The shift from in-store retail to online allows companies to specialize in ways that I’ve never thought possible. Recently, I successfully obtained prescription glasses online from Warby Parker (yes, they offer standard, true progressive, and prescription sunglasses now). I liked the at-home try-on service, and quality of the frames and optics are quite good. They’ll also re-do if there’s a problem. I’ve also ordered “custom created for my very own specific ears” earphones from Normal. Basically, Normal uses 3-d printing technology to make earbuds that do not fall out and don’t “leak” sound, because they are made for your very specific nooks and crannies.
I decided to take the another online-leap to try Pocketderm, (edit–they’ve now changed the name to Curology) which offers dermatologist-prescribed skin treatments online for acne and for anti-aging. Although I do see a dermatologist locally and in-person, many do not. Whether because such visits are not paid by insurance, and can be quite expensive out-of-pocket, I suspect that many order prescription treatments from sources outside the U.S. I’ve never been sure whether to trust such sources, because they are outside the jurisdiction of the F.D.A. I was curious to see how an online-retail U.S. source of retin-A variants might work. Let the experiment begin!
The site’s focus is very narrow–anti-aging and acne. That’s it. Full stop. It does not perform the services that a dermatologist typically would, like checking your skin for any other conditions or concerns. Here’s the process:
- The site asks you for your state, and matches you with a dermatologist licensed to practice there. From there, the site asks you a series of questions.
- Because I don’t have acne, but I do have a daughter Liz’s age, I chose the anti-aging side of things. The site asks about specific anti-aging concerns, including fine lines, texture, discoloration, and the like. It also asked about previous experience with retin-A type products (both over-the-counter and prescription), to learn more about your specific skin.
- In addition, the site asks you to submit several pictures of yourself without makeup (arghhh! scary concept for me!) so that the doctor can see the state of your actual skin.
I answered the questions, got over myself and uploaded some iPhone pictures, and checked boxes indicating that I needed help with all three concerns–fine lines, discoloration, and texture. I received a mix of three main ingredients–Tretinoin, vitamin C and niacinamade. Inactive ingredients are listed on the website (water, glycerin, aloe vera leaf juice, PEG-100 myristate, sweet almond seed oil, methyl paraben, propyl paraben, tocopheryl acetate).
I also received a lovely little set of freebie samples for sun protection (any retin A products, including Tretinoin, makes skin more sun-sensitive and so should be used only at night. Although you should always wear sunscreen, you really, really need to when using a retin-A product).
I’ve been using this for the past week. Although I can tell that the Tretinoin is making my skin more sensitive and pink in the mornings, it hasn’t been overly harsh. The texture has improved, as you might expect. From here, I’ve received a follow-through email or two to check in for any questions or problems.
The company didn’t know that I am a blogger. Nonetheless, I received my first month one-month supply free (pictured above) via an email offer, after I registered at the site. I’m told that using this link will give you the first month free as well (crossing fingers that it works, although the site won’t let you get far into the process without inputting credit card information). After that, Pocket Derm charges $49.95 for a three month supply (presumably, a larger container than my one-month supply). You can have the active ingredients adjusted by emailing your assigned dermatologist. The website states that the subscription can be cancelled any time (I haven’t tried to cancel yet, because I actually like the service).
Overall, I thought this was a successful experiment. I was glad to be working with a U.S. dermatologist, and to know that the supply source was reliable and FDA-regulated. So, I liked the trust factor of the operation. Of course, I still kept my appointment with my dermatologist next week, because Pocket Derm is such a niche product offering. Note that this is a consumer review and not a professional recommendation. Decisions about medical care are intensely personal, and I am not qualified to assess the effectiveness of these products, the qualifications of the dermatologists, or how they may affect you and your skin.
The Pocket Derm-Warby Parker model does open up possibilities, I think, for the beauty industry. I’m crossing my fingers that custom-created foundations, mascaras with growth-enhacing ingredients, and precisely-tailored under-eye care is on some mad genius website-creators desk for our future.
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