Product Line)

Obagi nu derm 6 step system review

The Obagi Nu derm system is a 6 step (well actually 7 but the last product is optional) complete system designed for patients to help reduce the aging process. 

The product set includes a cleanser, a toner, a deep moisturizer, a skin lightener, a light weight lotion and exfoliator and sun block to top it off. 

The product set is designed to be prescribed by physicians and does include some products which require a physicians prescription. 

Recently some of the ingredients (in the hydroquinone product) have been changed to allow people to use them over the counter. 

The Obagi Clear was changed to include Arbutin vs Hydroquinone. 

Arbutin is a more natural skin lightener compared to hydroquinone which is a prescription strength skin lightener. 

The Obagi Nu derm system works great but the best part about the system is that it can be mixed and matched with other products. 

This means you don’t have to use all 6 steps in the system!

For instance:

If you already have a cleanser and a toner then you can bypass those parts of the product line and just get the skin lightener and exfoliator.

The power in this system is the fact that it covers all aspects of skin care. 

The biggest downside is that it requires a lot of up keep which means that you will be applying a lot of different creams, lotions and cleansers throughout the day. 

It absolutely works, though, if you can stick with it. 

You can read more about the individual products in this system and how to use them appropriately here

What it does: 
  • Helps correct hyperpigmentation
  • Reduces the aging process
  • Reduces the appearance of age spots and melasma
  • Improve the quality and texture of your skin
Who is it designed for?
  • Primarily designed for those with normal to dry skin
  • Seems to work well for aged skin (over 40 years old) – younger people may be able to get by with fewer products
Does it work? 

The Obagi Nu-Derm product line is an effective 6 step skin care system but the problem is the cost. 

This product is obviously designed for all products to be used with one another, but it is still possible to cherry pick certain products and mix and match their skin care line with other products from other brands. 

This is generally how I recommend that you use the Nu Derm system

If you don’t want to deal with that, or if you have enough money, then you can simply purchase the 6 step system. 

If you want to mix and match then I recommend starting with the Blender and the Clear Fx products which tend to be the “best” compared to other products in the line. 

Where to get it:

Learn more about the Obagi Nu Derm 6 Step System here

#3. Obagi Hydroquinone

Obagi-c rx system image and product line

Hydroquinone is a prescription strength formulation designed to help lighten the skin. 

It’s useful to counter such pigmentation issues like age spots, sun damage, freckles and melasma. 

And it turns out that this is exactly what most women want as they age. 

Instead of focusing on wrinkles, people tend to be more concerned with the overall TEXTURE and LOOK of their skin. 

As we age the texture becomes rough and spots start to speckle the face, hands and neck area. 

In many cases women can look much younger by focusing less on the wrinkles and more on the quality and color of their skin. 

That’s exactly what hydroquinone does. 

Hydroquinone is not available over the counter, though, but because Obagi products include prescription strength products it can be purchased through the Obagi-C Rx system. 

The downside to this option is that you will need to get this set (if you want a hydroquinone product) from a cosmetic dermatologist or plastic surgeon. 

If you don’t need the hydroquinone then you can try the non prescription option which is the Obagi Clear Fx product. 

This product contains Arbutin which is a plant based hydroquinone product that is not quite as strong but still may be effective for many people. 

What it does: 
  • Helps fight and reverse changes to skin color and texture that occur with photo damage and the aging process
Who is it designed for?
  • This product is primarily designed for women ages 50+ but it can be used effectively for those who want to PREVENT the inevitable changes that occur over time. 
Does it work? 


Hydroquinone is a prescription strength medication and it absolutely does work. 

The key to success is using a high enough strength – in this case you will want 4%. 

Using hydroquinone should be used with physician guidance, however, as you may need to cycle on and off of this product. 

The reason for this is that occasionally, if used incorrectly, your hyperpigmentation can come back. 

Where to get it:

Learn more about using Obagi Hydroquinone here

#4. Obagi 360 System (3 Product Line)

Obagi 360 3 step product line system

The Obagi 360 system is a smaller system designed specifically for younger adults (aged 20-40 years old). 

