Spots and acne may be something we associate with puberty and during our teenage years, but did you know it still affects 19% of adults in the UK? The odd blemish here or there is something most of us can deal with, but acne can really crush your confidence.
One dermatologist who has been trying to simplify skincare for those who struggle is Dr Sam Bunting. The London based dermatologist has been sharing her advice via her YouTube channel for years and in 2018 she finally launched her own skincare line to help us get closer to ‘great skin days’, as she likes to say. I decided to put her products to the test to see if they would do just that.
Dr Sam Skincare overview summary
• Flawless Cleanser (200 ml) £16 - pH balanced jelly cleanser, that cleanses skin and removes makeup. Use in morning and evening.
• Flawless Moisturiser (50 ml) £25 - A gel-cream moisturiser which is like ‘a hug for you skin’, leaving it hydrated and glowy. Use in morning and evening.
• Flawless Daily Sunscreen SPF 50 (50 ml) £29 - a broad spectrum SPF that calms and coddles blemish-prone skin, with a soft-focus primer-like finish. Use in the morning after moisturiser.
• Flawless Nightly Serum (30 ml) £44 - A serum containing niacinamide, granactive retinoid, azelaic acid, and bakuchiol to give you glowing skin, soften laughter lines and vacuum pores. Use in the evening after cleansing.
• Flawless Neutralising Gel (30 ml) £28 - Helps to reduce redness, spot size and minimise future breakouts. Use up to twice a day.
• Gentle on skin
• Suitable for all skin types
• Good quality ingredients
• All products non-comedogenic and fragrance-free
• Uncomplicated and easy to use
• Some products expensive
• Have to use for at least 4 to 6 weeks for results
• Some products are better than others
Testing Dr Sam’s Skincare
I’ve never been blessed with ‘perfect skin’ and regularly suffer from breakouts. However recently, I had a particularly bad spout of spots which came from nowhere. My brother (who is currently on medication for acne) mentioned how impressed he had been by Dr Sam’s products, so I decided to give them a go myself.
Using Dr Sam Skincare couldn’t have been easier. Whereas the back of a lot of skincare items are covered in text, Dr Sam’s products contain very simple bullet points, that are simple to understand. Even if you were left confused by these instructions, on the Dr Sam website there’s a video accompanying each product which also shows you how to use them. I was advised to use the products for a minimum of four weeks (I used them for about 10) as this is how long it takes for your skin to adapt to a new product, so if you’re looking for something that gives you speedy results, then they’re probably not for you.
In the morning I’d start off with one pump of the Flawless Cleanser and massage it onto damp skin for one minute as instructed. I loved its thick jelly texture and once rinsed off, my skin didn’t feel tight or dry, but completely hydrated. This was a pleasant surprise, as a lot of acne or blemish targeting cleansers I’ve used in the past have been very stripping on my skin.
Next was the Flawless Neutralising Gel containing azelaic acid and salicylic acid, which helps to unclog blocked skin pores and reduce redness. Thanks to the 5 per cent squalane (a hydrating source of fatty acids and antioxidants) this product wasn’t drying. There was a slight tingling sensation while applying, however it wasn’t painful and went away very quickly.
After, was the Flawless Moisturiser. This may have been my favourite product out of the whole range. Dr Sam describes it as ‘a hug for your skin’ and boy was she right! The cream has a velvety texture and glided effortlessly across my bumpy skin. There was no sticky residue and my face was left feeling plump and hydrated.
The SPF was the final product and was probably my least favourite. While I loved that it was factor 50 (we all want to protect against premature ageing) I couldn’t handle how much I had to apply (three pumps for your face and three for the neck). I felt it took a long time to sink in, my face was left shiny and sadly my makeup didn’t sit well on top afterwards. Half way throughout the day I reapplied some more of the Flawless Neutralising Gel. While my spots were still there, the gel had definitely calmed them down and I loved the fact that my skin wasn’t peeling or dry.
The evening routine is almost identical to the morning routine with just a couple of differences.
This time it was two pumps of the Flawless Cleanser, which removed ALL of my makeup. This couldn’t have made me happier, as there’s been so many cleansers which either don’t do this or I’ve had to do a double cleanse to get everything off.
