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Do you really need custom-blended skincare?

By Georgia Seago
7th March 2023

Skincare is an incredibly oversaturated market – there are products to fit every skin type, budget, and bathroom aesthetic, and new brands are constantly launching claiming to be the next best thing for your face.

So, when Skin + Me launched in 2020, I wondered, is this necessary? The brand aimed to disrupt the skincare space with a totally different approach, creating a personalised, custom-blended serum based on feedback from an online consultation and images of your skin, prescribed by a dermatologist, and delivered to your front door. And the subscription model means you never have to worry about running out.

But with so many effective medical-grade products already on the market, and so much expert advice readily available to help you get your head round it all, is there any benefit in having something formulated just for you? There are other brands  with similar models – namely Dermatica and Klira (the brainchild of dermatologist Dr Emma Craythorne, of TV show The Bad Skin Clinic) – so there’s clearly enough demand, but I wanted to find if you, our lovely readers, should bother. I spoke to Dr Malvina Cunningham, consultant dermatologist for Skin + Me, to get down into the details. Here are my takeaways.

1. Custom-blended skincare minimises waste

One of the things that appeals to me most about these brands – but something they don’t really seem to shout about – is that waste during the production process is massively decreased because each serum is made to order. There’s no surplus product collecting dust on a shelf that gradually expires and gets chucked away. Plus, their packaging tends to be designed in a way that ensures you dispense just the right amount of product for each application – ‘Each personalised solution is bottled up in our patented Daily Doser, which dispenses the perfect sized dose of our prescription-strength solutions, with one twist-and-click,’ says Dr Malvina.

3. The products are formulated by medical professionals

I’m impressed to find out that Skin + Me only employs pharmacists registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to develop its custom formulas. ‘All of our prescribers are General Pharmaceutical Council registered and must have a Master of Pharmacy degree, a minimum of eight years of study and practical experience,’ says Dr Malvina. ‘Our Skin + Me prescribers specialise in dermatology and have all been trained by leading UK consultant dermatologists to give them everything they need to oversee the day-to-day care of all of our customers.’

These independent pharmacist prescribers are the people tasked with reviewing the information and images on customer consultation – which was designed by the consultant dermatologist team – and they then develop each product and treatment plan.

4. You can get prescription-only ingredients – but be cautious

Custom-blended skincare models make accessing prescription-only ingredients much easier and cheaper. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily need them – in fact, you probably don’t – unless you’re dealing with a skin concern like moderate-to-severe acne, rosacea or stubborn pigmentation. The prescription ingredients Skin + Me offers for its personalised formulas are tretinoin, clindamycin and metronidazole (for acne and rosacea treatment – the latter two are topical antibiotics), and hydroquinone and hydrocortisone (both used to treat deep pigmentation like melasma).

If your skin needs prescription-strength ingredients, this is a great way to get them while bypassing hefty private dermatology fees and ensuring your skin is getting the other things it needs, all in one dose. ‘I would always recommend a well-formulated product that contains all the required active ingredients in one, says Dr Malvina, ‘This way, you can ensure the ingredients work well together and are formulated for optimal function and absorption.’

But – be wary of going ahead with a custom product that contains prescription ingredients if you’re unsure as to whether you really need them. You know your skin and what your concerns are, so look over the product’s ingredients before ordering and research anything you’re not sure about. You could easily end up sensitising your skin and causing more problems if you blindly put a high-strength, medicated formula on your face – even if it has apparently been made for you, which is what happened to one of Team Tweakments, before she came to work with us.

4. You get skincare support

The above being said, Dr Malvina assures me that Skin + Me formulates based on a step-up programme to minimise side effects and help skin acclimate. ‘We gradually evolve the ingredients and strengths of the active ingredients based on how your skin tolerates these and based on effectiveness, starting with very low strengths and gradually increasing the strengths and changing the formulation over time,’ she says.

Customers also get advice on which other products they should use alongside their personalised serum, as well as application notes, if necessary, like using a moisturiser as a buffer to minimise irritation. In case of any issues customers have free access to their prescriber at any time. It’s worth noting though, that with Skin + Me, prescription-strength ingredients, access to the prescribing team for ongoing support and other product and routine recommendations are only available to those who subscribe to a monthly plan.

5. It could be cost-effective

Skin + Me charges £24.99 per month for its personalised solutions (each bottle lasts for a month with daily application as advised) after the first bottle, which is £3.50. You’ll still need at least a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen, so depending on how much you currently spend on your skincare and how long the products last you, using one of these services may or may not be a good decision for you financially, especially if you don’t really have any issues with your skin that your current products aren’t addressing.

But the access to prescription-only ingredients for a fraction of the cost of seeing a derm and getting a private prescription is a real selling point – ‘If you were to see a private dermatologist it would likely cost you at least £250 for your appointment, and anywhere from £35-£100 for your prescription,’ says Dr Malvina, so you could be saving yourself a lot of money in comparison.

 

 

 

 

The Tweakments Guide Takeaway

Nothing will beat an in-person consultation and treatment with a top dermatologist, but if you're on a budget and you have a tricky skin concern for which you think you need dermatological advice and prescription-strength ingredients, one of these custom-blended skincare models might be worth a try. Our advice is to do your research to choose the right one for you based on the consultation process, price, the ingredients they suggest you use, and how the brand manages your ongoing skin health.

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