Curology Customizes An Acne Routine For Your Skin–But Does It Work

·5 min read
Photo credit: Christine Giordano
Photo credit: Christine Giordano

We are living in the golden age of customization. We customize our salads on every trip to Sweetgreen to ensure they have everything we want and nothing we don’t; we customize our Spotify recommendations to meet our music tastes; and we customize our multivitamins to cater to our individual needs; so, it seems only natural that we also customize our skincare. One of the biggest trends to emerge in the beauty space in recent years, personalized skincare offers users the chance to address their specific skin concerns with specially chosen ingredients. One brand at the forefront of this trend is Curology.

What is Curology?

Curology is a direct-to-consumer prescription skincare company that is dermatologist-founded and rooted in the belief that the most effective skincare is personal. “That’s why we work one-on-one with subscribers to create a custom prescription formula made to help with skin concerns related to acne and anti-aging,” explains Nicole Hangsterfer, the brand’s Marketing Content Physician Assistant. “Curology makes powerful prescription skin care accessible online at a more affordable price tag.”

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How does Curology work?

The process in many ways mimics a traditional visit to the dermatologist by providing a virtual one-on-one consultation to customers. You simply upload a few photos of your skin and complete a brief quiz about your skin concerns, practices, and goals.

The Curology dermatology provider then creates a personalized formula, consisting of up to three active ingredients (a combination of either tretinoin, azelaic acid, tranexamic acid, clindamycin, niacinamide, zinc pyrithione, or metronidazole). “All of these ingredients are regularly prescribed by dermatologists and used in skincare products, and they can be incredibly effective for the treatment of acne, scarring, and signs of aging,” says Adam Luber, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. “The obvious benefit of using a custom formula is that you can get them from a single source rather than having to use several different products.”

After your custom cream is created, it’s shipped directly to your door. You may have to work up to daily use, as many of the ingredients used can be quite harsh on skin, but the cream should last you about two months. During this time, your Curology provider will check in to make sure your formula is right for your skin needs and can adapt it as your skincare goals change over time.

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How much does Curology cost?

The cost of Curology depends on what you’d like. The service costs $19.95 a month for the small custom formula or $39.90 every two months for the large custom formula, and you can choose other products, like cleanser or moisturizer, á la carte for an additional cost. Your first month of Curology, however, is completely free with the brand’s trial offer (you just have to pay the $4.95 shipping fee). Unlike some prescription skincare products, Curology does not accept insurance.

Does Curology make your skin worse before it gets better?

While it may seem counterintuitive, you may notice your skin breaking out more when you first start your custom formula, but that actually just means it’s working. “This is commonly referred to as ‘purging,’” Hangsterfer says. “Purging happens when certain prescription-strength acne treatments unclog pores and bring things to the surface. Basically, ingredients like tretinoin can cause a breakout because of the way they target clogged pores and increase skin cell turnover.” This period of purging typically lasts six to eight weeks, but if you experience ongoing or significant breakouts, be sure to check in with your Curology provider so they can offer guidance.

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Does Curology have side effects?

Like most skincare products made with active ingredients, Curology comes with potential side effects, especially in the beginning. In the first few weeks of using the acne medication, it’s normal to experience temporary dryness, increased breakouts, flaking, redness, mild itching, or stinging. It’s difficult to know how your skin will react to the new treatment, so it’s important to follow your provider’s instructions and start slowly if necessary.

How long does it take for Curology to start working?

Results really do depend on your individual skin and how it reacts. “When it comes to acne, it generally takes several months to see the full benefit of treatment,” Hangsterfer explains. “As for concerns related to anti-aging, we’ve seen everything from subtle change after a year to dramatic changes within a few weeks.” And while everyone’s skin is unique and will work on its own timeline, it’s important to be realistic in your expectations and to remain patient throughout your journey with Curology or any other prescription topical.

Does Curology work for acne?

Because the custom formula can contain several different ingredients at varying concentrations, your cream really will cater to your individual acne concerns, be them mild or cystic. The ingredients used in Curology formulas are tried and trusted among dermatologists, and they are known to offer excellent results, but at the same time, every person’s skin and acne are different, and you might very well need something beyond a topical. “Nothing beats an in-person evaluation from a dermatologist,” says Dr. Luber. “It’s important to assess the skin up close and to monitor progression in order to provide the most specific recommendations.”

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