Last updated on May 20th, 2021 at 06:15 am
Ah, the epidermis. The largest organ of our bodies and arguably, the most temperamental. One day the clouds part and your skin shines bright like a clear April morning. The next, it’s like old Mount Vesuvius ready to erupt. Those who’ve skated through life with good skin probably don’t know how good they have it. For those who’ve struggled with their skin their whole lives, it’s a daily catastrophe.
Most of us have been there. In fact skin diseases are the fourth most common cause of human illness, and one in three Americans are afflicted. Acne alone affects 50 million Americans annually, and the prevalence of skin conditions is only projected to rise.
There’s a very real emotional and financial cost of seeing a dermatologist — not to mention the time it takes to go in-person — and the only alternative is to choose from countless skin care products that aren’t cheap. How do you know which is best? What are the side effects? Are they worth the results?!
What skincare does Apostrophe offer?
Apostrophe is an innovative skin care startup that connects patients with board-certified dermatologists, completely online. It allows individuals to get skin treatments and prescription medications delivered to their homes. Patients simply submit photos of their skin and a dermatologist sends an individualized treatment plan within 24 hours (give or take). The idea is: no hassle. No trip to the dermatologist office or pharmacy. Everything is handled online from the comfort of your home.
Perhaps you heard of a company called YoDerm that offered similar services a few years back? Well, it’s actually the same company. YoDerm was founded in Oakland, California in 2012 and rebranded to Apostrophe in 2019. They’re still headquartered in the Bay Area and raised $5.25m in December 2019.
Does Apostrophe service your area?
Apostrophe’s Dermatology and Skincare Treatments
Apostrophe helps treat three types of skin conditions:
They currently offer 13 types of skin care medication, and your specific treatment plan is built by the dermatologist you’re paired with during the consultation. Keep in mind they also treat two other conditions:
What they don’t treat: female pattern hair loss, psoriasis, eczema and nail health. This blog post details exactly why they’re not tackling those conditions (for now).
Can Apostrophe help fulfill an existing prescription?
Nope. You have to consult with one of their dermatologists before accessing a prescription through Apostrophe.
Are there age restrictions to accessing Apostrophe’s Dermatology services?
Yes. You need to be at least 13 years old to sign up and receive treatment. Anyone under 18 needs to have a legal guardian or parent give consent.
A quick primer on telemedicine and virtual dermatology
You’ve probably noticed that healthcare services in the United States are expensive. Like, really expensive. The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world, and the average amount individuals spend on healthcare services is still growing annually.
Around 2014, a surge of telehealth companies began tackling the need for cheap and accessible forms of patient care for people across the country. Startups like Rory, Hers, Curology, and Apostrophe launched online services for skin care, but many others now exist to provide a wide range of medical services including birth control, STD testing, menopause treatments, migraine prevention, fertility testing, hair loss pills, prescription latisse, and so on. It’s exciting to see online doctor visits and treatment options coming into the skincare and dermatology space!
All have small nuances, of course, but in general they allow you to access real doctors, usually via an online video call, to get prescription meds for a wide range of non-life-threatening conditions. Skin care is just one of them, but I digress…
By the way, is dermatology usually covered by insurance?
It depends. Like most medical visits, health insurance covers most treatments and appointments that are “medically necessary.” Every insurance company has a different definition of what that means. So be sure to consult with your insurance provider to understand what procedures they cover and any required documentations or referrals that need to go along with it.
Dermatology is a speciality service, so most HMO plans require referrals from your general doctor before you can see a dermatologist. Some PPO plans do this as well. Insurance coverage varies by provider, but these skin conditions are usually covered:
- Skin cancer
- Severe acne
- Skin allergies
- Poison ivy
- Keloid scars
- Skin infections
Again, it’s really important to confirm this with your insurance provider before getting too deep into the process. Elective and cosmetic surgeries aren’t usually covered by insurance. These can include services like botox, tattoo removal and chemical peels.
What’s telehealth vs telemedicine?
So the Internet disrupted the healthcare industry, and now all those things — like filling out paperwork, giving diagnoses, receiving treatments, and treating patients — that used to require in-person interactions can all be done online.
That’s telehealth. According to HealthIT.gov, telehealth is, “the use of digital technologies to deliver medical care, health education, and public health services by connecting multiple users in separate locations.” Telemedicine fits under the umbrella of telehealth.
Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services provided to patients using electronic software and communications. Patients can be diagnosed, treated, and given prescriptions virtually in real time –– without in-person visit.
Why are virtual healthcare services gaining traction?
Telemedicine is helping make healthcare more accessible and affordable. Like we covered before, dermatological services aren’t always covered by insurance and they usually require a doctor’s referral. Several steps stand in the way of people accessing skincare services, and that’s why many skincare conditions are left untreated.