It’s like the Nu Derm system but smaller and more manageable for people who don’t quite need all of the bells and whistles of the Nu derm system. 

The 360 system contains an exfoliating cleanser, a retinol (0.5%) and sun block.

While pretty much everyone needs a cleanser (regardless of age) and pretty much anyone can benefit from retinol (at any age) it seems like a decent 3 step system. 

Unfortunately it’s kind of pricey for what it includes, and the best product in this system is no doubt the Retinol product. 

The 360 system may be good for younger patients, but it might just be better to individually purchase the Retinol and use another Cleanser/Toner combination from a different product set. 

The idea is great, but the 3 step system probably would have been better as a cleanser, toner and retinol combination. 

What it does: 
  • Helps the skin age gracefully
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as you age
  • Helps fight break outs and acne
  • Prevents sun damage and photo damage
Who is it designed for?
  • Younger people (primarily around ages 20-40)
Does it work? 

Some people have success with this system while many prefer to mix and match other products. 

This package deal may be good for those people who have normal skin (oily or dry skin will probably have a problem with this combination) and just want an easy solution to take care of their skin. 

But if you are more cosmetically minded and you want to take much better care of your skin then an easy 4 step system would be a cleanser, toner, vitamin C serum and Retinol combo. 

If you want to try this system out then you might consider just using the Retinol product first and mixing it with your current cleanser. 

Where to get it:

Learn more about the Obagi 360 System here

#5. Obagi Eye Cream (ELASTIderm Eye Products)

Obagi eye cream elastiderm product line

This Obagi eye cream is pretty straightforward:

It contains a combination of Malonic acid and B vitamins which help nourish and firm up the skin. 

The result is fewer wrinkles and firmer skin. 

Malonic acid has been shown to help promote the growth of fibroblasts in the skin. 

We know that the decline in fibroblast activity may be involved with the decline in collagen which results in wrinkles and the changes in our skin we associate with aging. 

If we can improve fibroblast activity then maybe we can slow down the aging process. 

Make sense?

That is the idea behind Obagi eye cream. 

The B Vitamins are designed to help nourish the skin and we know that a deficiency in B vitamins often present with skin conditions such as erythema and rashes. 

What it does: 
  • Promotes skin “plumpness” by helping your skin reserve and hold water through special and clinically proven moisturizers
  • Promotes graceful aging through B vitamin complex
Who is it designed for?
  • Aging women who want to maintain a very youthful apperance
  • Those suffering from crows feet or wrinkles surrounding the eyes
  • Those seeking younger or firmer looking skin (young and “plump” skin)
  • Those who want smoother skin (especially around the eyes)
Does it work? 

Obagi ELASTiderm may work for many people but you have to consider your options and how much improvement you are looking for. 

Using facial creams and serums may only improve or reduce your wrinkles by up to 30% or so, compared to injectables and fillers which may reduce it up to 70-80%. 

Just make sure you have an idea of what your goals are before you purchase any product designed to help with your skin. 

Where to get it:

Learn more about Obagi Eye Cream here

#6. Obagi Vitamin C Serums

Obagi professional C 20 percent product

Along with Obagi Retinol, the Vitamin C serum may be one of Obagi’s best products. 

Vitamin C serum is another highly effective skin care product that should be a part of almost every skin care regimen. 

Vitamin C has been clinically proven to help reduce wrinkles, improve skin texture and naturally lighten and brighten the skin. 

The trick to getting all of these benefits has to do with how the Vitamin C serum is formulated. 

In order to get these benefits your vitamin C serum must meet the following criteria: Be in the ascorbic acid form, have a pH of around 3.5, have a concentration of up to 20% and be contained in container which blocks sunlight. 

As you might have guessed many products claim to be effective but they don’t meet the following criteria. 

This is one of the reasons for the price discrepancy among Vitamin C serums. 

If you decide to use Vitamin C serum (which is a great idea!) make sure you use the right kind. 

Obagi’s Professional C serums fit the bill and they are highly effective. 

Another benefit to using these serums is that they come in different concentrations, ranging from 10% to 20%. 

This is helpful because some people may need to titrate up their dose over time to prevent irritation of the skin. 

