We get it, the perfect skincare routine isn't an easy code to crack. With cleansers, serums, masks, moisturisers and SPFs, the whole thing is a bit of a minefield. One wrong turn could leave your skin is dismay. And that's before we even get onto ingredients? From retinol to hyaluronic acid, trying to keep up with what ingredient does what and how it should be used is, frankly, exhausting.
And it's for this reason that personalised skincare services have become such a hot topic in recent years. From personalised routines to fully bespoke products, these services offer an easy out when it comes to skincare confusion—some even offer prescription-only ingredients in their formulas (which are prescribed to you by in-house doctors at the brands). To see if these services are actually any good, we got the four members of team Marie Claire who identify as having the worst skin concerns to put some of the most popular to the test. Here's their verdicts...
1. Skin + Me (tested by Senior Health Editor, Ally Head)
"I have naturally sensitive and combination skin—oily on my cheeks but dry on my forehead, nose and chin. Similarly, because of my PCOS, I've always been acne-prone and struggled with hormonal and cystic spots on my cheeks and chin. This has got a lot better in the last year due to changes in diet, but is something I've long battled.
"To be honest, I have often found shopping for skincare to be a minefield—and that's coming from an editor who knows a fair bit about it. Because I have sensitive skin, I can react really badly to strong serums or peels, yet at the same time, I used to (often) feel like I needed them because of my acne."
Why Skin + Me?
"Skin+Me appealed to me because it offers dermatologist-designed skincare on a prescription basis and promises that every product is specifically tailored to you and your skincare needs. A firm favourite among influencers (Grace Beverley posts about how Skin+Me "changed her life" regularly), it's as simple as taking the short quiz on their website and having it delivered directly to your door."
"I won't lie, I did find the 'online consultation', as they call it (essentially a Q&A on their site) a bit lengthy. That said, I'd rather take the time to answer their questions and receive a product that works than fly through a handful of questions only to be disappointed by the end result. The process was fairly straightforward, too, asking you the types of questions you'd expect— what skin type you have, if you have any conditions or allergies, and so on."
"My product contains tretinoin (0.009%), clindamycin (1%) and azelaic acid (4%) and gets delivered once a month. The tube is cleverly designed so you know exactly how much product to use on your face (another thing I struggle with with skincare), plus is all recyclable, which, although not groundbreaking in the world of sustainability, is a start."
The final verdict
"I'd read mixed reviews about Skin + Me, but I have to say I've been really impressed. A month in and my skin is clear, even after a chocolate-filled Christmas break, which is even more impressive as January is always the month of the year when I normally break out the worst and consider going back on Roaccutane (thanks, Christmas and dry weather).
"While I don't think Skin+Me is solely responsible for this—so many factors influence our skin, including stress, diet and sleep, all of which I've tweaked since this time last year with my skin in mind—it's certainly been reassuring to know that I've got a derm-approved product to support the lifestyle changes I've made and (hopefully) deter any angry breakouts that do chance their luck. Plus, I do feel my skin looks brighter and smoother thanks to the product. For me, it takes the fuss out of skincare and means I can relax knowing my skin is getting what it needs. I'd recommend."
2. Klira (tested by News Editor, Jadie Troy-Pryde)
"I've been incredibly lucky when it comes to my skin. I've never had any major concerns, it survived my 20s with little to no love (sorry to every beauty editor I've ever worked with), and I've always been able to try different products without too much pushback or sensitivity. With classic combination skin, my biggest gripe over the years has been finding products that are effective for both my oily and dry areas—and, frustratingly, these can be interchangeable, with a T-zone that's dry in the winter and oily in the warmer months. As I've moved into my 30s, I have also noticed mild redness from sun damage and fine lines from ageing, and wanted to find skincare that would brighten my complexion without needing dozens of different products to get there.
