I was first introduced to Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a board-certified New York City-based dermatologist, by esthetician and Dieux co-founder Charlotte Palermino. Charlotte has long suffered from perioral dermatitis (PD), "a rash that often looks like small, red, acne-like breakouts in people with light-colored skin and skin-colored breakouts in people of color," according to the American Academy of Dermatology. I had recently been diagnosed with PD but hadn't yet found the path to managing my newfound skin issue (there's no cure for either).
I realized I needed to figure out my PD regimen when I was filming content on set for a skincare brand with another dermatologist. In between breaks of filming, she asked me if I wanted her to call any products in for my perioral dermatitis (it was clearly on display that day for her to bring it up). I kindly replied that I had been on a regimen, explained the products I was using, and she asked if I had ever tried a sulfur wash (the ingredient is a go-to treatment for PD).
I hadn't tried one yet but was desperate for anything to work. So, I took the derm's offer only to get a call from the pharmacist at my local drugstore to see if I really wanted the sulfur wash since it was $130. I immediately called Charlotte and asked if she paid $130 for the sulfur wash prescribed by Dr. B, to which she replied, "no."
She told me that Dr. B works with pharmacies that formulate and distribute his compounds at an affordable price through his company, Skin Medicinals, and that same wash is available to me for $45. I was shocked, so I messaged Dr. B and made an appointment.
Read ahead to learn more about the Skin Medicinals platform and how it's changing the skincare landscape.
Who Is Dr. Bhanusali?
If you don't know who Dr. B is or aren't following him on Instagram, you know some of his famous patients, like Hailey Bieber and Martha Stewart. He's also responsible for formulating Bieber's line, Rhode, which has had consumers in a buying frenzy since its launch in 2022 (among formulating for other major companies).
But despite his burgeoning roster of celebrity clients and achievements, Dr. B couldn't be more humble. First off (I'll brag for him because he never will), Dr. B was accepted into medical school at 17-years-old. So, he's practically the real-life Doogie Howser but with a mission to make healthcare more transparent and your prescriptions way cheaper through his platform.
What Is Skin Medicinals?
"Skin Medicinals was built when drug pricing was getting out of control. We had the idea, as dermatologists, to improve drug prices and access for our patients," Dr. B tells me. "As you may have seen, some of the most common medications out there have become infinitely more expensive to the point where the average person, regardless of their job or wealth, can't even afford them.
So, Skin Medicinals is a tech platform that has allowed dermatologists to custom craft medications [through the pharmacies they partner with]. "The platform allows patients to access generic medicines at a much lower price," Dr. B explains. "Medicine shouldn't be inaccessible, and everyone should have the opportunity to get better."
For example, some medications on SM (like spironolactone or doxycycline) are available for less than $10, and nothing is over $75. You also don't need insurance to purchase an item. Skin Medicinals offers treatments for concerns like acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. You may also find anti-aging formulated retinoids made with hyaluronic acid, turmeric, and niacinamide. I was instantly intrigued since I was on about ten prescriptions for my skin at one point and would love to cut that down to less than half.
Medicine shouldn't be inaccessible and everyone should have the opportunity to get better.
Since starting Skin Medicinals, Dr. B and his team have garnered over 250 million in savings for their patients, which is significant. "We're approaching 10,000 dermatologists on the platform, which is very humbling to me, and it continues to grow organically," he adds, "more recently, people are starting to understand what we are doing and why, so it's been great to see all of the support."
There are a couple of other things I noticed since meeting Dr. B that are worth noting: 1. He takes a less is more approach; He doesn't want you using unnecessary products, which will ultimately save you money, 2. He explains everything well (like a friend, not a doctor who knows more than you), 3. He won't rest until your skin issue resolves, and 4. He wants you to be able to afford prescriptions. He truly cares about his patients (and other dermatologists' patients), which shows through his creation of Skin Medicinals.
How Does Your Dermatologist Get On the Platform?
A dermatologist goes to skinmedicinals.com and uploads all of their credentials. Dr. B and his team immediately vet each doctor to verify their credentials. Then, once approved, they can start prescribing medications as they see fit through Skin Medicinals within minutes.
How Skin Medicinals Works on The Patient-Side
It's pretty simple: You go to your dermatologist to be evaluated. If they feel one of the medication options offered on SM is appropriate, they send the prescription into the portal. The patient gets a text message or email, and the medication is shipped to them within two or three days. Once the patient is about to finish the formula or when the best-use date arrives (noted on the bottle, pay attention since it can impact the formula's efficacy,) they can reorder via text or email. "We live in a digital world, so it's a nice opportunity to interface the doctor's office with this evolving technology," Dr. B explains.
The Importance of Transparency In Medicine
"The biggest challenge regarding Skin Medicinals is educating patients about zero-dollar co-pays. It doesn't mean you are paying zero dollars," he explains. "It means you might be paying zero dollars today, but your insurance company might be paying up to 600 dollars. Over time, your premium increases, and you could be paying thousands of dollars for that medication without realizing it. Then that amount is getting pushed down to the next person. This is the unfortunate consequence of health care, which is why we need a lot more transparency across all of medicine."
Through Skin Medicinals, Dr. B is doing just that: bringing about the transparency needed in healthcare while also making a difference in dermatology. "For every script filled, we also donate a portion of the proceeds to non-profits to support dermatology [including the American Academy of Dermatology] as a field," he adds. "The biggest hope is that people in other fields realize we need better patient options. SM was a small idea that grew into something much larger. Still, I hope it sparks the potential in others' heads on how to help their patients. We must start demanding more transparency to understand where the money flows and how we can sustain healthcare."
To this day, Skin Medicinals is the fastest-growing pharmatech platform in dermatology, and if you are able to access it through your dermatologist, we'll all be better for it.