What it does: 
  • Reverses the natural signs of aging (equivalent to Retinol)
  • Improves collagen production
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation
  • Treats and prevents acne
  • Reduces inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as rosacea
Who is it designed for?
  • Those interested in reducing the signs of aging and taking great care of their skin
  • Those willing to invest in their skin for the future
Does it work? 

Yes, Obagi professional C serum will work just as well (if not better) than other industry leading vitamin C serums. 

This isn’t true of all Obagi products, but it is true of the professional C serum. 

When using Vitamin C serum make sure that you start out on a low strength (10% in this case) and then slowly increase each time you run out of the bottle with a goal to get to 20% vitamin C concentration. 

If you find that you react with redness, dry skin or irritation then reduce your application down to every other day or go back down in concentration. 

Where to get it:

Learn more about 10% Professional C Serum hereLearn more about 15% Professional C Serum hereLearn more about 20% Professional C Serum here

#7. Obagi CLENZIderm System

Obagi clenziderm 3 step system for fighting acne

The Obagi Clenziderm 3 step system is specifically designed to fight acne in young teens and 20-30 year old adults. 

You can essentially compare this 3 step system by Obagi to the 3 step system by Proactiv (except this system is much better in my opinion). 

The system contains a cleanser, an exfoliator and a moisturizer. 

The trick here is that instead of using heavy moisturizers (which can actually promote acne) it uses a lightweight lotion that contains Benzoyl Peroxide which helps fight bacteria on the skin

The initial cleanser, as well as the exfoliator, both contain salicylic acid which also helps fight acne. 

The 3 step system is definitely worth considering if you are a young adult or teen that is suffering from acne and looking for a high quality substitute to the potentially damaging systems such as Proactiv. 

What it does: 
  • Improves exfoliation of the skin
  • Promotes healthy bacteria concentrations on the skin
  • Reduces inflammation
Who is it designed for?
  • Teenagers suffering from acne
  • Young adults suffering from acne
Does it work? 

Like any acne product it may not cure YOUR acne. 

This system is effective against acne which is the result of an imbalance of bacteria on the skin but will most likely not help with hormonal acne. 

Most people, around 70% of those people who try it, see improvement within several weeks when using this system. 

The key to success is to use it as indicated and to not miss a day in the regimen. 

Where to get it:

Learn more about the Obagi Clenziderm System here

Obagi Buying Guide – Where can you get these Products?

Normally Obagi products were only available through authorizer retailers who have contracted with Obagi. 

And because Obagi was not only difficult to get, but very effective, many knock-off and counterfeit products started to pop up on places like Amazon and Ebay. 

This made purchasing Obagi products online difficult to say the least. 

More recently, however, Amazon has partnered with certain brands (Obagi included) and now certain buyers on Amazon are considered authorized retailers which do indeed sell the legitimate products from Obagi. 

These people can be identified by looking for the “Professional Beauty” or the “Luxury Beauty” tag under the Price area. 

If you see that sign then you know the product is legitimate!

If you prefer, though, you can still go into your local Medical Spa, Cosmetic Dermatology office or Plastic Surgeon to get these products. 

Either way I hope you are able to find these awesome products and get the results you have been looking for! 

Wrapping it up

Are Obagi products the best around?

Not necessarily, but I would be lying if I said they didn’t have some great products. 

When it comes to your skin there is no substitute for simple tried and true trial and error. 

If you are serious about improving the quality of your skin then please make sure that you don’t take my word, but that you start practicing with various products. 

This will help you find exactly what YOU need. 

I know from my experience that I’ve found a regimen that works for me – but I’m always trying new things as well. 

But now I want to hear from you:

Have you used Obagi products before?

Did they work for you?

Why or why not?

Leave your comments below! 

Kat Rich

Hi! I'm Kat and I write these posts. I'm obsessed with eyebrows, hair and anything related to fitness. Right now I do microblading, 3d brows and semi-permanent eyebrows in Mesa, Arizona as a certified microblading artist. I'm a licensed cosmetologist and have been for over 10 years as well. I love experimenting with new products and love to share my experiences. Have questions? Leave them below!

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