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A Dermatologist Told Us What We Actually Needed To Do For Our Skin And This Is What Happened

What's better, lots of expensive products or a professionally prescribed routine of high-street products?

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Always consult a doctor before trying new skin products or changing your skincare routine.

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A dermatologist is someone you only see as a last resort, right?

At least, that's the attitude most people have in the UK. However, in many other countries it's common practice to see a dermatologist as regularly as you see your dentist.

We wanted to see if following skincare routines individually prescribed to us by a dermatologist would work better than our current self-prescribed and rather elaborate routines.

All of us have relatively mild issues with our skin, so our experiences will have been very different to those of many people who see a dermatologist. We wanted to see if this is something that is a worthwhile investment for those whose lives aren't disrupted by skin problems, but who no longer want to spend hundreds of pounds on products that do not work for them.

Ben and Ellie

Ben: I wash my face in either the morning or evening, sometimes both, using the Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator Cleanser. A couple of times a week I follow that up with Kiehl's Calendula Herbal Extract Toner, and finish off with Kiehl's Oil Eliminator Lotion. I've also recently bought the Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask, which I try to do twice a week but realistically only usually get round to once.

Total Cost: £99

Ellie: At the moment I use a cleansing balm (Lush Ultrabland) to remove my makeup at night and then cleanse again with a simple cream cleanser and my Clarisonic. I follow up with Pixi Glow Tonic, a serum, and a heavy moisturiser. I don't do anything to my skin in the morning, because I'm too lazy and like to sleep for as long as I can. I'll also do a face mask maybe once or twice a week – usually a deep cleansing mask with charcoal or clay.

Total cost: £181.84 (most of that is the £125 Clarisonic!!)

Tolani and Natalya

Tolani: My skin care routine is pretty simple. In the morning I wash my face with African Black Soap. Then I add a few drops of the Manuka Doctor facial oil into my Kiehl’s Ultra Facial cream. At night, I use the Garnier Micellar Water to remove my makeup. After this I wash my face with African Black Soap, then I use the Caudalie Yine Activ Overnight Detox oil, and finally shea butter on my dark spots. Once a week I use a face mask, I usually swap between sheet masks and the Aztec secret clay mixed with apple cider vinegar.

Total Cost: £101.45

Natalya: In the evenings, I firstly take my makeup off with micellar water. I then follow with a second cleanse, currently with the balm cleanser from Sanctuary Spa. ​I follow up with Pixi Glow Tonic and La Roche Posay Serozinc spray. After this, I apply the ​REN Keep Young and Beautiful Eye Cream. I follow with the Luna Night Oil from Sunday Riley. I let that soak in for a few minutes then I apply my moisturiser, which is the Argan du Maroc Anti-Ageing Cream. In the mornings, I do very little – just wash my face with water then apply the same eye cream and follow with Kiehl's Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 30.

Total Cost: £156.33

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Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

The first consultation consisted of a chat with Dr Sweta Rai about our skincare concerns. She then inspected our skin – including our scalps, chests, and backs. An initial consultation with Rai would cost £250, and £150 for any further consultations. If you don't have any specific concerns and you're simply interested in creating a personalised routine like us, she recommends just one initial consultation to find out what your skin type you have and what products you should be using.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

The philosophy we all agreed on for this experiment was to create simple routines consisting of as few as possible products, and for none of the products to be luxury items.

Skincare always seems like it's something that need to take up a lot of time and money in order to be effective, with endless steps and products. Rai assured us that this simply isn't the case – you can have great skin using just a cleanser, moisturiser, and SPF – and they don't even have to cost more than a tenner each.

It's important to note that prescription medicine in England is not free, which contributed much to the total cost of our new routines. In other parts of the UK, such as in Scotland, prescription medicine is free.

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

1. We will only be using high-street products, or prescription treatments assigned to us.

2. We will only be using those products during the six weeks.

3. We will try to eat healthy, whole foods and get plenty of sleep every night. Full disclosure – although this was prescribed to us by Rai and is integral to healthy skin, we didn't overhaul our routines and habits entirely, partly because we wanted to test the effectiveness of the products alone, and partly because we're kinda lazy.

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Ben

Tim Lane / BuzzFeed

The Diagnosis:

The dermatologist told me that I have type IV skin, which is basically in line with the fact that I’m mixed-race and don’t really burn in the sun. I was not diagnosed with acne. I was told my that skin wasn’t very blemished, just a little oily. The surprise, however, was when I was diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp and in my beard, which basically meant dandruff.