"Finding the right skincare and curating the perfect routine has always felt like a bit of a minefield—some people encourage endless, time-consuming steps, others claim all you need is a trusty cleanser and moisturiser. And when I start seeing words like niacinamide and alpha-hydroxy acids I'm instantly transported back to GCSE science lessons—a place I'd rather not revisit. All I really want to know is whether or not it will work for me. In the past, I've also been stung by great marketing campaigns promising all kinds of skin miracles, so cost is something I also really consider. The internet can be loud with conflicting advice and suggestions, and it can be a pricey venture to whittle out what works and what doesn't."
"Klira seemed to be the answer to all of my aforementioned complaints. The subscription service skincare by dermatologist Dr Emma Craythorne is not a standard, one-size-fits-all approach. By offering a personalised prescription each month, you're given everything your skin needs in one little bottle; no three-hour routine to commit to every evening, no faff finding products that compliment each other, no sweat-inducing deductions on your bank statement. The idea that they could create an expert-approved unique blend just for me—as well as a routine that would very easily fit into my schedule—had me sold."
"My custom skincare was created after a rigorous questionnaire. And I mean rigorous. With no less than 50 questions included, I was prompted to detail everything from how I react to hotel bathroom soaps and my sun exposure history, to how much fresh fruit and veg I consume.
"I was then required to send in three photographs of my skin in natural lighting for the experts to determine my 'SkinSize'. I was pronounced as an '11', meaning that I tend to have lower sebum production, stable melanocytes, a strong skin barrier and reduced collagen. Luckily, Klira provided helpful videos explaining what it all means, a rundown of my personalised information and all additional resources are kept in one place on the online Klira portal so that I can access my reports, prescriptions and additional product recommendations.
"The custom prescription acted as the treatment point in my skincare routine, so I did find myself purchasing additional products to help. To keep costs down, I bought the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, CeraVe Moisturising Cream and Biore Aqua Rich SPF which were taken from the suggestions in my portal.
"Once the first vial arrived, I was good to go. There were clear instructions on how to use the product—once nightly after cleansing and before moisturising—and alongside a very simple morning routine (cleanse, moisturise, SPF), my new skincare routine was effortlessly created.
"The notes from my prescribing nurse explained that in order to improve the slight redness and fine lines, my Klira Special would contain azeliac acid and tretinoin. The first batch was a combination of azelaic acid 10% and tretinoin 0.01%, which has gradually increased over time to 0.05%. The first delivery contained a reusable pump for minimal waste, and each month I simply disposed of the old bottle and popped the new one in. I simply need to apply two pumps each evening, after cleansing and before moisturising. As someone who has often gone a little rogue when it comes to sticking to a structured skincare routine, I found this incredibly easy to follow and before long it had become a habit. Even on those nights when I just wanted to faceplant my pillow."
The final verdict
"It took around six weeks for the results to really become noticeable to me. In the initial weeks, I was waiting to see if I experienced any redness or dryness from the tretinoin—but it never came. Instead, I started to notice that first thing in the morning—when my skin would usually feel its roughest—it was actually consistently soft, and throughout the day my make-up wasn't caking anywhere near as much. As well as feeling lovely and silky to the touch, my skin was starting to look a lot brighter. It's also the first time that I've ever managed to stick to any sort of skincare routine long-term, which is largely down to the fact that it was really easy to follow with minimal steps and no guesswork.
"Personally, I would really recommend Klira. It took all of the guesswork and hassle out of skincare, helped me to build a sustainable skincare routine with ease and has actually delivered on its promise to improve how my skin looks and feels."
3. Dermatica (tested by Producer, Sofia Pizá)
"Since I was a teenager, I have always battled with hormonal breakouts. These flare ups always range from whiteheads to blackheads and the occasional bright red cyst depending on my menstrual cycle and stress levels. These tend to be fueled by my combination skin type, which is often oilier on my T-zone during the summer and completely dry over the winter, with a lot of flakiness. Of course, my anxious skin picking tendencies don't help me much and, due to this, I do have some acne marks and uneven pigmentation.
