Glass interviews cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting
WHEN IT comes to navigating the increasingly complex beauty realm, no one decodes and demystifies quite like Dr Sam Bunting. Widely considered a beauty insider’s best-kept secret, the Cambridge-educated cosmetic dermatologist is renowned for her empathetic approach to skin, something she shares both online and at her private clinic on London’s Harley Street.
Passionate about smashing misconceptions and making expert advice more accessible, Dr Bunting has united traditional dermatology with mainstream beauty through her work with TV and media – as a presenter on TLC’s Extreme Beauty Disasters – and YouTube channel, where she regularly posts easily digestible tips and tutorials for her 161,000 subscribers.
In June 2018, Dr Bunting launched her eponymous skincare line, Dr Sam’s, which has since garnered widespread acclaim for its gentle yet potent formulas. Speaking with Glass, Dr Bunting discusses the brand’s latest releases and reflects on her journey from junior doctor to one of the industry’s top professionals.
When did you decide that cosmetic dermatology was the career for you? I practiced medical dermatology for eight years before making the decision to focus on cosmetic dermatology which wasn’t a common path at that time – treatment of disease was very much the focus in hospital medicine. But I wanted to go further and offer my patients the opportunity to restore health and beauty to their skin too, something I saw my American counterparts doing.
I established my own Harley Street office and 10 years on, I’m delighted to say that I work with a phenomenal team helping people from all walks of life reach their skin goals and change their lives.
What treatments are you best known for? I think the clinic has become something of a mecca for acne treatment. We look after everyone from beauty journalists, to celebrities and models, to busy professionals and teens. It’s a condition that’s incredibly democratic as it spares no-one.
I think it’s the empathetic but ultra-detailed and bespoke way we approach it, from diet and skincare practices, using cutting edge treatments and treating any consequences, like pigmentation and scarring, that makes all the difference.
You launched your eponymous skincare line, Dr Sam’s, in June 2018 – how did that come about? At the heart of it, I believe that changing your skin changes your life, something I experienced first hand after finally solving my own breakouts as a junior doctor. I realised that I could only scale my clinical practice so far.
But I recognised that by modelling my treatment protocols and creating a highly edited range full of well-formulated non-prescription actives and elegantly designed skincare basics, I could help a lot more people.
We currently have 10 products so the range is really simple – you complete a quiz to determine which are best for your concerns and then we email you your detailed personal plan. It almost feels like you’ve been seen in the clinic, as I give away all my tips. I create supporting video content that leaves you with zero questions about how to use everything correctly together. And we have a subscription service so you need never run out of your Dr Sam System.
We’ve rejected many retail approaches so far as we want to remain selling direct to consumer via the website – this helps keep things affordable but, more importantly, it helps us support the entire customer journey. What’s really interesting is that whilst the range set out to help out breakout-prone women concerned with the first signs of ageing, it’s been hugely successful among teens, men and women entering the menopause, which shows you that when attention is really paid to formulation, products can be incredibly versatile.
To accompany your Flawless Daily Sunscreen, you launched Flawless Gossamer back in September – was an all-mineral SPF something your patients requested? Oh my goodness, yes. A mineral SPF is an essential tool in the clinic – whether we’re treating rosacea or eczema-prone skin or using it post-procedure. And so many of them are heavy, or leave a white-cast. So I set myself the challenge of making one that leaves skin with a gorgeous finish and yet offers hefty broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection.
And I created a non-tinted and tinted format which offers the ideal post-lockdown way to enhance and protect skin without using heavy make-up.
Why might one opt for a mineral sunscreen over one that uses chemical filters? Mineral sunscreen is great for sensitive skin and redness-prone skin as it’s less likely to irritate than chemical filters. That’s why we recommend it in delicate, post-laser skin for UV protection.
Your most recent launch was the Flawless Body Therapy – how important is a body care routine? I think that consumers have quite limited expectations of body care because there’s very little on the market – aside from AHAs – for rejuvenation of sun-damaged skin. So I decided to create a uniquely active formula for the body because I think it’s that important – after all, everything should match.
I used niacinamide, bakuchiol and lactic acid to brighten, firm and smooth. And the customer feedback has been incredible, as it helps calm blemish-prone backs and chests and smooth bumpy arms and thighs whilst offering really long-lasting nourishment. I’m extremely proud of Flawless Body Therapy.
As well as social media, you also share advice on YouTube – what was the motivation behind starting a YouTube channel? I realised early on in my career that I wanted to reach a larger audience and provide evidence-based skincare advice in an accessible way to people who were unlikely to come to my office through working with press, tv and social media – again this was difficult within the confines of traditional hospital practice.
So after I set up my own clinic, I quickly started to work with brands, as diverse as La Roche Posay and Cetaphil to Dolce and Gabbana. I then became a presenter on TLC’s Extreme Beauty Disasters for three seasons which gave me a lot of confidence talking to the camera. The next step was to start my YouTube channel, and here we are. It’s wonderful to see that the climate for this has changed a lot over the last decade – it’s brilliant to see so many doctors in training grades sharing digestible dermatology wisdom so generously.
What skincare ingredient deserves more appreciation than it gets?
My hero ingredient is azelaic acid – it’s in our two serums, both of which are unique formulas coupling it together with three other potent actives for a four-serums-in-one effect. It means you don’t waste your time layering multiple products and you get tremendous synergy from having everything in a single phase. It’s an ingredient that was previously only found in prescription-only skincare but it’s got so much to offer in terms of helping with breakouts, pigmentation and redness.
Getting our serums just right has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced professionally so far. When Harpers Bazaar awarded Flawless Brightly Serum Best Brightening Serum last year, I felt such a sense of satisfaction – it took three years and 34 iterations to create this unique powerhouse, but it was worth it.
As the rise of the 10-step skincare routine begins to slow, do you believe 2021 will be the year where consumers begin stripping back their regimes in favour of a more minimalist approach? Definitely – and I believe the rise of Skinimalism is long overdue. I’ve been championing it for years. Lockdown has meant that people have had more time to focus on skincare but it’s also been viewed by some as a form of entertainment, something that TikTok has fuelled.
The real secret to beautiful skin is using the right ingredients, in the right concentration in the right combinations consistently.
What are your ambitions for the future? I’ve always wanted to educate the people who might not be able to afford to see me privately on how to achieve beautiful skin, because I believe that when you change your skin, you change your life. It’s an aspiration that I think everyone can achieve with access to the right advice and correctly-chosen skincare products. It’s about educating, empowering and ultimately driving skin confidence.
When I read my product testimonials – someone saying their skin is clear for the first time in their life at 57, people have paid them a compliment and it’s changing their life – I feel such a sense of satisfaction that, whilst my path was unconventional, this is what I was born to do.
So the plan is to continue to build the range – I can see it very clearly. I want to continue to make products that simplify skincare and pave the way to the kind of freedom that only great skin can deliver – we have several new products coming in the next few months so stay tuned.