What is DermApproved?

DermApproved is a website that collects consumer reviews on skincare products, aggregates the reviews, and compiles it into a 100 point rating. A team of dermatologists also reviews each product to ensure that the product claims are legitimate, and are not harmful. DermApproved also provides a free consultation service that matches recommended products according to the user’s skin type, or skin concern.

Why is DermApproved needed?

Skepticism about skincare products, and the industry as a whole is at arguably at an all time low. This is in part because some manufacturers have, in fact, been involved in making unscientific, exaggerated claims of efficacy that border on pseudoscience, and unfortunately some dermatologists have been involved in actively promoting these products. While it’s good that consumers are more educated about these problems, they are still in a bind when it comes to choosing a good product from the plethora of skincare products available on the shelf, all marketed and plausible sounding. What product is legitimate in its claims? Which product provides the best value? Are expensive products better? Which brand produces the best product? Is this moisturizer ok for oily skin?

The good news is that consumers can now research product information effectively using the Internet. Unfortunately, research takes enormous time and effort, and the skin is highly individual. The data is there, but it’s in a disorganized heap, creating just as much noise and confusion as useful information. What DermApproved does is put in the extra effort to compile and organize the data so that the information can be teased out in a way that users will appreciate. We make the research easy for consumers, whether they want a quick score, a deeper breakdown of the reviews, or research deeper into active ingredients, and the science behind it.  

Is DermApproved content reviewed by a dermatologist?

Absolutely. All the written content and videos have been reviewed and approved by a board certified dermatologist. The educational videos in particular, are very helpful for users who have specific concerns, and need guidance with how to manage their skin conditions.

How do dermatologists evaluate products?

To clarify, dermatologists do not influence the scores; the collective voice of consumers across the largest websites on the Internet create the Consumer Experience Index. Dermatologists evaluate whether the claims made by the product is legitimate, and whether the product has credible science backing it, so that it can be included on DermApproved.

There are two hard rules for DermApproved:

  • Manufacturers will list and disclose their ingredients.
  • Manufacturers do not make obviously false claims about efficacy.
  • The product must not be harmful.

As scientists, we will never associate with products that take such an anti-scientific stance, and disrespect the consumer so clearly. Generally, however, our position is to let the public be the judge of product quality and desirability whenever we can. We do however, have standards when compiling information. If a very niche product that is only sold in one store or website has one user review of 5 stars, how reliable is that score? Due to the way that data aggregation works, we need a reasonable sample size, and we need the voice of several independent sources of information. Sometimes DermApproved will need to make a close decision about whether a product should be included for evaluation when there are limited reviews. In these cases we look at criteria like:

  • Manufacturer reputation and performance in the market
  • Active ingredients and concentrations
  • Clinical data supporting the product
  • Skin tolerance and potential for negative reactions

The process is explained in more detail here.

Are you affiliated with any brands? How do you make money?

This is an important question, as we take conflict of interest concerns very seriously. DermApproved is brand agnostic. For a review site to remain objective, it’s critical that it remain unbiased with regards to brands or manufacturers. For this reason, we’ve removed our team of dermatologists from being in a position to influence the scores entirely so that there is no possibility of conflict of interest there. Additionally, the review sites that DermApproved uses to compile user reviews carry products from various brands for the same reason. A user that purchases a product from a brand exclusive store is already committed to that brand, and we believe that this biases the scoring unnaturally.

To develop and maintain our service, DermApproved charges an annual fee from sponsoring product manufacturers to keep their Consumer Index Scores updated. However, the scores are completely independent of whether a company sponsors DermApproved or not and the placement of the products are also unaffected by sponsorship. We provide sponsors value by providing extra features for the sponsoring manufacturers such as providing a platform for marketing their products in the form of video promotions, links to their websites, and coupon codes or free samples on DermApproved.

If random consumers are affecting the scoring, how do I know that industry insiders aren’t astroturfing the reviews?

Data aggregation is actually the best defense against astroturfing (posting fake positive reviews by insiders pretending to be consumers). There is very little that can be done to prevent a well written fake review, and these are unfortunately common tactics on small review websites, or websites that only carry their own brand of products. By only using data from very large websites with hundreds or thousands of reviews, the effect of astroturfing is minimized. Similarly problematic are a hateful person’s opinion–a person who has a grudge on a particular product or manufacturer for reasons that are unrelated to the product. By aggregating from a large amount of reviews, it makes data manipulation impossible. By taking a large sample size, the effect of this type of noise is diminished, and the scores reflect a more accurate reality.

Out of the thousands of products on the market, how do you review them all?

First, we can’t and don’t review all products. There are thousands of new products that enter the market every season. Although we generally stick to the skincare basics like moisturizing, cleansing, sunscreens, and treatments, there are many other products such as makeup, makeup removers, and hair products that border on cosmetics and skincare which we also consider. We do attempt to review the most mainstream products which more users will likely want to know about, and we do our best to include as many products as possible.

To accommodate more products, we try to keep the review process as simple and transparent as possible. For most products, the review process from dermatologists is relatively quick, as most manufacturers will not make outrageous or patently false claims, and have proper science backing their products. The ones that do are immediately disqualified. After the product is approved, it proceeds to compiling user review data.

How do the dermatologists determine which products are included for review?

Dermatologists are looking to weed out products that make clearly false and misleading claims, or ones that do not list their ingredients for the public. We believe both of these practices, while it may be legal, are unethical, and contrary to the principles of scientific inquiry.

After this, we look at softer criteria such as the ingredient list, manufacturer reputation, clinical testing, and skin tolerance. Generally speaking, however, unless there are serious concerns, we approve the product and let the users be the ultimate judge. For details please view our process page.

Why isn’t my favorite product included for review?

There are new products coming out every day, and we can’t review all products. Since the product scores are aggregated by user reviews, a product must be used by a fair number of users already, and reviewed. This means that products that have just hit the market, or are very niche products that have little exposure can’t be assessed properly. If, however, you believe an important product is missing, please contact us here (link to contact page).

I notice that you have a lot of educational videos on the website that go beyond skincare products, into cosmetic procedures and surgeries. Why?

Although the main service we provide our users is the Consumer Experience Index for skincare products, our mission is to help users find the beauty solutions that are right for them. Skincare products are very often the right solution–they are inexpensive, convenient, and low risk, but it isn’t the right solution for everyone. We want to provide a comprehensive answer to beauty concerns, and so we have an education page that covers the entire spectrum of beauty solutions from Botox to Facelifts, for those that are interested. Eventually, we want to cover the entire spectra of beauty options, with users rating individual clinics as well as procedures.