Tester Louise Atkinson, 57, followed a routine using an online consultation service, set up by an ex-Beauty Pie cosmetic scientist and was astonished by the results. Her 24-year-old daughter tried it too. Here's their verdict
My skincare routine used to be pretty basic: I’d use a hot cloth cleanser on the rare occasions when I’d been wearing makeup and have a scrub in the shower every so often with a gritty supermarket brand exfoliating cream. My freckled cheeks might be treated to a dot of inexpensive night cream before bed and a thin layer of self-tanning SPF15 each morning.
I thought my skin looked pretty good for a woman of 57 and had given up hope of finding a serum that could chisel away my lost jawline or reintroduce a bit of definition in my neck. But I was intrigued by the idea of a personalised skincare service that would create a more sophisticated daily regime for me to help hold back the ravages of age and perhaps introduce a bit of a youthful glow.
Renude is new virtual skincare recommendation service, masterminded by cosmetic scientist, Pippa Harman, who has spent ten years formulating products for the likes of No7 and a further three at Beauty Pie and data scientist Catherine Nisson. It has the support of consultant dermatologist and Get The Gloss expert Dr Justine Kluk, who is the platform's scientific advisor.
The system combines skin diagnostic algorithms with a one-to-one interview with a licensed aesthetician. You're then provided with a bespoke plan to suit your needs, budget and lifestyle. It works on a membership structure – not dissimilar to Beauty Pie. You pay £20 per quarter (redeemable on product purchases) and receive a free initial 20-minute video consultation then £15 video calls thereafter. In between appointments, you can message your expert as often as you like, for free.
My 24-year-old daughter Emilia, heard me talking about it and as a long-time acne sufferer – thankfully it's in check now, but she still has scarring – she was up for trying it too (read her verdict below).
The online quiz ahead of your consultation narrows your ‘concerns’ down to two. I chose lack of radiance and lack of firmness. You then send front and side photographs of your face (natural light, no make up) for expert scrutiny.
It was clear that my expert, Amelia, knew her stuff. She told me good skincare is the basic diet for my skin and that feeding it scraps (as I’d been doing) wouldn’t be enough to nourish and support it. Signs that my skin was not happy could be seen in the uneven pigmentation, sensitivity and evident dehydration. She said my skin barrier was ‘weak’ and needed some expert attention. Only when it had strengthened sufficiently would she prescribe more powerful age-proofing products more suitable for a woman my age.
I was prescribed five products that all promptly arrived in a lovely pink Renude box, wrapped in tissue paper and ribbon.
Harborist Balm-Gel Cleanser , £25
Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler Anti-age Refreshing Mist Spray , £10.50 (as a toner)
SVR ABC Ampoule Hydra B3 , £33 (with 5% niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to soothe, plump and repair dry or damaged skin)
Eucerin Anti-age Hyaluron Filler Night Cream , £30
Heliocare 360 Water Gel SPF 50+ , £31 (to protect against UV and blue light from computer screens)
For two months I religiously followed my prescribed routine: cleanser, toner, serum and SPF in the morning, then cleanser, toner, serum and night cream before bed.
I have to confess it was a bit of a faff and certainly not something I’d ever been used to. I took to going up to bed early to make a start on the routine so I could ensure each stage had dried properly before I could apply the next. It became a bit of a ritual – I never expected to be quite so ‘high maintenance’!
When the products were beginning to run low, I arranged a second online consultation with Amelia to see if she thought my skin was ready to handle the big gun products. As instructed, I took another set of selfie photos – front and side – and sent them off for her scrutiny.
When I flicked back through my phone photos to the first set taken two months earlier I was shocked. How had I not noticed the HUGE improvements in my skin? My pre-Renude skin looked thin, dull and brittle with lots of freckles, redness and obvious sun damage. After just two months of cleansing properly, massaging in serums and creams, and dutifully protecting my face from sun and screens it looks fresh, bright, smooth and evenly toned.
I am absolutely gob-smacked. If I hadn’t taken those ‘before’ photos I would never have known.
Amelia seemed just as excited and as a reward for my diligent good behaviour she bumped me up to ‘active’ products - a vitamin C serum in the morning and a retinol treatment at night - in place of the SVR serum (which she said I had now ‘outgrown’). She recommended for me IS Clinical Super Serum Advance + , £74 (a vitamin C serum to target wrinkles, pigmentation and scarring, protect against environmental damage and boost luminosity and glow) and Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment , £54, to stimulate collagen production, skin firmness and even out skin tone.
Amelia suggested I stay on the same gentle cleanser, toner, night cream and SPF, but introduce the new serums gradually to avoid triggering a reaction. Slightly shocked at the price of these new products, I clicked through to ‘alternatives’ on the Renude website and opted for a less expensive vitamin C serum ( Medik8 Pure C15 Serum , £42). I think I’ve got to accept, I’ve skimped for so long but now it’s time to invest a bit of money in my skin – especially if it’s going to really make a difference. I’m buzzing about the amazing improvements the recommended products have brought about, and I feel as if I am in expert hands.
Overall, 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 limitations of one brand’s product range. I would never have gone to the effort to see a skin specialist, but the 20-minute online consultation achieved so much. I doubt I would ever have paid this much for skincare in the past, but I am so thrilled with the results so far, I’d say this is money well spent.
