May 11, 2014

A Conversation with Dr. David Lortscher of PocketDerm

If you suffer or have suffered from acne, you know how it feels to bounce from dermatologist to dermatologist just hoping one has the answers. It can be extremely costly, time-consuming and irritating (to both you and your complexion).

Thankfully, PocketDerm creator Dr. David Lortscher pretty much cuts out waiting room time and most costs by offering acne-related teledermatology through PocketDerm. Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out my convo with Dr. Lortscher for the full 4-1-1!

*Photo via

Vanity Talk: What inspired the creation of PocketDerm?

Dr. Lortscher: It actually came through chatting with one of my patients. For every appointment she drove over 100 miles to see me, and as we did follow-up care it occurred to us that everything we were doing could be handled remotely. We realized that acne treatment had to potential to be MUCH more convenient for patients.

If you don’t mind, can you give my readers an abbreviated description of the PocketDerm process?

DL: You start by answering a questionnaire and securely uploading photos from your smartphone or computer. Then, a dermatologist reviews your file and prescribes a personalized acne treatment regimen. The personalized night-time cream is made at our office in San Diego and shipped to your door. You follow up with your dermatologist regularly so that he or she can make sure your skin is getting clear!

VT: What are some factors a PocketDerm dermatologist considers when formulating a patient’s acne treatment?

There’s no algorithm that we follow, because each patient is too unique. But we tend to consider factors like prior treatments, skin sensitivity, acne type (as seen in the photos), and any medication allergies. We think of it as the art of medicine.

VT: What are some of the most common ingredients used in the customized treatments and how are they beneficial for the skin?

DL: Each patient’s PocketDerm product will contain (usually three) prescription acne ingredients. We don’t guarantee any ingredient to any patient (the doctor needs the flexibility to prescribe the best combination for each patient), but here are the ones we use most frequently:

Tretinoin (also found in Retin-ATM)
    •    Description: Tretinoin unclogs pores, helps reduce skin discoloration, and also helps prevent skin aging. It can cause a lot of irritation, so have to be careful about what strength is prescribed.
Clindamycin (also found in Cleocin-TTM, ZianaTM)
    •    Description: Clindamycin kills Propionibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria that causes breakouts.
Azelaic acid (also found in FinaceaTM, AzelexTM)
    •    Description: Azelaic acid unclogs pores and helps reduce skin discoloration. It also helps prevent bacterial resistance to treatment.

VT: Do you all include things like parabens, fragrance, etc. in your products?

Our products are free of dyes, fragrances, and common allergens (no parabens, lanolin, gluten, sulfa, or formaldehyde).

VT: When using a PocketDerm prescription, what are some good rules of thumb for patients to follow (good moisturizer, sunscreen, on a clean face, etc.)?

A pretty simple regimen is all that’s necessary! We recommend:
    •    AM: Wash face with a gentle cleanser then apply sunscreen (or makeup with SPF).
    •    PM: Wash face with a gentle cleanser, apply PocketDerm to clean skin, and leave on overnight.
But there are a lot more details you can check out at

VT: PocketDerm uses teledermatology, which according to your website, is “the use of secure communication to provide dermatologic care over a distance.” How does teledermatology compare to in-person dermatology visits (especially for acne- related issues)?

Teledermatology can be just as good as in-person care as long as it's practiced by a fully licensed professional and as long as you have situational awareness. What I mean by that is that if the doctor has any hesitations or second thoughts about a particular case, s/he should refer the patient to be seen in person.

VT: In what areas does teledermatology excel in comparison to in-person dermatology?

The most notable area is acne, which accounts for 20% of dermatology visits. The reasons it works so well is that acne can be seen with the naked eye, no biopsies are needed, and we can see the improvement very well with photos (or make changes if there isn’t enough improvement!).

Finally, aside from the obvious convenience aspect, why should readers suffering from acne subscribe to PocketDerm?

My favorite things about PocketDerm is that the products are customized for your skin, and we won’t give up until your skin is clear!

I am a full believer of healing your acne from within, but some cases of acne can be really stubborn. I think if you suffer from acne and you are open to prescription-strength treatment, PocketDerm is absolutely something you should look into. The service is personal and affordable and the customer service is outstanding.

Stay tuned for Part Two of my PocketDerm feature. I've been occasionally using my own personalized PocketDerm product and I look forward to discussing it with you all. That being said, I would love to know your opinions on teledermatology and prescription meds for acne treatment in general. Talk to me in the comments!

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