The Prescription:

Neutrogena Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Gel Wash twice as a day as a cleanser

Garnier Light and Silky Factor 30 sunscreen as a moisturiser

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel as a night cream

Olay Regenerist Exfoliating Face Wash and Cleansing Brush twice a week

Anti-Dandruff Ketoconazole Shampoo every day, leaving on for 20 minutes at a time

* Olay Regenersit Facial Cleanser to be used twice a week

Total cost: £46

Ellie

Tim Lane / BuzzFeed

The Diagnosis:

Dr Rai confirmed I have dry, sensitive skin. It's also type II (read: really pale) and sun damaged, which wasn't really surprising, considering I've never regularly used a sunscreen on my face and am constantly covered in freckles. However, I was surprised to learn I have comedogenic acne – I've never had a huge problem with (big, red, visible) spots, so never thought I would be diagnosed with acne. ~The more you know.~

The Prescription:

* Neutrogena Oil-Free salicylic acid face wash in the morning

* Garnier Ambre Solaire Light and Silky sunscreen in SPF 30 as a day cream

* Micellar water in the evenings to take my makeup off

* Tazarotene to help get rid of my acne and reverse sun damage, which I was to use before my night cream

* Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream as my evening moisturiser

Total cost: £42.10

Tolani

Tim Lane / BuzzFeed

The Diagnosis:

I was told that I have type VI skin, which is solely due to the fact that I am black. Having this type of skin means that I get minimal sun damage but I'm more likely to have hyperpigmentation. She also confirmed that I have oily skin and diagnosed me with comedogenic acne, which was brand-new information to me. This aside she assured me that I have pretty clear skin, and that my oily skin now means less wrinkles later.

The Prescription:

* Micellar water to cleanse my face in the mornings and in the evenings

* Ambre Solaire Light and Silky Sun Cream as a day moisturiser

* Epiduo Cream, which I was to use before my night cream; I was told to initially use it three times a week and then after the first week use it every night

* Olay Regenerist Regenerating Moisturiser Night Cream as my evening moisturiser

Total cost: £53.48

Natalya

Tim Lane / BuzzFeed

The Diagnosis:

I was told that I have combination type III skin. I was diagnosed with mild inflammatory acne and comedogenic acne, which basically meant I had a few red spots and some whiteheads. I was utterly shocked, tbh. My skin has never been a huge issue for me, except due to hormonal fluctuations. I didn't realise that having a few spots was sufficient to be diagnosed with acne. I was also told that I have combination skin.

The Prescription:

* Lymecycline tablets daily for 28 days, which is an antibiotic used to treat acne

* Epiduo Gel, a prescription treatment that helps reduce acne, to be used every few days for the first few weeks and eventually every day

* Micellar water to remove makeup

* Neutrogena Oil-Free face wash twice every day, because it contains the most salicylic acid to help clear oily skin

* La Roche-Posay Anthelios SPF 30 Lotion in the mornings; I was prescribed a lotion specifically because it's lighter than creams, and this particular product is noncomodogenic. I was also to use this as an eye cream

* Olay Regenerist night cream to help deal with the drying effect of the Epiduo gel, also to be used around my eyes

Total cost: £76.16

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Ben Henry / BuzzFeed, Ellie Bate / BuzzFeed

Ben: I found using sunscreen as a moisturiser very strange, especially as it took a lot of rubbing in and would often leave my complexion looking grey or ashy if I used too much. I also questioned leaving the shampoo sit on my scalp for 20 minutes every day, as the instructions on the bottle said to use it a maximum of three times a week and only for 2-3 minutes. Would I be bald by the end of the six weeks?

Ellie: A few days in, my skin had become so dry that it was patchy and flaky, and it was starting to make me self-conscious. I started applying two layers of moisturiser at night to counteract the dryness, which helped – the Neutrogena moisturiser is a life-saver, and has quickly become my favourite new product – but my skin still felt tight and uncomfortable after a few hours at work without moisturising.

Tolani: Okay, I'll be honest, after three days, I stopped using the sunscreen because it left my skin looking grey, ashy, and EXTRA oily. Quite frankly I never want to look grey, no matter how good it is for my skin. Sunscreen aside, I was enjoying this routine – it's simple, and the night cream is great.

