Does Curology Work? The Truth About Customised Skincare

by Gio
curology skincare

What if you could get your hands on Tretinoin without ever setting foot in a doctor’s office?

It’s not wishful thinking. It’s a reality. Thank Curology for that. This online start-up is a lazy girl’s skincare dream. It gives you access to prescription treatments you just can’t pick up at Sephora.

That’s right. No more settling for over-the-counter products that too often can’t rid you of acne or dark spots. No more taking time off your busy schedule to see a dermatologist. No more spending a small fortune on their high fees and the medications they recommend.

Curology has made the world of prescription skincare accessible, convenient and affordable for everyone.

But… is that too good to be true? There must be a catch, right? Let’s find out:

What Is Curology?

Curology is an online service that customises prescription-strength skincare for you.

That’s right. It allows you to get your hands on tretinoin, azelaic acid and all the other goodies you’d usually need a prescription for – for a fraction of the cost, too.

It’s all legit. Each formula is created by a licensed healthcare provider based on your skin conditions and needs. If you don’t like it or it’s not working as well as you thought, you can always ask them to tweak the formula. How awesome is that?

For now, Curology focuses mainly on acne, but it’s quickly expanding into the anti-aging space, with formulas that target wrinkles and dark spots.

How Does Curology Work?

Here’s how Curology works:

  1. You fill in a questionnaire that helps Curology determine your skin’s needs. They’ll ask you about your skin type and problems, your medical history and any allergies you have, your lifestyle habits, and what other treatments you’ve tried in the past.
  2. You submit a few photos of your skin so they can examine it and have a better idea of what you’re dealing with.
  3. A dermatologist or nurse practitioner emails you to discuss your concerns, create you your prescription, and give you basic diet and lifestyle advice (you know, eating less sugar and process food, for example).
  4. You receive your prescription in the mail. How convenient is that?
  5. You use their prescription products and, if you have any concerns or requests, you can get back in touch so they can help you tweak things.

Easy, isn’t it?

treat acne scars

What’s A Typical Curology Prescription For Acne Like?

A typical Curology acne prescription (yes, lots of people end up using the same formula!) contains:

  1. 0.018% Tretinoin: A powerful form of Vitamin A that boosts collagen production, speeds up cellular turnover (the skin’s exfoliating process) and fights free radicals. It reduces both acne and wrinkles.
  2. 8% Azelaic Acid: Made by the good bacteria that live on your skin, it kills acne-causing bacteria, soothes inflammation, and even helps fade away dark spots.
  3. 1% Clindamycin: A topical antibiotic that targets P.Acnes, the bacteria that gives you acne.

That’s one powerful cocktail that can definitely help you get rid of your acne. Seriously, if this stuff doesn’t work, your only option is Accutane (FYI, you still need to see a dermatologist for that).

Related: Thinking Of Going On Accutane? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

What’s A Typical Curology Prescription For Wrinkles And Dark Spots?

A typical Curology prescription for wrinkles and dark spots contains:

The star of the show here is Tretinoin. Vitamin C derivatives and niacinamide are supporting acts you can get OTC, too.

Related: The Complete Guide To Niacinamide: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It

How Customised Are Curology Customised Prescriptions?

I get it. If you’re paying for a customised skincare product, you want it to be 100% unique to you. But that’s not how it works. Lots of people who use Curology will get the exact same formula. WTH?

Here’s the deal: there’s only a limited amount of actives that really works against wrinkles, acne, and dark spots.

When you use Curology, you’re paying for that active ingredient that you usually wouldn’t be able to get your hands on. Everything else is a bonus.

It doesn’t make sense to have 1000 unique formulas when the same one will do for most people. Sure, they may add more of an emollient or less of a thickener, but that’s not the stuff that gives you results.

Plus, you can always further tweak the formula to make it suit your skin type better. Because you never know how well something works for you until you try it.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Curology?

Did I mention you get prescription-strength skincare without the hassle of seeing a dermatologist? Curology is:

  • Easy: It takes just a few minutes to fill in the forms and get a prescription.
  • Convenient: The prescription is delivered right to your door. No need to go to a pharmacy.
  • Effective: Each prescription uses strong actives that really work to treat acne, wrinkles, and dark spots.
  • Affordable: It’s definitely less expensive than seeing a dermatologist on a regular basis.
  • Legit: Your prescription is created by a medical health care professional, so you’re in good hands.
  • Tweakable: If something’s not working well for you, you can ask them to tweak it.
  • Beautiful: The packaging is kinda cute – not your usual boring medical-like packaging.

I totally see why more women (and men) are going for this route. Customised skincare is definitely the future.

hydroquinone vs kojic acid for skin-lightening

What’s The Problem With Curology?

There’s a reason why Tretinoin & co are available by prescription only. They’re harsh AF.

Tretinoin is one of the worst culprit. It’s pretty much the only thing that reduces wrinkles and one of the very few that treat acne, but the results come at a cost.

Dryness. Irritation. Increased skin sensitivity. Risk of sun damage even (if you’re not religious with sunscreen).

That’s why 1/3 of Curology patients need to tweak their prescription. The initial dose was TOO harsh for them, giving them all kinds of side effects. They had to be toned down a notch or two so they could better tolerate them.

If Curology doesn’t get it right on the first try, don’t despair. Sometimes, it takes three or four tries to get the right balance.

Who Is Curology For?

If you’ve tried every OTC treatment, but your acne won’t disappear and your dark spots are getting worse, Curology may be worth a try. Especially if you don’t have the money to see a dermatologist on a regular basis.

