Obagi Medical vs. Obagi Clinical; FX & RX Demystified

Hannah Wilson

We’ll be the first to admit it; Obagi can be a little confusing if it’s your first time coming across the brand. There’s Obagi Medical and Obagi Clinical, and FX vs RX, and prescription vs non-prescription, and a lot of long, tongue-twister medical grade ingredients that the brand’s founder, Dr Zein Obagi, added to his formulations to make each product extra effective.

If you’re wondering what all the letters and ranges mean, and where to begin when choosing your first product, we’re breaking it all down below. Here’s your easy-to-understand guide to the Obagi range.

Prefer to chat to a Face Dr Skin Expert about the different ranges instead? We are an authorised Obagi Medical stockist, so our team can help you find the products that work best for you. Let’s chat:

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

  • A quick overview: What is the Obagi range?
  • What is Obagi Medical?
  • What is Obagi Clinical?
  • How are they different?
  • Why do I need a prescription to buy Obagi Medical products?
  • What ingredients feature in Obagi Medical?
  • What do FX and RX mean?
  • Why have two almost identical ranges?
  • Who would benefit from choosing FX?
  • Who would benefit from choosing RX?
  • Summary: Should I try Obagi Medical (RX) or Obagi Clinical (FX)?
  • How do I book a free consultation?


A quick overview: What is the Obagi range?


Obagi Medical vs. Obagi Clinical


As you might already know, Obagi is a skincare brand offering both prescriptive and non-prescriptive products to help with a number of different skin concerns. Their products are primarily formulated to help reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots, reduce signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles, and tackle difficult acne.

The products were created by Dr Zein Obagi, MD, who founded both Obagi Clinical and Obagi Medical, and then later left to create ZO Skin Health. His philosophy is to proactively create healthy, resilient skin rather than simply tackling the obvious issues. You can read more about the history of Obagi and an overview of the brand in our article here.

What is Obagi Medical?


skincare consultations


Obagi Medical is one of two Obagi ranges offering products with medical grade ingredients to reduce hyperpigmentation, dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles. It is also designed to protect skin and enhance its texture and tone. You can purchase products from this range on our website, but to do this you must first book a free consultation with one of our Skin Experts or complete our simple Obagi reorder form.

What is Obagi Clinical?


Obagi Clinical


Obagi Clinical is another range offering similar products with medical grade ingredients that focus slightly more on promoting youthful, healthy skin and preventing early signs of skin ageing. The Obagi Clinical range is more widely available as it can be purchased via stockists without prescription.

How are they different?

To put it simply; Obagi Clinical products are, as stated above, available to purchase online or in some brick-and-mortar stores, while a select few Obagi Medical products are prescription-only, meaning you must discuss your skincare needs with a professional and authorised stockist before you can purchase them. Prescription products tend to have better efficacy, and by speaking to a professional before buying you get expert guidance and products that actually work for you - no more wasting money on the wrong skincare.

Face Dr is an authorised stockist, which is why some products on our website are unavailable to purchase without a Face Dr account. Once you have had a free online consultation with one of our Skin Experts, they will prescribe you the appropriate products and add to your personal recommended regime within your Face Dr account to purchase whenever you wish.

Book your free video skincare consultation now

Why do I need a prescription to buy Obagi Medical products?


Obagi Medical


Although both ranges are almost identical, some of the ingredients used in Obagi Medical products are stronger and potentially more irritating to skin, so users must book a consultation with a professional who can give advice on the best products, recommend the correct product strength, and prescribe it.

If you see prescription-only Obagi products available to buy online without the need for a consultation, these are unfortunately counterfeits. Buying from disreputable sources could result in you purchasing products nearing their sell-by date, at inflated prices, or outright fakes that don’t contain the key ingredients found in genuine Obagi formulations.

What ingredients feature in Obagi Medical?


skincare ingredients obagi skincare


There are a number of key ingredients in this range that make it so effective:


Hydroquinone helps to fade hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone by actively destroying cells that produce pigment. Products containing hydroquinone should only be used on recommended areas, so avoid contact with eyes, nose and mouth/lips when applying. If accidental contact occurs, rinse the affected area immediately and speak to your Skin Expert. You should also wear sunscreen to protect your skin when using hydroquinone.

