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Beauty

The best virtual skincare consultation services that will take the guesswork out of product shopping

November 24th 2021 / Amber Voller / 0 comment

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A new wave of online beauty platforms offers one-to-one video calls with leading skincare experts. Which ones really deliver?

Just two years ago the idea of enjoying a one-to-one consultation with a world-renowned skin doctor, without setting foot outside your own bedroom, would have seemed totally alien. But one global pandemic – and a whole host of lockdowns – later and that's exactly what a new wave of digital beauty platforms are offering.

Searches for the term 'virtual consultations' increased by over 350 per cent from 2020 to 2021, according to data science firm Spate. And we're not just talking Zoom calls with shop assistants while beauty counters were closed.

From Renude, a skincare consultation service developed by a former Beauty Pie cosmetic chemist, to GetHarley which allows you to chat with leading dermatologists without the waitlist for just £30, these revolutionary platforms are shaking up the industry with their bespoke video consultations and unbiased product recommendations.

These are the services that get our approval – from independent services to in-house experts at skincare brands and former beauty editors offering their own one-to-one expert advice...

Independent online skincare consultation services

GetHarley – top choice for elite expertise

If you're a fan of pharmaceutical skincare, you'll love this portal that has some of the world's best aesthetic doctors and dermatologists on its books. With the likes of Dr Sophie Shotter, Dr Maryam Zamani and A-list facialist Nichola Joss available, we're talking a super level of expertise that would usually set you back hundreds of pounds and come with an eye-wateringly long waiting list. GetHarley lets you book an appointment in a matter of days.

After specifying your skin needs and goals, you'll be matched with the practitioner best suited to you. Alternatively, you can request someone specific. Following your consultation, you'll be recommended an at-home skincare routine consisting of cosmeceutical and medical-grade products, including those available only on prescription. These can be tailored to suit your budget although bear in mind, they'll all be pretty premium. You'll also be able to exchange follow-up messages to monitor your progress and ask any questions.

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Get the Gloss editorial director Victoria Woodall, who used GetHarley for an appointment with cosmetic doctor Dr Fiona McCarthy to tackle pigmentation, says:

"I'm beyond impressed with the service. I feel as though I finally have a plan that can really make a difference to a genuine issue. Plus, it's a low-risk way of vetting a pro, if you're interested in visiting them for tweakments, to see if their ethos matches yours."

Price: £30 for 30 minutes

Renude – the membership scheme

This unique platform is the brainchild of data scientist Catherine Nisson and cosmetic chemist Pippa Harman who's spent ten years formulating products for the likes of Boots and Beauty Pie. It also has the support of consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk who is on hand as its scientific advisor. Like Beauty Pie, you can join on a membership basis for £20 per quarter, redeemable against products, making it easy – and cost-effective – to get continuous advice and embark on a long-term skin 'journey.'

Another standout feature? It combines one-to-one interviews with a licensed aesthetician and clever computer algorithms. Following the thorough two-pronged skin assessment, you'll be recommended a routine that can be tailored to suit your budget.

Anything you're recommended will have been approved by Pippa who spends her days analysing INCI lists and trialling formulations. They even promise to refund your fees if you're not happy with the service. And with brands spanning a range of different price points – from Avene and Cerave to Medik8 and Neostrata – there really is something for pretty much all.

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Our testers reported dramatic visible improvements in their skin concerns following the three-month plans they were given.

"I'm genuinely really impressed with Renude. I love the idea of a consultation with someone who isn't wedded to a specific brand and the 20-minute session achieved so much," comments reviewer Louise Atkinson who used it to help with lack of radiance and firmness. (You can see her impressive before and after photos here.)

Price: £20 every quarter to become a member – redeemable against products. Then receive an initial 20-minute video call for free, £15 thereafter and unlimited messaging. You can also pay for a one-off consultation at £35 for 20 minutes.

The French Pharmacy – great for sensitive skin

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Ordinarily, you'd have to visit one of Dr Marine Vincent's two London-based stores to pick her incredibly knowledgeable brain but thanks to the launch of her digital consultation service, anyone can now gain access to this health and skincare guru.

The registered pharmacist founded her businesses – The French Pharmacy and Make Me Feel Pharmacie – after noticing stark contrasts between pharmacies here and her native France.

The smart concept took off and now she stocks almost 70 different brands – all chosen based on her decades of experience and elite French pharmacy training. At the heart of her offering is independent, expert personal advice – just like you'd get back in France – so consultancy is innate to Dr Marine.

