- How the beauty editor’s favourite dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting is disrupting the skincare market
- Sam’s plans for growing her business internationally
- Why self discovery and managing her mindset are a key part of Sam’s life journey
Dr. Sam Bunting is the A-lister and beauty editors’ go-to dermatologist in the UK. Founder of Dr Sam’s Skincare Sam is passionate about making expert skincare advice accessible to all. She talks to 35 Thousand about her disruptive approach to skincare, why her perfectionism drives her mad and the things they didn’t teach her in medical school.
Describe yourself in 3 words…
“Playful, Dynamic, Tenacious.”
Tell us about your work…
“I’m wearing a lot of hats these days. I see patients in my Harley Street practice helping them achieve their dream skin goals. I’m a content creator – I post videos weekly on my YouTube channel (153k subscribers) in order to reach more people with my pragmatic and results-driven philosophy around achieving skin transformation. And I’m the founder and CEO of my direct-to-consumer skincare brand Dr Sam’s.”
Do you work in the spare room, a skyscraper or other?
“I have my Harley Street clinic where I work with best-in-class dermatologists Dr Emma Wedgeworth and Dr Rakesh Patalay. And I run my brand from my office in Notting Hill.”
What parts of your work give you energy?
“Goodness, all of it! I thrive on the totally different facets of each of my hats. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing my small but agile team get excited about our products and the ways we deliver them to our amazing customer base. For example, we have a highly engaged closed Facebook group (22K) who are a constant source of product feedback and really seem to value our advanced formulations and disruptive approach to skincare. I’m also loving learning about eCommerce – they don’t teach that in medical school! So every day is different and requires me to work on myself constantly to evolve and grow as an entrepreneur. I feel I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing. When I read our product testimonials, it fills me with so much joy that we’re helping so many people attain a complexion they’ve always dreamed of but doubted they could achieve. That’s so worth getting up for.”
What parts of your work drain you?
“My perfectionism – I can drive myself mad with it, and probably those around me to some extent. I’m learning that it’s better to act and iterate than expend endless energy on perfection. ‘Try, test and improve’ is my new mantra.”
Most pivotal point of your career so far?
“I have so many! Just starting the brand, has to be it. We launched with one product – a cleanser. And it was so successful we were in profit by the end of our first month of business.
We have a slow launch philosophy – I launch just one product at a time and only when I’m convinced it’s perfect (the one area I allow my perfectionism to rein supreme!)
For example, my Flawless Brightly Serum, which won Harpers Bazaar Best Brightening Serum last year, took 3 years and 34 iterations to get it just right. I want people to still be using my original launches in 10 years time because they’re that good.”
Best piece of advice you received that you now pass on to others…
“Define what success looks like early on. It’s so easy to get caught up in the pitfall of defining success only in financial terms. But in reality, success for me means doing something meaningful with my business every day. If I reach just one person who finds joy in their skin through using my products, that’s a win for me.”
What’s your context outside of work – do you have family, other people counting on you, pets, hobbies, external commitments?
“Work has become central to my identity in the pandemic, for sure. Business has flourished and it has been very anchoring. Family is immensely important for me – I lost my father last year and that really drove home the importance of making time for my mother and brother. So difficult right now when distance is enforced.
I have 2 cats I’m utterly besotted with – Hector and Ginger – being animal mad is a Bunting trait (my brother is an incredibly talented vet in Highgate). In my limited spare time, I crave hiking in big open spaces – I love Yeotown down in Devon to reboot my system and enforce a digital detox. And I’ve really been enjoying the Postive Intelligence programme with Shirzad Chamine to manage my inner saboteurs and bring about real calm and focus.”
Describe your pre-pandemic day-to-day…
“I split my time between my clinic and brand office. The beautiful thing is how interconnected the businesses are. So many patients are avid users and subscribers of the brand so I’m constantly getting feedback on the products from people I know have a real understanding of skincare through their journey with the clinic. And so many of the insights I have from working with patients are funnelled into the brand. It creates a wonderfully positive feedback loop, especially when you factor in the conversations we have with our customers on social media.”