There’s only so much skincare products can do. Anything that’s sold OTC needs to be gentle or who knows what trouble it may cause in the wrong hands!

At some point, you need to upgrade to prescription skincare. Curology is a good way to get your foot in the water and get started with more powerful treatments.

Who Is Curology Not For?

Let’s be clear. Curology can’t completely replace a dermatologist.

For starters, Curology is only for mild to moderate acne, wrinkles, and dark spots. If you’re dealing with a bad rash of a suspicious mole, you still need to see a dermatologist.

Curology also doesn’t work for everyone. If your acne is really severe, a combination of Azelaic Acid, Tretinoin, and Clindamycin may not be enough to heal it completely.

If that’s the case, you’ll need an oral medication like Accutane or spironolactone. Or maybe you need to supplement with blue light therapy. All things you need to see a dermatologist for.

Good news: if you ever reach that stage, Curology will let you know.

P.S. If you have sensitive skin, you’re better off seeing a dermatologist. Curology’s prescriptions will almost certainly irritate your skin like hell. Don’t risk it!

curology review

How Much Does Curology Cost?

The first month is free. You just pay $4.95 for shipping (plus tax, if applicable). After that, you transition to your chosen subscription plan. You have 3 options here:

  • The Curology Set ($59.90 + free shipping): Every 60 days, you receive a cleanser, a custom prescription, and moisturizer.
  • Large Custom Bottle ($39.90 + free shipping): Every 60 days, you receive a large bottle of your custom prescription.
  • Small Custom Bottle ($19.95 + $4.95 shipping fee): Every 30 days, you receive a small bottle of your custom prescription.

There’s no minimum commitment. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Think it’s expensive? Retin-A, an alternative to Tretinoin, will set you back $300 a year. That’s without counting the dermatologist’s fee…

Is Curology Cleanser Any Good?

Curology’s cleanser is a no-frills, non-customisable formula that gently removes all traces of dirt without drying out your skin.

Curology wants you to use it day and night, but I doubt it’s strong enough to remove your makeup. In that case, you may want to double cleanse with squalane oil or jojoba oil.

If you’re already using a basic cleanser with no actives, you can keep it. If you need anything gentler, it makes sense to go with this (or you can try La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser).

Related: Do You Really Need To Double Cleanse?

Is Curology Moisturiser Any Good?

Curology offers two non customisable moisturisers:

  • Curology’s Moisturiser: A lightweight oil-free formula suitable for oily and acne-prone skin.
  • Curology’s Rich Moisturiser: A thicker formula with shea butter and natural oils for dry skin.

Both creams are extremely basic. They moisturise skin and that’s it. You won’t find any antioxidants, soothing agents, or anything of the sort here.

There’s a reason for that: when you’re using such harsh actives (especially at the beginning), you want your skincare routine as basic as possible. Every other active you add to the mix may could interfere with your prescription or make your skin drier.

If you have a moisturiser that you love – and it doesn’t contain any harsh actives – you can keep using it. If you need to change, you can opt for either one of Cureology moisturisers or a basic drugstore alternative (I recommend CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Lotion).

Related: My Full Review Of CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Lotion

the best antiaging routine for dry and aging skin

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Curology Prescription

Curology’s prescriptions are harsh. Here’s how to get all their benefits without the nasty side effects:

  1. Start slowly: Use fewer actives in smaller doses to get your skin time to get used to them. You can always tweak them and up their power when your skin can tolerate them better.
  2. Use it every other night: Daily use is a sure recipe for dryness and irritation – especially if you’ve just started out or have increased your dose significantly. Give your skin a break in between.
  3. Use after serums but before moisturiser: It’s true active ingredients penetrate better when you apply them as close to freshly cleansed skin as possible. But if you’re just starting out, that may be too harsh. When you apply them after serums, you tone down the harshness a notch or two.
  4. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise: Always apply a good moisturiser after your prescription. If that’s not enough, add a hylauoric acid serum, too. If you have dry skin, you can consider a facial oil instead.
  5. Don’t skip sunscreen: Tretinoin & co make skin more prone to sun damage. You could use Curology every day and it would all be for nothing!

Related: How To Introduce New Skincare Products Into Your Routine

The Bottom Line

Customised skincare like Curology is the future of skincare. If you’ve outgrown what OTC products can do for you but aren’t ready to see a dermatologist yet, Curology is the way to go. But it can’t replace a dermatologist completely. If you have very severe skin problems, a good old derm is still the best option.

What do you think of Curology? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments below.

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3 comments

Kathleen January 20, 2020 - 1:44 pm

I’ve been using Curology for almost a year now and really enjoy it. My formula contains 0.05% tretinoin, 4% niacinamide, and
5% azelaic acid. I use it for anti-aging and sunspots. I tried so many very good retinols, including the PTR PM Retinol Serum and nothing ever made a difference. Nothing is a miracle, but Curology has improved the texture, dark spots, firmness & elasticity, and wrinkles, better than anything else I’ve used!

Reply
Gio February 8, 2020 - 7:29 am

Kathleen, it depends on what your Curology prescription contains. If it already has one exfoliant and vitamin c, you don’t need separate products with these ingredients.

Reply
Hbr January 30, 2020 - 2:45 pm

If you use curology every other night for anti-aging, do you also use an exfoliator? If yes, every night or just on the alternate nights when you don’t use the curology product. And would you continue to use a vitamin c serum in the morning, even though the curology product also has vitamin c? Thanks!

Reply

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