I’d then apply the Flawless Nightly Serum, which contains four amazing actives (niacinamide to unclog pores, bakuchiol and granactive retinoid, which help with the appearance of ageing, as well as azelaic acid). This sunk into my skin quickly and I love how it contained these four powerful ingredients in one bottle, as it means you don't have to faff around with lots of different lotions and potions, making your evening routine quick and easy. After I applied the moisturiser and overall my skin was left feeling lovely.
Obviously I didn't see instant results on the first or even second day, however gradually over the course of the week my skin became a lot less irritated, looked calmer and my blemishes definitely reduced. I decided to leave the SPF out of my routine as it just didn’t work well for my skin.
On the third week I definitely began to see a significant difference in my skin, I was only left with a few blemishes (although the texture of skin was still bumpy in some areas) and it looked a lot brighter. Below are what my skin looked like at the start of the process and after using the products for 10 weeks.
Although I’m pleased that my blemishes have significantly reduced, I’m a little sad my skin’s texture is still quite bumpy in places. However, what I’m really pleased with is how gentle all of Dr Sam’s products are, as I think these days trying to find an acne or blemish product that isn’t drying is so so difficult.
Even if these products may deliver faster results in some cases, I personally would rather use products that take a longer time to get results but don’t disrupt my skin during the process. For example, I could still easily wear makeup over everything and my skin didn’t pile or peel.
How does Dr Sam’s Skincare compare with rival products?
The Flawless Neautrilising Gel reminded me a lot of La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ Blemish treatment, which is £12 cheaper and you get 10ml more. However, having used this in the past, I would hands down say the Flawless Neutralising Gel is a lot more hydrating and the results are far better.
I also love how hydrating and non-drying this product was and that it didn’t affect my makeup application. Whereas in the past I’ve used benzoyl peroxide, which can be very drying, it takes a long time for your skin to adapt too and my makeup would begin to flake on the areas I’d used it.
There’s only two other cleansers I’ve tried which haven’t left my spot prone skin dry, these are iS Clinical Cleansing Complex (£36 for 180ml) and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (£9.50 for 236ml). While these cleansers are great for blemished skin and I’ve enjoyed using both, I think Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser tops both of these and I understand why it's now deemed a 'cult product'. Cetaphil is super gentle and brilliant for if you’re on a budget, but unlike Flawless Cleanser it’s not good at removing your makeup. iS Clinical Cleansing Complex again doesn’t strip the skin and gently helps resurface the skin too; it removes makeup pretty well, but when you compare the price to Flawless Cleanser, which is £20 less and you get 20ml more, I feel like it’s a bit of a no brainer, unless you have the cash to splurge.
Is it worth the money?
Yes. Although when you add everything up £141 seems like a lot to spend on skincare. I think it’s important to firstly remember you are getting five products for this amount. Secondly, Dr Sam is a renowned dermatologist, so you know the products she’s created have been made specifically with acne and other skin conditions in mind, in comparison to other skincare brands (especially designer ones) which may cost a lot but don’t exactly do what they say on the tin.
Also, once you’ve bought these items, because you use different quantities of each product, you’re not going to finish everything at the same time, therefore you’re not going to need to spend £141 every month and can replace each product as and when accordingly, making it feel more affordable. They also last a very long time, as I haven't run out of any yet, but I can tell I'm nearing the end of my moisturiser and cleanser, which makes sense as you use more of these products. I do think some products are worth getting than others, for example the cleanser, moisturiser, serum and neutralising gel. I’d personally leave the suncream and opt for a cheaper one.
Would you recommend Dr Sam Skincare?
Definitely. Having personally tried numerous skincare brands to tackle my spot-prone skin, Dr Sam’s skincare products are the only ones where I've seen substantial results, which also hasn’t made my skin worse in the process, because let's be honest, no one really wants there skin to get ten times worse while trying to make it better.
If you're also someone who wants to use effective but minimal products then I think Dr Sam's stuff is great and that's really where items like the Flawless Nightly Serum can't be topped. She's a big advocate for skincare being 'uncomplicated' and not costing lots, and that's something I think she's done very well. Does it cure adult acne? It didn't for me and it's important to note some severe cases of acne can require an oral and topical treatment, alongside a good skincare regime. But I definitely think they are products that would help someone with severe acne on their skincare journey.