Get the Gloss contributor Amber Voller gave her five stars:

"Dr Marine really is an unsung hero of the skincare world. The key thing about digital consultations is connecting with the expert and sharing the same ethos. If, you've found other services intimidating or, like me, are cautious of sensitising your skin with potent formulas and a complex routine, she's 'The One.'

"It felt I could ask her all kinds of questions and get an honest and impartial answer. Dr Marine will even recommend other independent experts – like acupuncturists, nutritionists and hypnotherapists – to help get to the root of a problem.

"In my case, she listened to my concerns (wanting to gently combat pigmentation and pores) and explained how I could incorporate just one additional product – either La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum, £38.50, or A313 Pommade 50, £18.99 – into my routine."

Price: £45 for 30 minutes, redeemable against products.

Lion/ne – the holistic approach

Founded by Megan Felton and Ksenia Selivanova – who both hold skin health qualifications – this support service takes a comprehensive approach examining additional lifestyle factors that could be impacting your skin including nutrition, sleep and your job.

The Lion/ne team of experts – who it refers to as 'skin mentors' – undergo an eight-week training course, that's been certified by BABTAC (British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) to enable them to give independent recommendations from a range of brands such as REN, Augustinus Bader and Exuviance.

Your routine can be tailored to suit your budget as well as any other criteria you wish – products solely from black-owned beauty brands, for example. You can also book follow-up sessions and enjoy direct messaging with the experts for small additional fees. The initial consultation is 45 minutes and you have access to their expert online chat for the odd query after.

Get the Gloss graphic design and social media manager Jemma Thompson tested the service: "I spoke to co-founder Megan who was a font of knowledge. She asked what worked for me, had an abundance of product suggestions based on my budget and wasn't pushy or affiliated with certain brands so I really felt like I was getting unbiased recommendations. I liked that I could upload a 'shelfie' of all the products I already had at home to help me save cash and use up some existing products.

"I was recommended 14 products, which would come to £989 in total – mainly because of The Light Salon Boost LED Mask, £395, that I was keen to try, but which was still out of my budget. There were a couple of toners and SPFs for me to choose from (a budget one and a spenny one) and four products I already had on my shelf. The idea wasn't that I bought the whole basket. It was more of a curated browse.

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"What I really liked was the skincare 'calendar' telling me which days I should use particular products, whether to apply them in the morning or at night, and in which order. The call took a holistic approach. I take a lot of supplements but I keep breaking out so they offered to put me in touch with an expert who could help. If I wanted diet or mindfulness support, they could suggest an expert for that, too. You can tell all the skin mentors are passionate about skin and they've created a really strong community feel."

Price: £65 for 45 minutes includes access to an expert chat room for interim queries. £35 for a 30-minute follow-up.

The Skin Nerd's Nerd Network - the original online skin consultation service

Founded in 2017 by dermal facialist Jennifer Rock, also known as The Skin Nerd, the Nerd Network was one of the very first virtual consultation services on the market and has already helped thousands with their skin issues.

Jennifer herself has become famed for her encyclopaedic knowledge of ingredients as well as her best-selling book and Skingredients range of products. And her ethos is reflected in her team of highly trained 'Nerds and Nerdettes' who offer detailed consultations.

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Following an initial consultation for £50, you become part of the network that gives you exclusive content, access to the team for guidance whenever you need it and the ability to book follow-up consultations for £25 – redeemable against product purchases.

Their recommendations aren't just limited to skincare but makeup and supplements, too, creating a comprehensive plan with special versions for brides, teens and mums-to-be. Get the Gloss contributor Amber found it to be a good choice if you're serious about a long-term overhaul of your skin:

"I could immediately tell I was going to be in good hands after I was asked to fill out a very in-depth questionnaire and share photos of my skin at multiple angles ahead of the appointment. Once the call began, my friendly 'Nerdette' Aoife's 19 years of industry experience was evident. She gave a detailed explanation of ingredients, formulations and how the skin works, throughout.

"I was sceptical when three of the eight products she recommended were from Jennifer's own Skingredients range although Aoife assured me they'll only suggest the products they think are genuinely best for someone.

"She also explained how she'd tweak my routine – increasing the concentrations of my actives and introducing new ones – in another couple of months which made it feel like part of a long-term plan rather than a quick fix."