How has your daily life changed? What is your new normal?
“I’m currently spending more time on the brand, which has been incredible. It really lights the fire in my belly. And I’ve had the time to focus on personal development, which is really helping me manage myself better. I’m a very sensitive person, which I’ve come to realise is a gift but it’s also not the easiest of paths. I now recognise how important my morning routine is to get me into the right mindset – so I now meditate and journal every morning and this kickstarts a positivity that is compounding.”
Has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally? How?
“I struggled with a lot of personal loss over the first lockdown which was incredibly hard to deal with in such abnormal circumstances. But work was kept me sane and gave me a sense of purpose – and I’m delighted with how we’ve thrived. Like many consumer brands, we faced challenges with supply chain; but overall, I’m very grateful for being forced into a situation where I could spend so much time giving it my undivided attention.”
What, if anything, keeps you up at night?
“I’m an overthinker, so unresolved issues or conflicts play heavily on my mind. I’m trying to be less focused on the ‘what if’ and lean more towards the ‘I’m smart, I’ll work it out if when it happens’ school of thought.”
What have been your best coping strategies over the past year? Do you have any objects, routines, or tools that you found particularly uplifting? Gin or Gym?
“The Positive Intelligence course I mentioned earlier has been amazing – I did the Hoffman Course last year which was an incredible experience but I wanted to find something more user-friendly for the day-to-day to keep me in a positive mindset so this has been very helpful.”
What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane?
“Learning to be at ease with myself has been a real journey as I’m very self-critical. It’s easy to believe that beating yourself up is the only way to achieve ambitions but I’m discovering that empathy and kindness go a long way too.
Regular video calls have helped me stay connected – but I’m so looking forward to seeing my mum and hugging her.”
Did 2020 change your outlook on life in any way?
“Hugely. Life is for living; I want to work on projects that don’t feel like work because I’m so into it. I want to work with people who inspire me and I enjoy being around. And I want to surround myself with people who lift me up. In essence, it has crystallised my values and how important it is to live in accordance with them.”
Are you travel-ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?
“I can’t wait to travel. I want to go on safari again – I did my first in January 2020 and it blew my mind so I want to do another one. And I get so recharged by the outdoors. So a hiking trip somewhere spectacular like Patagonia really appeals too. I’ll also hopefully spend some time in Ibiza at some point – my happy place.”
Finish this sentence “If you look in my handbag at any time you will ALWAYS find….”
“…lipstick, blotting papers, some rogue cat hairs, my phone and keys. My bag will be Metier or Loewe.”
What are your work from home saviors?
“I’m off caffeine but I adore the smell of coffee so I make Lavazza decaf in my little Bialetti every morning. The cats are literally my saviours. Meditation in some shape or form is incredibly important for me. And I’m addicted to Shona Vertue’s online workout course.”
Describe your style:
“Chic, classic, feminine.”
Name your 5 essential items of clothing:
“A high heel (I dress from the feet up). Pencil skirt and silk blouse for work. Effortless little dress you can style up or down. A gorgeous coat (probably cashmere). Perfect jeans/t-shirt/blazer.
I’m also very specific about lingerie – La Perla for a treat, Eres or Wolford for function.”
How do you see your business or career in two years from now?
“International growth for us is key; I see myself spending a lot more time in the US and territories beyond as we scale. I’ve also been heavily involved across all aspects of the business, experience that’s invaluable. But ultimately, content creation, education and product development are my core strengths so that’s where I’ll be investing most of my time going forward.”
What’s something you haven’t conquered yet but really want to?
“My desire with the brand is simple – to get my products into the hands of as many people who can benefit from them as possible so I want us to be bigger and grow faster. So many people endure issues with their skin that are eminently fixable – I want them to experience the joy, freedom and confidence that sorting your skin can deliver. It’s why I made sure we kept the pricepoint affordable but also excellent value for money considering the quality of the formulas.”
What could you say to your 20-year-old self that would help her the most?
“Believe in yourself and don’t let fear hold you back. You got skills, girl!”
Do you have a life motto or mantra that really resonates with you?
“What you focus on grows.”