"When it comes to my skincare, I am now proud to say that I have a more effective routine than when I was a teen. The days of using toothpaste on pimples and eye drops on acne marks are over, and I have now zoned in on ingredients that have a positive effect on my skin concerns. However, as my skin matures, I am keen on exploring further and seeing what can help reduce my hormonal flare ups and even out the hyperpigmentation that lingers. Having never had much luck with a professional skincare treatment before, I was very intrigued to give Dermatica a go to see if I could benefit"
"I was originally drawn to Dermatica as it holds a prestigious dermatology team that prescribes a personalised formula containing active ingredients that are not impossible to find on the high street but also hold the right strength for you. With the brand being available to access on your computer or phone, you are also able to read more about the team behind your formula, the pricing, the packaging, the ingredients and more information on the consultation process."
"Throughout the online consultation process, you answer questions based on your skin concerns and submit clear images of your face with different angles to make sure the dermatology team gets a greater sense of your skin in order to match it with your initial concerns. In my consultation, I did mention my reservations with using retinoids from a previous reaction I'd had from personal miss-use.
"Within less than 24 hours the Dermatica team had messaged me with more in-depth questions on my desire to exempt retinol and answered some of my aversions. They concluded that they thought it would really benefit my skin and so detailed how to use properly. From this, I was able to understand the ingredient more thoroughly and agreed to have it included in my formula.
"Within less than a week, I received my personalised formula and an online dashboard that gave me access to information on the actives found on my formula, upload progress images and communicate any questions or concerns to the dermatology team.
"The process was totally streamlined and, with the information held on my portal, I was able to see how my formula changed month by month as my skin became more tolerant of the actives.
"My formula contained a simple yet effective combination of tretinoin and niacinamide with a solid aim to tackle acne scars and pigmentation. This was also followed with medical instructions that asked me to be very rigorous with my moisturising. This was done in order to support my skin with the initial shock it could receive from the tretinoin.
"At first, I would use this treatment every day after cleansing and serums, but quickly found it very drying on my skin. With advice, we decided to alternate my days to give my skin some breathing time. On the days where I applied this treatment, I stuck to a very minimal skincare routine that included double cleansing to remove my make-up, applying my Dermatica treatment and a heavy layer of moisturiser."
The final verdict
"Slowly but surely, my routine got the job done and after the occasional flaking here and there, accompanied by breakouts that I would consider as slight skin purging, I was able to fully notice a difference 10 weeks into my treatment.
"Three months down, and I am really pleased with the results. Even though the results aren't incredibly noticeable, I have seen a reduced amount of breakouts, more even colouration on my cheek and chin area and definitely have an an overall glowier complexion.
"I can tell my skin still has a long way to go with the treatment, but I am really pleased to see it become used to the actives and seeing them work with my skin to make the most of the treatment.
"I found a new bottle with instructions and information on any changes to the active's strength arriving every 28 days without a single delay.
"Overall, I really enjoyed the personalisation element to this process as it allowed me to try out actives I wouldn't have reached for prior. With this in mind, I would definitely recommend it to those who have distinct skin concerns and want to remove the guesswork from investing in skincare. With Dermatica, you get professional advice when needed throughout the process, as well as a really helpful online log that helps you keep track of your progress and any percentage increases to your formula. Almost four months in, and I can safely say that I will definitely continue to use my formula. I am now a massive fan of tretinoin and niacinamide thanks to the clear difference they have made to my complexion."
4. Simon Ourian MD (tested by Executive Beauty Editor, Shannon Lawlor)
"Like all beauty editors, I struggle with keeping my skin in check due to the abundance of products I slather onto it every day. My skin is naturally oily and prone to hormonal, cystic acne on my chin area. On top of this, my skin is also quite sensitive to particularly active ingredients. Certain retinols have been known to really aggravate my skin (although a prescription tretinoin has kept things in check in the past), and vitamin C has become a bit of an issue for me in recent years. I understand skincare and ingredients expertly (it's my job to), but with really angry cystic breakouts becoming more frequent, I had been looking for ways to strip my routine right back in a bid to win back some control."
