Review: PocketDerm – An Online Dermatology & Prescription Acne Medication Service
I proclaim my love of the modern world pretty frequently in my every day life. I say it every time I walk into an air conditioned building, when I binge watch a new show on Netflix, and I say it when I’m able to read breaking news from the other side of the world on my smartphone when I’m in a car in the middle of the desert. When I first heard about PocketDerm, an online dermatology service that provides prescription acne medication for a monthly fee, I, without any hint of irony, actually uttered the words, “What a time to be alive!”
At the time, I still had a couple of months left on my Tretinoin prescription from my local dermatologist, but as soon as I picked up my last tube, I decided it was time to learn what PocketDerm was all about.
What is it?
PocketDerm is a teledermatology practice that offers online prescription acne treatments from an actual dermatologist from any smartphone or computer. The acne treatment prescribed is a custom compound medication that includes up to 3 actives, which can be any combination of niacinamide, clindamycin, tretinoin, or azealic acid, depending on what your PocketDerm doctor recommends. The actives are mixed into the company’s custom base, which includes ingredients that have been designed and tested to be pharmacologically stable with the active ingredients used in the prescriptions.
My personal PocketDerm prescription ingredients are:
Tretinoin (0.018%), Clindamycin (1%), Azealic Acid (8%)
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 addition to the actives in a PocketDerm prescription, the base formula offers a host of plant oils that are rich in antioxidants and possess moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. Here’s a quick breakdown of the actives in my prescription:
Tretinoin, also known as all-trans retinoic acid, is a prescription strength form of Vitamin A that is frequently used to treat acne. It’s most commonly known under the popular brand name Retin-A, but is used in a number of other prescription formulas by other names as well. Tretinoin works by stimulating collagen production and regulating cell turnover. For more on Tretinoin, you can check out my review of Tretinoin Gel Microsphere 0.04%, which is what I was using before I made the switch to PocketDerm.
(Abstract) 40 years of topical tretinoin use in review
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, June 2013
Clindamycin is an antibiotic that effectively treats acne by preventing the bacteria that causes acne from multiplying. It can be prescribed in the form of an oral or topical medication.
(Abstract) Efficacy and safety of clindamycin-tretinoin gel versus clindamycin or tretinoin alone in acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled study
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, March 2012
Azealic acid is a prescription medication that possesses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also inhibits melanin synthesis, which makes it an effective treatment for conditions such as hyperpigmentation. It is frequently used to treat rosacea as well.
(Abstract) Azelaic acid in the treatment of acne in adult females: case reports
Skin Pharmacology & Physiology, November 2013
According to CosDNA, the major red flags (3 or higher out of 5) in the base formula for PocketDerm include myristyl myristate, which gets a 5 out of 5 as a potential acne trigger, and soybean oil, which gets a 3 out of 5 as a potential acne trigger.
How the Service Works
The PocketDerm service charges a flat fee of $20 a month. This fee covers all of your consultations (you can have as many as you need), and all of your medication. The PocketDerm medication ships every 90 days by default, but you can increase the delivery frequency for no extra charge if you find you’re going through your medication faster.
When I signed up, I was taken through a short series of questions about my acne history, severity, and frequency. I was then asked to upload three, well-lit photos of my face (two side views and one frontal view). After that, I received a message letting me know that Dr. Lortscher (AKA Dr.L) would contact me within the next couple of days.
I actually ended up getting a response just a few hours later, even though it was a weekend. I was extremely impressed with the speed of the service. I imagine the response time varies widely depending on workload and other obligations, but so far, every time I’ve sent a message through the websites messaging service, the response has been very quick. The communication was also extremely friendly – for some reason I’d expected it to be cold, so I was pleasantly surprised by the approachable tone of the conversation. Dr L made recommendations, asked questions, and even complimented my “epic” cleanser collection.
Five days later, my PocketDerm prescription arrived in the mail.
The packaging for PocketDerm medication is significantly more attractive than any tube of tretinoin I’ve ever had. It comes packaged in an airless pump, with the PocketDerm logo on the front and directions for use on the back.
The product itself is an opaque, white lotion. It’s not watery at all, but it is very easy to spread.
The PocketDerm cream has a nice, low, pH of 4.5.
There is no added fragrance in the PocketDerm medicine. If I try very hard, I can smell the generic scent of any sort of cream based skincare product.
I apply 3 pumps of PocketDerm medication to my face in the evening, after I’ve applied all of my low pH products and waited 20 minutes (It’s the 6th step in my evening skincare routine). I apply by dabbing the cream on my forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin, and then rubbing it in. The product absorbs quickly and easily, and is not greasy, sticky, or shiny once absorbed. I then finish the remainder of my routine.
I’ve been using PocketDerm nightly for about 10 weeks. I find the formula to be extremely gentle, and have not experienced any irritation or breakouts as a result of using this medication. It has done an excellent job keeping my acne away, which is fantastic. But there is also another added benefit – I had two, fresh, fairly severe PIH marks when I started using my PocketDerm prescription, and noticed the speed at which those spots lightened accelerated dramatically once I started using PocketDerm. I suspect the azealic acid component deserves the credit for this – nonetheless, I am overjoyed.
In the past, I’ve received messages from readers who were unable to get to a dermatologist either because it was cost prohibitive or because of a lack of transportation, and I always felt terrible that I had nowhere safe and reliable to send them. After using the service myself, I think PocketDerm offers an amazing alternative for those who have previously been unable to get to a dermatologist. The cost is extremely reasonable, especially when you consider that the $20 a month fee covers your ongoing medical consultation as well as 3 acne medications combined into a single product.
The PocketDerm website has an FAQ, in which they say if you already have a dermatologist, it’s best to continue getting the face-to-face care the in-person doctor can provide. I think this is sound advice – however, I have personally found that the convenience of being able to do everything online combined with the reduced hassle from getting 3 prescription actives in a single product is far more convenient and cost effective for me. I’ll still go see my dermatologist for my yearly mole check, but my acne is in the hands of PocketDerm now.
There are some limitations to the service. PocketDerm requires parental consent for anyone under 18 years of age, and can not treat any patients under the age of 13. I know Dr.L is working to make this service available in as many areas as possible, but currently, this service is only 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.
Pros & Cons
Skin & Tonics Rating
|B+||20/20 Efficacy||9/20 Ingredients||20/20 Application||20/20 Wear||20/20 Packaging|
|Total: 89||Rating system details »|
Where to Buy
|PocketDerm Online Dermatology & Prescription Acne Medication||$19.95/month (First month is free!)||The first month is FREE when you sign up though S&T.||buy|
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