Price: £50 for 30 minutes

Branded online skincare consultation services

The Inkey List's MyInkey – best for on a budget

Keen to explore actives but not sure where to begin? Don't have a big budget to blow? The Inkey List's new free 'skin coaching' programme is the one for you. The brand has always been big on education and already offered AskInkey – a 24-hour messaging hotline that allowed you to ask skincare professionals questions. Now, it's gone one step further with the launch of MyInkey that delivers one-to-one 30-minute video calls with The Inkey List's experts.

While these all have diverse backgrounds, many are trained aestheticians, helping you select the best products for you from the brand's broad range of formulations. It's especially useful if you're confused about what ingredients to use or how to combine them within a routine – and there's no obligation to buy anything at the end.

In fact, co-founder Mark Curry says the service isn't designed to drive sales, with their experts encouraged to spend time with users rather than pushing products.

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Get the Gloss beauty assistant Amy Rostas, who trialled MyInkey, comments: "I'm normally hesitant to try new products because I have sensitive skin and worry about reactions. Having this regime tailored to me put my nerves at ease. Some of the brand's products can feel a little scientific but my skin coach helped me understand exactly how the ingredients worked and what to use when. I was recommended 11 products (£97.89 in total) seven of which were suggested as 'staples' costing £64.93. I received a complete routine with a step-by-step guide specifically for my sensitive combination skin and my skin goals of improving texture, hydration and reducing breakouts and dark circles. I didn't feel under any pressure to buy."

"I also like that you can upload selfies to your MyInkey profile to track your progress over several weeks."

Price: Free for 30 minutes

Sarah Chapman – the digital personal shopping experience

Sarah Chapman's online skin service was launched during lockdown, but after proving popular, the brand has continued offering it. It's now run by its digital skincare expert Sophie Paravicini – a former makeup artist who specialises in skin and works closely with founder Sarah.

The consultation is £50 but that's redeemable against products so if you're already looking to purchase something from the range, it's a no-brainer and a great way to ensure you're not spending your money on the wrong thing.

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Get the Gloss contributor Amber Voller says: "I really enjoyed my consultation with Sophie who was warm, knowledgeable and not at all 'salesy.' She put me at ease when discussing my concerns, asked me about my current routine then recommended three targeted products that could slot alongside it, rather than persuading me to purchase a whole new branded plan.

"The process was slick and it felt like a real personal shopping experience (made even better by the face I could do it in my PJs!) that would make a lovely unique gift for someone."

Price: £50 for 30 minutes, redeemable against products

Online skincare consultations with beauty editors

Olivia Falcon AKA The Editor's List – the cosmetic procedure queen

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From facelifts and lasers to injectables and pre-wedding body prep, former Tatler beauty director Olivia Falcon's knowledge of cosmetic procedures is unrivalled. Through her The Editor's List platform, she offers a menu of video call services providing independent advice on skincare, surgical and non-surgical procedures. But it's her 'concierge' options that are a standout.

Following your Zoom call, she can put you directly in touch with doctors and therapists from her own 'little black book', often helping you skip huge waiting lists.

Price: From £420 for 60 minutes

Alice Hart-Davis – the anti-ageing authority

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Like Olivia, Alice is an authority on all things aesthetics although she specialises in anti-ageing. Having penned several best-selling books and spent 20 years working as a beauty journalist, she understands the industry inside out.

Her own successful website The Tweakments Guide is a brilliant tool for unbiased information on treatments and practitioners but if you're after more tailored advice, check out her one-to-one video call service.

Available to book on Wednesdays between 2pm and 5pm, Alice can help you tackle specific concerns with recommendations of skincare products, tweakments and the best people for the job. Her honest and personable approach will make you feel as though you're chatting to a friend – with no question off limits.

Price: £250 for 30 minutes

Lucia Ferrari – the skincare oracle

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Lucia is another reknowned beauty director with two decades of experience on titles such as Harper's Bazaar and The Daily Mail, working with some of the business' most esteemed dermatologists and facialists.

She offers her own one-to-one video call service dubbed 'The Skincare Edit' where she'll review your current routine then provide you with a detailed written report including a personalised regime tailored to your needs.

There are also options for discussing non-surgical procedures and the right practitioners for you.

Price: £120 for 60 minutes

GetHarley have kindly offered Get The Gloss readers an exclusive discount code. Enter GLOSS15 in the box titled 'How did you hear of GetHarley?' to get 50 per cent of your consultation fee redeemed against products.

MORE GLOSS: The TikTok skincare hacks doctors say 'no' to

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