Not having to visit the doctor’s office solves a lot of challenges. It cuts down on the time needed to take off work or caregiving to see a doctor. It helps save money on transport. Telemedicine makes it possible for people in remote or rural areas to seamlessly access healthcare services, and spares everyone the risk of exposure to potential infectious diseases in a doctor’s office. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, minimizing contact with others by getting treated online is a game-changer.
So what sets Apostrophe apart from competitors?
Like most of its competitors, dermatologists on Apostrophe are certified by the American Board of Dermatology and qualified to give top-quality care. Patients are virtually paired with doctors that practice in their state — similar to when you’re referred to a local specialist — except that online, you could of course be pant-less in bed from the comfort of your own home, if you wish (no judgement here). Here’s a list of profiles of all Apostrophe’s dermatologists.
1. Apostrophe works exclusively with its own pharmacy
When YoDerm (now Apostrophe) was working with third-party pharmacies to fill prescriptions, they noticed almost half of patients never picked up their medication after an online consultation. To simplify the process, YoDerm rebranded to Apostrophe, started its own pharmacy, and began delivering all Rx’s directly to patients.
Today, Apostrophe fills all prescriptions using its own pharmacies, allowing them to fill them more quickly, diversify their medications, and also heed the call for any patient needs that become a priority.
To cite a current example: On March 27, 2020 Apostrophe added hand sanitizer as an offering to help combat COVID-19. Because they have their own pharmacy, they’re able to keep costs as close to production costs as possible ($15 for a 2-pack of 2 oz. hand sanitizer) and all sales are donated to WHO’s COVID-19 Response Fund. Pretty neat.
2. Apostrophe’s “compounding medication” simplifies application and reduces cost
Having its own pharmacy means it can build its own formulas for skin care medication –– what Apostrophe calls “compounding medication.” Basically, its pharmacists create custom treatments by combining multiple prescription ingredients that work together for better results into one cream or lotion. That way, Apostrophe can tailor treatments to individual patients and bring down costs by reducing the number of Rx’s patients need.
3. Apostrophe is very transparent about the active ingredients in their skincare formulas
The science behind skincare products can be confusing, but Apostrophe makes it pretty easy to follow.
It offers several guides on their most popular compounded medications, explaining why some ingredients complement one another while others aggravate. If you want to learn all the potential side effects, usages, and guidelines for usage, they have it all listed on their website.
All its medications are non-comedogenic, which just means they won’t clog your pores. People with oil and/or acne-prone skin tend to benefit most from non-comedogenic products. Apostrophe’s skin care products also contain no added fragrances or coloring, which are common skin irritants.
What’s it like to consult a dermatologist and get skin care prescriptions online through Apostrophe?
1. Take the online quiz
As a first step on the homepage, you’re prompted to take a “quiz.” You run through a series of questions that detail what skin troubles you’re facing, your current skincare regimen, and any ingredients preferences you have. Then they ask for your email and request you create a password. It leads you to a page detailing your “predicted treatment.”
2. A virtual consultation with a dermatologist
Next you sign up for a virtual consultation by completing a contact from and giving consent to receive treatment through Apostrophe. Every consultation costs $20, but for the first session the $20 fee is applied as credit to your first Rx delivery. Next you’re matched with a dermatologist in your area and submit photos of your skin. No need to be bashful…all photos are encrypted and stored in a HIPAA compliant platform.
During consultations, the doctor asks about your skin and previous treatments you’ve tried –– pretty standard procedure. Within 24 hours, the dermatologist sends you a custom treatment plan and your Rx prescription is off to the pharmacy.
3. Sit back and relax
Depending on your skin’s needs, your dermatologist may prescribe a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly supply of your medications.
Treatments can cost anywhere from around $30 to $140, depending on the prescription. Dermatologists will likely request a follow up a few months later to check in on your progress.
Orders ship through USPS First Class Mail and can take 3-5 business days to deliver. One unfortunate thing is that once you receive medication from Apostrophe, it can’t be returned or refunded. So double check to make sure you’re signed up for the right subscription frequency, otherwise you may get an unexpected delivery that you won’t be able to refund.
Are there any side effects from Apostrophe’s products?
Apostrophe provides formula, directions, and potential side effects for each type of treatment they offer. In general the treatments they offer are widely used and show results, but potential side effects can vary drastically by medication, from skin irritation to abdominal pain and diarrhea. So be sure to check with your doctor directly for specific questions. Here’s a full list of medications with links to their detail pages.