Emilia Woods, 24. Skin concerns: Acne prevention, red blemishes and acne scarring
I have always thought I have the skin curse. For 10 years, I have been suffering from acne. My dad suffered with it too and was on the original trial for Roaccutane , my grandad suffered with acne before Roaccutane was even a concept, and in learning this family history I knew I was in for a wild ride with my skin.
Over the years, my skin problems have gone from teenage-hormone-surging acne, at the age of 14, to adult-hormone-surging acne, now at age 24. I have tried antibiotics, topical creams and even a nine-month ordeal of Roaccutane when I was 15. My skin has become so resilient to treatment over the years that nothing, not even specialist facials, worked to shift the blemishes and painful infections under my skin.
Dermatologists began to mention being on the contraceptive coil and the related hormone surges, as a possible cause for my adult acne. It was very hard to be faced with the idea that if I didn’t want acne anymore, I had to come off contraception. Surely the choice for young women shouldn’t be between potential pregnancies and good skin, or no pregnancies and bad skin? I was in a Catch-22.
I was finally put onto Spironolactone by a dermatologist, and it has made the world of difference to my skin. Now the consistent and red acne has calmed, and I see mainly flare-ups in periods of high stress. However, the damage that years of scarring acne have left upon my skin, is something I could do with help on, now that things were starting to heal.
Naturally, when Renude was mentioned to me, I was sceptical because of just how many experts had said that they could fix my skin. But the clinicians at Renude provided the balance between medical expertise and access to products that I would not be able to research and purchase myself without their guidance.
I was able to tell them my story (which is now deeply entrenched in my history), discuss the areas of concern and tell them what I would like to change now that my acne was calming down. I explained the impact of the last year of being on Spironolactone, the changes in my hormones and what that looks like on my skin.
My areas of concern were the red blemishes that remained on my cheeks and jawline, the scarring and establishing a preventative routine.
I was advised to try new products including low-strength retinol to begin the rejuvenation process of healing my scarring. Apparently, this has a six-week ‘purging’ period that you just have to push through when you start. You can guess that my skin did not even notice the new product being introduced and I suffered no such thing, but after a couple of months, I began to see the impact.
My recommended acne-scarring skincare routine:
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser , £9.50 – to cleanse daily in the morning and evening
SVR Essence B3 Essence Hydra Toner , £23 – to neutralize the skin after cleansing in the morning and evening
Medik8 Retinol 3TR Serum, £29 – to rejuvenate the skin in the evening, building up to every other day
By Wishtrend Sulfur 3% Clean Gel , £20 - to be used on any spots that arise, in the evening, but I couldn’t use this as it smelled too badly of eggs!
Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect SPF30 , £55 - to use in the morning
Heliocare Water Gel SPF50+ , £31 - another SPF option to use in the morning
My cheeks became smoother and less silvery from the healing scarring, the odd blemish that arrived left just as swiftly and I was really enjoying the routine. I was encouraged to keep using my products - niacinamide and hyaluronic acid serums - on the days that I didn’t use the retinol.
The one major concern that I had with the advice, was the requirement to include SPF into my daily routine. I have always hated using suncream in my skincare – it is oily and makes me feel grubby wearing it. Flashbacks of summer holidays with thick white sun cream being slathered across my face ran through my mind as the clinician mentioned this new requirement to me. I said I would absolutely incorporate SPF into my routine to protect my skin’s barrier, only if she could find me one that didn’t feel like pancake mix on my face. I was gobsmacked. My clinician not only found one that worked for me and my skin, without making me break out, but she found two!
It is now a staple element in my skincare routine and I am so much more conscious of the impact of sunlight on my skin, particularly when I am asking that it heal so fiercely at night with the retinol treatment.
It has now been four months since my first consultation, and last week I had a follow-up meeting with a new clinician. I uploaded photos prior to the meeting so that they could have a really good look at what has changed since the first meeting. They were impressed with the progress (and so was I!), but they said this is the time to ramp it up. The redness in my skin was still a factor that we could prioritise and we could also try to feed some minerals back into the skin as part of the routine.
Products suggested in my follow up consultation were:
Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water , £11 - to take makeup off in the evening
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser , £9.50 - replacing my previous one which was starting to dry my skin, used in the morning and evening
Paula's Choice 10% Azaleic Acid Booster , £37 - to reduce redness and inflammation, with salicylic acid, used in the morning AM £37
Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6 , £59 – with an increased concentration to tackle congestion and smooth skin, used in the evening PM £59
Paula's Choice Clear Oil-free Moisturiser , £28 - for the times I need more moisture in my skin, in the morning and evening
It wasn't just the suggestion of products I received though. In my first meeting, I was asked whether I had any stomach or gut issues that could be contributing to my bad skin. After this, I started to take some probiotics and I feel so much better in myself. In my follow-up consultation, I was advised to keep a skin diary, to monitor and observe any patterns that occurred in my daily life and whether that correlated with poor skin days.
I will now be doing both of these regularly moving forward, and I really appreciate the blue-sky thinking of the clinicians to cover aspects of my wellbeing that perhaps hadn’t been addressed before. Sometimes bad skin isn’t always about the skin, there may be another cause to look out for that would otherwise be overlooked.