Acne, rosacea, eczema, melasma... These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to skin complaints affecting women, and if you have any of them, you'll know that they're much more than skin deep. According to London-based dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk, skin complaints can affect self-esteem, cause anxiety and result in a withdrawal from social situations, so it's no wonder more of us are booking in to see the professionals.
In London, however, visiting a dermatologist could potentially set you back £250+ for a 20-minute consultation. This doesn't include follow-ups, recommended skincare products or medication, which may also be prescribed. But it seems there might be another route to tapping the experts for better skin. Enter: Dermatica.
Created by Dwayne D'Souza of the MedExpress Group and medical director, Dr Natalia Spierings, Dermatica is the UK's first ever online dermatologist service, bringing together a team of consultant dermatologists, pharmacists and GPs to assist you with your skin complaints. The process is simple: you create an account and follow the steps to a virtual consultation, where you are asked for information based on your skin concern, as well as your skin history, lifestyle factors and medical background. Pictures of your skin are also required for the behind-the-scenes pros to determine the best results for you.
So far, so similar. The only real difference is that a Dermatica subscription costs just £19.99 a month. A three-month subscription gives you access to products such as tretinoin (a prescription-strength vitamin A, renowned for its acne-, wrinkle- and pigmentation-busting properties) and potentially medication (for example, antibiotics), depending on your skin's needs. Treatments are delivered to your door that week, with top-ups every month and a review after the third month to make sure you're on track. Your patient login also allows you to access free help and support throughout your treatment, so you don't have to go it alone.
All of which sounds great. But how does it compare in terms of results? Is it really safe? And would industry experts recommend or refute this digital-savvy approach to skin? D'Souza assures Dermatica users that the drugs prescribed have been tested via hundreds of independent trials and have been proven safe and effective. Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and author of The Skincare Bible: Your No-Nonsense Guide To Great Skin, adds that there are pros and cons. "Pros include convenience and improved access. Cons are that there is no ability to touch or properly see the skin for complex diagnoses where you would need to examine the whole skin." Often, dermatologists will employ tools such as microscopes for closer inspection, for example. Dermatica does mention that the site is for "minor to moderate skin complaints" and "short-term conditions", so for that reason, we would recommend visiting your GP or a dermatologist for information on moles or other abnormalities, and if the condition of your skin is causing you to worry. If you do choose to visit a dermatologist in person rather than online, it pays to check that they are properly qualified by searching their name on the General Medical Council register.
If you're intrigued by online dermatologist services, read on. Ahead, three R29 staffers with different skin concerns trialled Dermatica for three months – the amount of time experts argue it takes to see real results from a skin routine. Here's how we got on.