- Tretinoin Formula (tretinoin 0.025% to 0.1% and niacinamide 4%)
- Metronidazole Formula (metronidazole 1% and niacinamide 4%)
- Benzoyl Peroxide Formula (benzoyl peroxide 3.1%)
- Tretinoin + Clindamycin Formula (tretinoin 0.025% to 0.1% and clindamycin 1% and niacinamide 4%)
- Clindamycin + Benzoyl Peroxide Formula (clindamycin 1% and benzoyl peroxide 3% and niacinamide 4%)
- Azelaic Acid Formula (azelaic acid 15% and niacinamide 4%)
- Clindamycin Formula (clindamycin 1% and niacinamide 4%)
- Doxycycline (doxycycline 20mg to 100mg oral pills)
- Minocycline (minocycline 50mg to 100mg oral capsules)
- Sulfamethoxazole-Trimethoprim (sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim 800 mg-160 mg oral tablets – generic form of bactrim)
- Spironolactone (spironolactone 50mg to 100mg oral tablets)
- Ampicillin (ampicillin 500mg oral capsules)
- Cephalexin (cephalexin 250mg to 500mg oral capsules)
Now, let’s compare Apostrophe’s pricing and services with competitors
There are two other dermatology telemedicine companies that are worth mentioning, and they’re both targeted to women: Hers and Rory. Remember they, along with Apostrophe, all require virtual consultations before prescriptions can be delivered to your home. Let’s take a look at how their pricing and services compare.
Apostrophe vs Hers vs Rory: Comparing Online Dermatology
|Target Audience||Women & Men||Women||Women|
|Skin Conditions Treated||Acne, Wrinkles, Rosacea||Cold Sores (Oral Herpes)||Acne, Wrinkles|
|Other Conditions Treated||Male Hair Loss, Eyelash Enhancement||Hot Flashes, Vaginal Dryness, Sleep, Eyelash Enhancement, Genital Herpes, Allergies||Primary Care, Sexual Health, Hair, Supplements, Performance Anxiety, Genital Herpes|
|Skincare Treatments Offered|
13 Types of Skin Care Medication
1 Type of Skin Care Medication
2 Types of Skin Care Medication
|Where They’re Available||34 States (Full List Here)||Nationwide||Nationwide|
Depends on treatment.
Monthly, bi-monthly, and quarterly supplies run about $30 to $140, depending on the medication.
Get $15 off your first order with code FIN15
Depends on treatment.
Monthly, quarterly, and one-time subscriptions available.
Depends on treatment.
Monthly subscriptions run about $30 to $60. Or you can pay per product.
Additional $5 processing fee per order.
|Online Dermatologist Consultation Fee||$20 (“free” since it will be credited back to your account)||$15 (first consultation free)||Free|
No refunds on prescriptions
Potential refunds on consultation fees if the session is unhelpful.
|No refunds on prescriptions|
One-time courtesy refund
*30-day money back guarantee for Hers Acne Cream if skin products don’t work.
|How are prescriptions delivered||Home delivery||Home delivery||Home delivery & pharmacy pickups|
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What are customers saying about Apostrophe?
You can find customer reviews on their website, but to get a clearer picture of user sentiment we’ve scoured Reddit and Yelp for more. Here’s the TLDR.
The Good Stuff
People love that Apostrophe is a cheaper alternative to using insurance at a dermatologist, and also that its medications were super effective at clearing up their skin (sometimes when all other treatments failed). One woman highlights the quality of Apostrophe’s doctors and how nice it is to save time not having to go in-person to meet them.
Below are a few customer comments pulled from Apostrophe’s site.
A few people complain about a lag in the 24-hour response time of doctors, and a few highlighted mishaps with the delivery (prescriptions sent to the wrong place — yikes!). Below are some customer comments, again, pulled from their site.
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The Verdict: Should you try Apostrophe’s dermatology and skincare treatments?
If you’re struggling with your skin and haven’t found a treatment that works well for you, but don’t like the sound of visiting an expensive dermatologist, Apostrophe’s custom formulas are definitely worth a try. It has a wealth of information on its website (their blog and FAQ pages are extremely helpful) so you can educate yourself on specific ingredients, treatment combinations, and customer success stories to see if it fits your needs. If you have any questions before getting started, their support team is really helpful as well so it’s worth reaching out.
And, true. At $30 per month or more, Apostrophe’s monthly medication subscription isn’t accessible to all. But it’s a lot cheaper than seeing a traditional Dermatologist. The time and money saved not having to head into the doctor, get a referral, and take another day to visit again in person, could make a trial run with Apostrophe worth it. Plus you get $15 off your first order by applying code FIN15 at checkout.
Considering the dire need to reduce exposure to any contagious diseases in the doctor’s office, Apostrophe’s custom skincare treatments are a fantastic way to reach highly-qualified doctors and get the tailored medication you deserve –– all without having to get out of your PJs.
If you’ve tried Apostrophe’s services and prescription skincare meds, let us know about your experience in the comments below.