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Road Test: I tried prescription skincare

WORDS BY MAEVE KERR-CROWLEY

Personalised to you.

Finding the perfect skincare routine can sometimes feel like you’re trying to crack the Da Vinci code. Beauty influencers tell you that X ingredient has magical acne-busting properties one day, then another tells you it actually causes cataclysmic cell death the next.

Products claim they’ll turn you into a flawless porcelain doll, but when you try them you break into a horror movie-worthy rash. If only there were a way to get personalised recommendations for your skin that actually work, without having to wade through a bunch of science you’re not equipped to understand. 


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There’s a growing buzz around ‘prescription skincare’ that’s caught my attention of late. Previously, my understanding of the words ‘prescription’ and ‘skincare’ together involved going to a doctor and being prescribed a pill that tweaked your hormones.

But here was the promise of simple skincare solutions, hand-picked by a doctor to address your one-of-a-kind skin concerns. I had no idea how this worked – or if it worked at all – so I spoke with the founders of Australian prescription skincare brand The Secret, ordered myself some prescription creams and tried it for myself.

The science

The Secret Skincare was founded by cosmetic doctor Dr Clara Hurst and general practitioner Dr Deb Cohen-Jones after they saw a gap in the market for readily accessible prescription skincare products.

Simply put, prescription skincare is stronger and more effective than products you can grab at Priceline or Chemist Warehouse, using more potent ingredients in a purer form. This includes ingredients like hydroquinone for combatting pigmentation, topical antibiotics for acne, and prescription-strength doses of vitamins A and C.

“That’s why they’re prescription,” Dr Hurst explains. “They have to be restricted to the general public because if they’re overused or abused, they can have side effects. But the results are prescription-grade results. They’re nothing like the stuff you can just pick up off the shelf.”

The founders emphasise that these results do the hard yards in selling their products. Looking through the gallery of before-and-after photos on The Secret’s website, I have to admit I was impressed. The photos show huge changes in conditions like acne, melasma, pigmentation, rosacea and facial scarring. So, with the promise of such impressive changes, I charged forward in getting my very own prescription.

The process


Before

To order prescription skincare from a brand like The Secret, you’re first guided through a ‘skin quiz’ to determine your specific needs. This questionnaire asks for a description of your skin, the specific concerns you want to address, a breakdown of your current skincare regime, and any products you’ve had an allergic reaction to. 

I, for example, told them I had dry skin that was prone to breakouts and occasionally reacted badly to products for no discernible reason. I’ll admit before going any further that I wasn’t expecting the products to completely eradicate my breakouts, as my educated guess says they’re largely hormonal and stress-related. But my mind was open and my hope for healthier skin was high. 

The brand’s super science-y algorithm then recommends you some products. Before they’re sent out, however, a team of doctors reviews your answers to make sure everything’s copacetic. Your prescription is then sent to a pharmacist, who double-checks it all again. Then that pharmacist makes your cream by hand, after which it’s sent right to your door. 

The product

My personalised prescription included the Day Brightening Elixir Sensitive and the Cellular Repair Night Cream Original. If you too have been convinced by social media that you need a 12-step daily ritual for good skin, the simplicity of this routine might be surprising. But the doctors assured me I wasn’t failing if I kept things simple. 

“What we want everyone to do is have a very, very simple regime,” says Dr Hurst. “One day cream, one-night cream – then, if necessary, a treatment and an eye product. But that’s it. You don’t need to layer 10 products, you just put your night cream on and you go to bed.”

My first observation was that the packaging on these creams is incredibly sexy. Each came with a sleek black tub with minimal branding and a unique pressy-downy pump, but the kicker is that the packaging is designed to be reusable. The actual cream comes in a little plastic container that slips into this tub, so when you run out you just remove the inner container, order a new one and pop it into the same packaging. 

My order also came with a personalised treatment plan, which Dr Hurst and Dr Cohen-Jones told me to follow carefully. It explained my creams, outlined how often to use them, told me which of my current products to stop using and even recommended a new cleanser that would suit my routine better. 

The result


After

My one gripe upon first use was that my new creams weren’t as moisturising as I would have liked – particularly when it comes to the day cream. I have pretty dry skin, and it didn’t feel 100 per cent quenched after application. Admittedly, it’s the middle of winter and I take disgustingly hot showers, so that could be totally on me.

Besides this, the creams do feel nice going on. They sink in quickly with only a momentary tingle and don’t leave my skin feeling greasy or weighed down. Three weeks into my new routine (at the end of what the brand refers to as the ‘adjustment period’) and I’ve definitely noticed a difference. At this stage in the game, it’s a subtle difference, but my mum did tell me my skin looked nice the other day so I consider that a win. 

As predicted, the creams haven’t stopped pimples from popping up. I haven’t stopped being stressed every second of the day, after all. But anytime I did wake up with a new little red friend, applying my day cream dried it out and made it noticeably less irritated. I’ve also started to see a reduction in the pesky scar remnants of old breakouts.

My skin feels smoother, and my complexion is significantly more even. The biggest change, however, is one I wasn’t even expecting. I have so many fewer freckles than I did a couple of weeks ago. I quite liked my freckles, but their disappearance makes a very good case for the cream’s pigmentation-busting abilities. 

My biggest tip for anyone looking to try prescription skincare is to listen to the part of your treatment plan that says to exfoliate a couple of times a week. I was warned about flaking during the adjustment period and good lord they were not kidding. But hey, regular exfoliation means smoother skin, so I’m not complaining. 

The conclusion

I’m intrigued to see what further use does for my skin, but impressed with the results so far. I can see serious benefits for users with hyperpigmentation, in particular. The simplicity of the regime is also a huge relief as a renowned lazy person, and the sexy yet sustainable packaging looks very nice on my bathroom windowsill.

To find out more about The Secret, head here.

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