Natalya: MY SKIN WAS BURNING. Not just burning while applying the Epiduo Gel – it was a consistent, dull burning that got worse when I applied anything at all to my skin. By the fifth day, there was also significant flaking all over my face, though all red spots had gown down.

Natalya Lobanova / BuzzFeed, Ellie Bate / BuzzFeed

Ben: By week two, I was starting to notice a difference immediately after using the products and I was happy with the outcome. However, a couple of hours later I’d find my forehead would be quite oily, which was a little annoying.

Ellie: I had a party this weekend, so stopped using the Tazarotene as regularly because I didn’t want my face to be red, irritated, and flaky. After that my skin was great – I barely had to use any concealer, and I was actually walking around bragging that it was the best my skin had ever looked. LITTLE DID I KNOW OF WHAT WAS TO COME.

Tolani: By week two I thought I would see some sort of difference, but I really didn't. My skin felt and looked the same and I also had an hormonal breakout, which was normal for me.

Natalya: I had no significant spots at this point and the burning had mostly stopped, though the area around my nose was still sensitive. I also had a 21-hour flight to Australia during this week, but I didn't actually experience any new breakouts during my journey because the super-dry atmosphere on planes is actually good for oily skin! However, the comedogenic spots did not disappear, and I actually felt like they got worse and spread over the entire lower-right part of my face.

Natalya Lobanova / BuzzFeed

Ben: There didn’t seem to be much difference at this point. My skin would look great immediately after using a product, but would become oily a little while later. To be fair, it wasn’t as oily as it was before, and it only took some gentle blotting to get rid of it.

Ellie: I can definitely say that the general texture of my skin has improved hugely – I don’t feel as though my pores are as visible as they used to be, I have a more even skin tone, and I’m overall really pleased with it. I did, however, get some spots on my chin around my time of the month (this coincided with a heatwave in the UK, which meant I was also sweaty AF), and they left more of the hyperpigmentation that I’d been so desperate to get rid of in the first place.

Tolani: So this is when shit got real, and by real, I mean fucked. I had been very smug about how I had no reaction to my cream while Ellie and Natalya were red and burning. And then BAM, it hit me. My face started burning – it was dry, red, and flaky and I came up with a rash. At this point I was ready to give up, but I did a Google search and saw that this is a common reaction to Epiduo. The rash lasted over a week, and during this week I only used the cream three times.

Natalya: I actually got a new spot during this time, which was irritating and felt like a step back, though it was probably just hormonal. The comedogenic spots were slowly decreasing and there were now just a few on my chin and none on my jaw, but my skin was still peeling and I had an angry dry patch on my jaw. I started using my old eye cream in the evenings because the Olay stuff is to heavy that it congeals in the fine lines around my eyes. I was really loving the La Roche-Posay suncream, though, and had no problem using it around my eyes.

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Tolani Shoneye / BuzzFeed

Ben: I noticed the most difference during this time. Up until this point, the only changes to my diet I’d made was not ordering as many takeaways. During week five and six, I made a conscious effort to eat much healthier, and I noticed my skin looked much better for it.

Ellie: Week five was perfect. I had no complaints whatsoever. But then week six came around, and all hell broke loose. For some reason, I ended up breaking out so badly that I felt self-conscious leaving the house. I had spots on my chin, cheeks, forehead, and neck, which wasn’t pleasant. Again, it may have been hormonal, but I have never had a hormonal breakout as bad as this and I don’t know if the change in routine was just exacerbating my hormonal spots.

Tolani: So when the rash finally cleared up, I did notice some improvements to my skin. Surprisingly, it was less oily and it felt a lot softer. However, I'll be honest, by this stage I thought my skin was going to be completely clear and spot-free, but this didn't happen.

Natalya: At this point I didn't experience any breakouts or spots. However, my face was so fucking oily. To be fair, it'd been very hot in the UK, which is definitely not helpful, but I felt like I reflected light in a way that no mammal is meant to. What I noticed most, though, is that my pores seemed to be smaller and the tone and texture of my skin was very even. Overall I was pretty happy with my skin.