Why Simon Ourian MD?
"When I heard about Simon Ourian MD's new skincare service, I was intrigued. I liked the fact it covers you with a simple three-step routine and didn't feature any prescription-only ingredients, as I like to leave those to my dermatologist. Plus, I like the fact the products themselves look luxurious—if my skincare doesn't spark joy, I don't want to use it.
"I know Dr Ourian is famed for his celebrity clients in Beverly Hills and that he has already been giving his clients these products—so I figured they must be good. While other personalised skincare brands champion totally bespoke formulas, Simon Ourian MD products aren't formulated specifically for you—instead, an AI-led digital consultation identifies the best products specifically for you and creates a personalised regimen, using Dr Ourian's products. With over 25 years of cosmetic dermatology experience, Dr Ourian's simple, three-step skincare system (cleanse, tone, moisturise) is something I felt like I could get behind."
"I have tested out all of the online consultations out there, and I have to admit that the Simon Ourian MD one was the most cohesive to use. AI technology leads you through the quick consultation—you answer a few questions about your skin and lifestyle and then submit a picture of your bare face. I would say it's important you do this in really good natural lighting, as otherwise your results can be skewed.
"Once you have taken the picture, AI produces a skin report for you, grading you on certain concerns. Mine flagged pore issues, oiliness and blemishes, which are the main areas of concern for me, so for that I was very impressed. It then moves onto a page explaining the products that it has chosen for your personalised regimen, and Dr Ourian talks through them on the screen via pre-recorded video. I was selected to use the Cleansing Gel, Clarifying Toner and Gel Hydrator.
"They turned up, and then it was time to use them."
The final verdict
"Let me start by saying that although I was excited to give this a go, my hopes weren't high. My acne is hormone-related, and topical products without the help of prescription ingredients can only do so much for me. However, the results I have seen after using these three products over the past four months or so have genuinely floored me.
"Over the time in which I used every product morning and night every single day, I didn't experience a single breakout, my skin looked clear and glowing and I was receiving compliments on my complexion left, right and centre. The products were beyond a joy to use and look excellent on my shelf. The cleanser (which has a whiff of tea tree, which I actually like) lathered and delivered a deep cleanse without stripping, the toner didn't leave my skin feeling tight and the lightweight moisturiser sunk in in seconds, leaving my skin hydrated all day long.
"Sadly, I got through the cleanser far quicker than the toner and moisturiser, and soon as soon as the cleanser went I had my first breakout. (I really do think the cleanser was the MVP of my regimen.) Having said that, even when I was using just the toner and moisturiser, the overall condition of my skin was miles better than it had been in a long, long time.
"In the mornings, I applied a little bit of the moisturiser and followed up with my usual SPF, as the three-step regimen doesn't contain an SPF moisturiser option. However, Simon Ourian MD does offer a number of 'enhancer' products that you can add to your regimen, including masks, scrubs, eye creams and SPFs. Personally, I just wanted to put the simple three-step regimen to the test, as I was worried about overloading my skin—and it worked brilliantly.
"I am seriously impressed with this service. If I wasn't in this job and didn't have to test so many products on a daily basis, I would 100% keep it up. However, knowing that it's always there for me to fall back on when things get really bad is a great thing. If you're after prescription-strength boosters, it's not for you—but if you're just looking to form a simple, easy-to-navigate routine, definitely take a look."
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Shannon Lawlor is the Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire. With nearly a decade of experience working for some of the beauty industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear, Glamour UK, Stylist and Refinery29, Shannon’s aim is to make the conversation around beauty as open, relatable and honest as possible. As a self-confessed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for hard-working perfumes, fool-proof make-up products and does-it-all skincare.
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