Treatment Feature

Customized Medical Grade Skincare with Crystal Coatney, PA-C, Diplomate Fellow, SDPA

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Fighting wrinkles, dark spots, and acne are common goals for clients seeking expert skincare from Portrait providers. Crystal Coatney, PA-C, a certified physician assistant specializing in dermatology and aesthetics, tells her clients that sunscreen is the first step to healthy skin. When she learned that her clients didn't know where to begin while selecting a sunscreen, she developed her own line that she could sell directly during appointments.

With a studio in the Golden Triangle area of Beverly Hills, Crystal works with clients who want to manage issues like post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, postpartum melasma, and other skin changes related to hormones and aging. As a dermatology professional with more than ten years of experience, Crystal is a firm believer in the value of medical-grade skincare products to help her clients develop a home skincare regimen for lasting results.

"Medical-grade has higher potency and a higher percentage of active ingredients," Crystal notes. "I recommend having a conversation about using them properly and the amounts to apply. If you want excellent results and you want it quicker, medical-grade will be more potent and effective."

Crystal has recently created a line of medical-grade sunscreen that she sells in her studio. Other providers have had good results stocking medical-grade skincare lines for clients to purchase. Selling products in the studio creates an opportunity for providers to counsel clients on specific products for their needs. With the products on hand, you can show them how to use them to alleviate any confusion and set clients on a path to good skin health.

Tailored recommendations for skincare

Different clients have different skin care needs, and Crystal is careful to recommend products that will work for the individual. Offering comprehensive consultations like that strengthens the client-provider relationship. It also ensures that providers and clients are on the same page about what the client wants and needs.

Recommendations based on age

As a general rule, Crystal suggests that all her clients use vitamin C for the antioxidant benefits, but not all vitamin C products are appropriate for all skin types. Crystal directs her younger clients who might have oily skin or acne-prone skin to products that won't trigger breakouts, such as Silymarin CF by SkinCeuticals. Clients with fewer acne concerns can use a more potent formula like the skinbetter science® Alto Defense Serum.

Medical-grade retinol products are an essential tool for anti-aging, particularly in older clients. Crystal often treats older clients with a combination of in-office chemical peels like the VI Peel and sends them home with an alpha hydroxy face wash like SkinMedica® AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser.

Talking to clients about their long-term goals is a way for providers to set up plans for clients to come in for treatment over the long term. Crystal encourages clients heading toward middle age to build a habit of treatments to stimulate collagen production and increase cell turnover on the skin's surface. "Doing things like microneedling, for at least three sessions annually, is a huge recommendation for healthy skin," she says. "Also doing exfoliating things, whether at home with the exfoliating cleanser or coming in for chemical peels a few times per year."

Recommendations based on skin type

Education is a vital part of helping clients achieve their skincare goals. When setting up a home routine for clients, Crystal is careful to ask about their skin and how sensitive they are. She gives precise instructions on using products like tretinoin so that clients don't run into trouble with irritation or dryness. "I have them do a ‘retinol sandwich'," Crystal says of clients just starting with retinol. "I have them put on moisturizing cream after washing their face and then use a pea size of retinol all over their face, followed by additional moisturizer."

Over time, as clients get more used to the effects of retinol, she guides them to increase both the strength of the cream and how often and directly they should apply it to their skin.

Recommendations based on lifestyle

Asking about lifestyle can help providers guide clients to the most effective skincare regimen. Crystal works with clients who lead active lifestyles, and she finds that many of them need guidance on where skincare fits into their day. She counsels them to be diligent about washing off make-up before bed. "You get most cell turnover at night time while you're sleeping, and leaving make-up on inhibits that," she explains to clients.

She also tells those who exercise often to remove make-up before working out. "I see a lot of patients who get a lot of breakouts from working out with make-up on or just a lot of congestion in their skin that they come in complaining about," she says. She also has advice for after-workout care, saying, "I have patients who come in with body breakouts because they're working out, and then they'll go do a bunch of errands after. So I always tell them to keep something in their bag, like a Cetaphil wipe, for example, and just do a quick wipe to get the sweat off."

What steps are vital to every skincare regimen?

Clients can get overwhelmed by a multi-step skincare routine, but they will likely stick with it when providers offer a simple, easy-to-understand solution.  

Crystal is an expert at streamlining anti-aging care for her clients. "I will always educate them on anti-aging skincare that they should follow," she suggests. "So, the bare minimum that I would recommend is a medical-grade vitamin C and sunscreen in the morning. And retinol at night. That's The Holy Grail of anti-aging and the bare bones regimen."

She recommends products that she can vouch for when she tells clients what to use for their skin, as she has tried everything that she recommends to patients on herself first. She shared her top recommendations for each type of product:

Vitamin C: "The skinbetter science® Alto Defense Serum is the vitamin C I use and love."

Retinol: "My favorite retinol is also by skinbetter science®, called AlphaRet®. It has alpha hydroxy in there, and it also has retinol. I like it because it's so mild. You can use it every day without irritation, even if you're new to retinol."

Sunscreen: "I'm always recommending a powder sunscreen as well. There's a brand I like, and I always recommend, called ISDIN Mineral Brush. It contains the physical block sunscreens. So they can just put that on over their make-up. And it's great for driving. I keep one in the car and put it on my hands when I'm driving, and if I'm not wearing a long sleeve, I'll put it on my arms." Crystal notes that this is a great tool for reapplying sunscreen on the face throughout the day, as it goes on great over already finished makeup.

Crystal's sunscreen line

Crystal recently launched her line of sunscreens called Cal Derma by Crystal Coatney, PA-C. There's a clear version with titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and niacinamide in SPF 45. There's also a tinted version with titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and hyaluronic acid. It's available for purchase at her practice, and she plans to start selling it online soon.

Sunscreen is the thing Crystal always advises her clients to add to their routine. "I always mention to them that the most potent and strongest anti-aging cream out there is sunscreen," she says. "Every day, we're getting cumulative damage by the sun little by little. Sunscreen is something that you can just add in every morning to prevent photoaging."

Crystal created the line because many of her clients had trouble picking the right sunscreen. Crystal would suggest physical UV blockers such as titanium dioxide, but clients would get confused when it came time to purchase products on their own. Not only was this putting them at risk for skin cancer and premature aging, but it was undoing the in-office work they were getting from Crystal.

"My patients, especially those with darker skin, would come in with a lot of post-inflammatory, hyperpigmentation- from acne, they'd have spots everywhere. So, I have them come every two weeks for peels and use prescription creams. And even just a little bit of sun or even exposure to the blue light emitted from computers and phones can darken pigmentation" Crystal shares. "And so explaining to them what they needed from sunscreen and sending them somewhere else to purchase was getting complicated, as they'd be totally confused. They wouldn't get it. They wouldn't think it's that serious, and or they pick up the wrong thing."

With her sunscreen line, Crystal can offer clients an easy way to protect their skin. "Instead of sending my patients to Amazon, I can just hand them the product, and they leave all ready to go," she explained.


Offering SPF products for sale in studio is an effective way of adding value to the client experience. Over time, providers can broaden the range of medical-grade skincare products available for sale. Providers can tailor the selection to their respective client base and become their one-stop resource for skincare and skin health needs.

To learn more about offering medical-grade skincare products in your practice, contact Portrait today.

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