I'm starting PocketDerm. Wish me luck! | Hello Pretty Bird! - A beauty and not-so-glamorous lifestyle blog

29 June, 2014

I'm starting PocketDerm. Wish me luck!

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I wrote a post yesterday that mentioned my how my skin cleared up a lot after I honed in on quality products in my skincare routine. While I am mostly happy with my skin these days, there is one product I have always wanted to try but has eluded me for practical reasons: Tretinoin. Also known by the brand name Retin-A. It's a highly effective treatment against acne AND wrinkles in some cases, but if you live in the United States (and a number of other countries) you need a prescription to get it. Crappy insurance + dermatology visits not being covered = tretinoin is too cost-prohibitive for me, boo-hoo-hoo.

PocketDerm Bottle Packaging Bag

I read about something called PocketDerm recently, which is essentially a subscription service that (a) allows you to consult with a certified dermatologist online and (b) allows you to get prescription topical creams for acne inclusive in the cost (which is very affordable at $19.95 per month). I suspect that some of you reading have already heard of PocketDerm, being the savvy internet users that you are, but I thought it might be interesting to write up a little intro and document my experience for folks who are new to it, so uh.... here you go.

First, some quick facts about PocketDerm:
  • PocketDerm costs $19.95 per month. The price includes online consultations with a dermatologist, topical acne medication, and shipping costs. By default you're set up to do a consultation and receive new medication every 90 days, but you can request it more often if necessary at no extra charge.
  • When you sign up, you will be paired with a specific dermatologist. At present, PocketDerm is available in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, Washington, D. C., Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • Your assigned dermatologist will diagnose you based on photos you provide and the questionnaire you fill out when you sign up. PocketDerm is only for the treatment of acne at this time.

More detailed info can be found in their FAQ. So basically, PocketDerm is a very easy way to have access to a dermatologist for questions and to get topical acne medication. The acne cream is their own formulation that is shipped to you, you don't have to pick it up at a pharmacy or anything. I believe that PocketDerm docs also have the ability to prescribe oral antibiotics, but those would have to be filled at a pharmacy and are obviously not included in the cost.

More background about my skin: I would describe my skin type as combination (oily chin/nose, dry elsewhere) and moderately acne-prone. Since I started incorporating BHA and AHA products into my skincare routine regularly my acne has mostly cleared up, but I still get random clogged pores and occasional evil throbbing monster zits, so I wanted to try something new that would hopefully prevent those from happening as often.

When I signed up I was assigned to Dr. David Lortscher. Here's what the consultation interface looks like:

PocketDerm consultation window interface review

I've blurred out the text for privacy reasons, but you can see that it's similar to a lot of chat interfaces. Based on my experiences so far, the doc usually replies within a day or so. Not bad.

PocketDerm label info

The PocketDerm cream comes in a bottle with an airless pump to preserve freshness. The white part you see inside the bottle is the interior chamber, not the product, so it will not be damaged by light.

Based on my photos and the questionnaire, I was given a combo of 0.018% Tretinoin, 1% Clindamycin, and 8% Azelaic Acid. I've done a bit of snooping on forums and whatnot and this seems to be a common dosage for acne medication "beginners", but it kind of makes sense to start with a gentle dose of these things so your entire face doesn't peel off. That and my skin is not in horrible shape at the moment, so a gentler formulation makes sense. By the way, here's what these ingredients are for:

  • Tretinoin: Helps the skin "renew" itself, prevents acne
  • Clindamycin: An antibiotic
  • Azelaic Acid: Helps unclog pores and reduce discoloration

The inactive ingredients are: water, vegetable glycerin, stearic acid, myristyl myristate, cetearyl alcohol, ceteareth-20, glyceryl stearate, jojoba seed oil, soybean oil, cetyl alcohol, carbomer, shea butter, calendula flower oil, passion fruit seed oil, rice bran oil, acai palm fruit oil, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin.

In case anyone's curious, this is everything that came in my first PocketDerm package:

What you get in your PocketDerm package

I got the acne medication (obviously), an instructional leaflet, and little samples of Neutrogena cleanser, Cetaphil moisturizer, and Eucerin SPF moisturizer. I wasn't expecting bonus products so that was a nice touch.

Impressions so far:
I've only been using the medication for two days so it's too soon to give a real progress report on that, but so far I haven't experienced any peeling or anything awful. We'll see what happens.

I'm a bit surprised at how quick and easy the signup process was—I guess I expected more handholding since we are dealing with prescription ingredients, but then again I didn't ask billions of questions of my derm because I had already done a bunch of research.  I feel confident that if I do have any questions I'll be able to get answers though, since the consultation interface is so straightfoward.

I think I'll do an updated post in a month or so to document whatever effects the cream has, so hang tight until then.  If you want to try this out for yourself in the meantime, you can get the first month free with a referral—this is my referral link if you want to use it, so click away and enjoy, my discount-loving friends.

Have you used PocketDerm? What do you think of the "online dermatologist" concept?


  1. good luck! I love it when I find a skin care solution

  2. Thank you very much! I'm hoping this will be the final piece in my acne-prevention puzzle, as it were.

  3. This is a pretty cool skincare offering for people that don't have the time to wait months and months to see a dermatologist.

  4. Yeah, definitely! Or if you live in a rural area and would have to drive really far to see one. It's a really cool concept.

  5. I heard about this a while ago and honestly was a little leery of it... but my insurance covers derm visits and medication, so I have no need for it. I think for "normal" stuff like acne, it's not a big deal but I wonder how they handle it if someone has really bad skin issues. I hope it works out for you, though!

  6. PocketDerm only handles acne cases (not other skin issues) and doesn't prescribe drugs that need blood tests (like Accutane), so I think it's mostly meant for people with mild to moderate acne issues who can't get to a regular derm for whatever reason. No scary stuff. I would prefer to see an in-person doctor, but this seems like a reasonable alternative considering that I don't have major skin issues.

  7. Ahhh, that makes a lot more sense! So since you won't use up that medicine in a month, do you have to maintain the subscription, or can you stop it and start it back up again?

  8. Technically you could probably stop and start, but I think the idea is to keep an ongoing subscription so you can ask questions and adjust the formula if needed as you go. Tretinoin would cost me about $40 or so per tube at my local pharmacy (not to mention the cost of getting a doctor to prescribe it), so maintaining the PocketDerm subscription every month still works out to be more cost effective than traditional means, if that makes sense?

  9. Thanks! So far my face hasn't fallen off, so I guess that's good...

  10. We have the same doc! :) Did he also recommend a pill for you? I opted to pair my topical with the pill they recommend for a speedier clear up (hopefully)

  11. Nope! My acne is actually pretty minor at the moment, so he didn't suggest antibiotics or anything. Though I think I'm having some mild purging from the topical. :(

  12. I read on reddit that's pretty normal. I'm hoping the pill will help calm that because it has anti inflammatory in it.

  13. Yeah, I don't think that's abnormal at all. Seems to be common with anything containing tretinoin. The clindamycin should help supposedly ... I probably shouldn't complain because the purging is relatively minor so far. Like at the level where it's still concealable with makeup. Anyway, good luck with yours!