Sodium Metabisulfite

Used in formulations to stabilise hydroquinone, some people have allergic reactions to sodium metabisulfite so speak to your Skin Expert first to ensure they have all the information they need to make an informed decision on the strength to offer you.


In some Obagi Medical products, a highly effective ingredient called tretinoin is used to treat acne symptoms. A prescription is required as it can cause reactions and irritations for some. You can read more about tretinoin in our article here.

What do FX and RX mean?

You will notice that some identical products in the Obagi range are distinguishable only by the letters FX or RX in their title. These letters are a little confusing, but essentially:


Represents the Obagi Medical range and it means prescription, derived from Latin meaning “recipe”. You need a prescription to purchase products in the RX range. You can identify the two by remembering RX means Restricted, so you will need to ask a consultant.


Represents the Obagi Clinical range, for which you do not need a prescription to buy. FX doesn’t have a meaning itself, it is simply an alternative letter to distinguish it from RX (but we like to think it’s a clever play on the word ‘effects’!). To identify the FX range, remember FX is Fine, so you can buy it online!

Why have two almost identical ranges?


obagi skincare

Even down to the packaging, both ranges feature 7-piece skincare regimes that look very similar and work to create similar results, like reducing hyperpigmentation and early signs of ageing. Both also have a ‘normal to oily’ and ‘normal to dry’ option.

The big difference is the presence of 4% hydroquinone (prescription required) that is included in the Obagi Nu-Derm Clear RX and the Obagi Nu-Derm Blender RX. The Obagi Nu-Derm Clear FX and Obagi Nu-Derm Blender FX swap out the prescription-only hydroquinone for 7% arbutin (prescription not required), a much gentler skin brightening ingredient that inhibits the enzyme production of pigment cells that produce melanocytes. Generally, RX products are known for providing more powerful, lasting results overall.

Who would benefit from choosing FX?


skincare programs and kits

You may be thinking RX sounds more effective and would naturally be everyone’s first choice, but ultimately a professional must be involved to decide if prescription-only products are for you. The FX system can be more appropriate in some circumstances, for example:

  • Those who have a prior negative history, sensitivity or allergy to the RX system or its ingredients.
  • Those who are pregnant (or children under 12) should avoid using the RX system as the ingredients have not been studied extensively enough for safety.
  • The FX system uses plant-based pigmentation lightening ingredients (arbutin) which are often better for those who are simply looking to maintain results long-term.

If any of these reasons sound like you then FX may be the way to go, but we have product ranges to suit everyone and your Skin Expert can recommend suitable products for those with more sensitive skin.

Who would benefit from choosing RX?


woman using skincare cream


If your skin issues are on the more severe side or you do not have sensitivity concerns, then RX may be the best choice for you. This is because the products contain high-quality active ingredients which work to improve your skin concerns on a more permanent basis. Again, your Skin Expert or authorised professional would need to discuss this option with you and prescribe the appropriate treatment if necessary.

Summary: Should I try Obagi Medical (RX) or Obagi Clinical (FX)?

There is always a chance that the FX system (available to purchase online without a prescription) will work for you, but before you invest money into a product it’s advisable to speak to a professional who can discuss your skin characteristics, issues and desires, and recommend the system that is most likely to work for you based on their expertise. They can also help to tweak the product recommendations over time depending on the results.

Remember, you don’t need to book a consultation with Face Dr (there are other specialists out there). However, our Skin Experts are authorised Obagi stockists and can recommend the system that will work best for you, for free.

You can find our full Obagi range here, but remember we’re product agnostic, so we will remain unbiased and only recommend what we believe to be the most effective system for your skin concerns. If that’s another range entirely, we’ll say so.

How do I book a free consultation?


book a free video consultation


Your free consultation will take place on a secure video link where your Skin Expert will learn more about your skin issues and chat about the available ranges. If you choose to make a purchase based on our advice, we’ll unlock the recommended prescription-only products for purchase and have them posted to you next working day, anywhere in the UK. And if you change your mind after your consultation, that’s no problem - there is never any obligation to buy from us.

Ready to speak to a Skin Expert and find out which Obagi system is the one for you?

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