Ben

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

By the end of the six weeks, I had noticed small differences in my skin. I don’t think my skin was very problematic and blemished to begin with, so I wasn’t exactly expecting a brand-new face. The products were cheap and mostly lasted the six weeks, except the cleanser, which I had to replenish. Considering that in the final weeks I changed my diet properly, it led me to think that it’s not so much the products you use rather than a combination of that and general lifestyle choices that will improve your skin.

Favourite Product: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturiser

Dr Rai's Verdict: Ben's skin has seen the most evening-out in complexion. His skin is still quite oily, but less shiny. As he has quite thick skin, it will take more time following the routine before he sees the full effects.

Ellie

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

I’m generally happy with the improvement in my skin. However, I ~was~ expecting my dreams to come true, and unfortunately I’m still dreaming of completely clear, even skin with no hyperpigmentation. I will say that I loved how simple the routine is – it takes 10 minutes every morning and evening, and I don’t see myself going back to the ridiculously complicated, long process I was going through before (although I have missed face masks). I’m continuing to use the Tazarotene gel to spot-treat, and I’ll definitely be using a sunscreen in the mornings from now on. The biggest triumph for me, though, has been the Neutrogena Hydro Boost moisturiser: I actually look forward to applying it at night, which means I’m making time to take better care of my skin in general, and I repurchased it as soon as it ran out. I’ve recommended it to everyone and their mother. Literally. My mum now uses it.

Favourite Product: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturiser

Dr Rai's Verdict: Ellie's skin cleared and then flared up again, which can happen when treating acne. Her complexion is quite red, but overall it's more even with a nice glow.

Tolani

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

My skin feels better but looks pretty much the same. I still have the same dark spots and marks. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I really thought I was going to have amazing skin after this and I don't.

My skin is not sensitive at all, so I was really shocked by my extreme reaction to the Epiduo cream. That rash alone makes this whole experience not worth it. I will never use that cream again, but I will carry on using the micellar water and the night cream. Also, following on from Dr Rai's advice I have swapped my face moisturiser for sun cream. I tried a few and the only one that didn't leave my skin oily or grey is the Benefit Dream Screen. I have also gone back to washing my face with black soap, after micellar water, because I enjoy the feeling of washing my face. My takings from this whole thing is that I am going learn to love the skin I'm in, and for days I don't love it, I am going to wear full-coverage foundation. Oh, and I am also never going to play games with my skin for content ever again.

Favourite Product: Garnier Skin Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water

Dr Rai's Verdict: Tolani's had an amazing improvement – her skin is far less oily and more even. She still has some acne and hyperpigmentation, which takes a while to clear up on type VI skin but will eventually clear with time.

Natalya

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

My skin is much better, clearer, and far more even in tone and texture. I also feel like I've learned a lot about my skin and what to look for in products. However, I think the extreme nature of the treatments was not what I'd been expecting. I really didn't think there would need to be so much actual physical pain in order to deal with my handful of red spots. I will continue using all the products though, even the Epiduo gel, which my skin is now used to (as an occasional spot treatment). Since finishing this experiment, I've only used the gel every few nights, and otherwise simply use the cleanser and moisturiser. I've not had a single spot, and I will never again pay more than a fiver for a cleanser.

Favourite Product: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Smooth Lotion

Dr Rai's Verdict: Natalya's skin has had the best response to the acne treatment because oily skin is quite resilient. The majority of her comedones have gone, and her complexion is clear and dewy.

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

This was an incredibly useful experience. These were our main takeaways:

1. Clear skin is not something that can be achieved by simply throwing money and as many products as possible at it. It's more like cooking – a great dish is made with carefully chosen ingredients, not with as many ingredients as possible, regardless of how luxurious they are.

2. There are no quick fixes and everything takes time. Your skin regenerates slowly, and you really need to give every new routine several months to see results.

3. Ultimately, skincare is a multimillion-pound industry and it's important to remember that is in the interests of many, many people that you continue buying more products. Clear skin should not be something that is only accessible to those with money to spend on expensive treatments, or even those with money to spend on a dermatologist. The point is that there are good-quality products on the high street, available to everyone, and you shouldn't need to spend hundreds of pounds to see results.

4. We will definitely save money in the long run if we stick to our current routines. Money that we may or may not spend on sheet masks anyway.

Services were provided by Dr. Sweta Rai, The Harley Street Clinic, and The Platinum Medical Centre to BuzzFeed free of charge, but we were under no obligation to be positive in our coverage. You can read more about Dr Rai's skincare advice on her blog.

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