I Tried Curology for 60 Days to Treat My Acne 2020

If you were to ask me what Curology was a mere three months ago, I would’ve said something vague like, “It’s, uhhh, I dunno, an online skincare thing.” Ask me now, and I’ll tell you it’s my favorite face fixer I’ve ever used (and also, yes, technically an online skincare thing).

Although I’d heard about Curology for years, I had very little understanding of what it actually was until I was tasked with testing it a few months ago. And even though I barely understood it, I also had nothing to lose. Because I’ve been on my skincare journey (more like an odyssey) for over half my life with no end in sight. Acne, melasma, clogged pores, fine lines—you name it, it’s on my face.

So I said yes to the experiment, and I signed myself up, having truly no hopes that yet another skincare “thing” would actually impact my face. But before I get into my Curology review (and, most importantly, my results), I need to catch you up first on what it is and how it works. Then you can proceed to the good stuff—i..e, progress photos of my face during my 60-day experiment and what it looks like now.

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What is Curology?

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As I’ve discovered from telling all my friends about it, Curology is harder to explain than it is to use—mainly because it’s legit just easy to use. But basically, Curology is a custom prescription cream designed specifically for your skin needs and goals. The process is as streamlined and simple as it gets: Submit photos of your face, take an online skin assessment, then get matched with a licensed medical provider (yes, it’s a real, living, breathing person) who customizes a prescription cream to address your specific skin concerns. Within a few days, you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan and your prescription in the mail.

Now, a little bit about those prescription creams. Each mix combines three of the following ingredients, depending on what your skin needs: tretinoin (a prescription retinoid), niacinamide (vitamin B3), azelaic acid (an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial), zinc pyrithione (a fungus fighter), clindamycin (an antibiotic), tranexamic acid (a skin brightener), and metronidazole (an antibiotic). As your skin changes, you can work with your provider to adjust your formula and ask them any questions you have along the way.

So who is the person you’re working with? According to David Lortscher, MD, board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology, all of the direct medical care is done by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, but Curology also has dermatologists on staff who are responsible for training and overseeing the medical providers and answering questions for them. So no, you’re not actually working closely with a board-certified dermatologist (which can be a con), buuuut you also don’t need to physically go into an office, either (which can be a pro).

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How much does Curology cost?

Depending on what you want, Curology can cost anywhere from $24.90 to $59.50. When you’re starting out, you get a one-month free trial (you just gotta cover the $4.95 shipping and handing fee). After that, you can choose between getting a small bottle of your custom mix for $24.90 (includes shipping and handling) or a larger two-month supply for $39.90. You can also choose to get the set, which contains a gentle cleanser, a moisturizer for your skin type, and a two-month supply of your custom mix for $59.90.

Does Curology make your skin worse before it gets better?

Yes, “purging”—aka a temporary breakout caused by adding actives like retinoids and acids to your skincare routine—is a possibility, but it doesn’t happen for everyone. “We see purging in a very small amount of people, and the reason we do is because we have the philosophy of starting people out with a really gentle formulation,” says Dr. Lortscher.

What that means is that although it might take you a little bit longer to reach your skin goals (since your custom mix is lower-strength at first), you’re also less likely to go through the experience of your skin getting “worse” before it gets better. Pick your battles.

Does Curology have side effects?

As laid out in the guide to Your First Weeks on Curology, which I clung to every night before bed those first two weeks, dryness, mild irritation, redness, flaking, and temporarily worsened breakouts (aka purging), are all normal things to experience, particularly if your formulation includes tretinoin (hi, mine). Dr. Lortscher recommends talking to your provider if you experience any discomfort to discuss changing the strength of your formulation or the frequency of use.

Does Curology actually work for acne?

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It could! Buuuut it also might not, because that’s just the way things go when you’re talking about skin and acne. “Because we can use different ingredients, we can address any type of acne, whether it’s super mild or super cystic,” Dr. Lortscher says, “but that’s not to say we can successfully treat every type of acne.” Of course, every person’s situation is unique and some may require treatments outside of topicals, and for that reason, everything is approached on a patient-by-patient basis.

Although my skin concerns were equally split between acne and anti-aging, the main target of Curology is to treat acne. “The core of our company is acne, and it always will be,” Dr. Lortscher says. “That’s our biggest focus, but people who have acne and have overlapping concerns, they tend to ask their Curology provider about it, and the Curology provider can help.”

How long does it take for Curology to start working?

Dr. Lortscher says although the time it takes to see results varies from 2 to 12 weeks, depending on your custom mix/skin concerns, you should start to see some effects within six weeks. I tried it for 60 days before making any judgments, but I started seeing my skin look clearer and brighter in the first three weeks. As for my hyperpigmentation, Dr. Lortscher says it could take six months before I start to see results. Good thing I’m more patient now than I was at age 13 when my skin first started rebelling.

Background on my skin issues:

A little background: I’ve gone to derms inconsistently throughout my life, partly because they’re expensive, partly because they’re hard to get an appointment with (I once had to wait six freakin’ months), and partly because there are so many over-the-counter products with pretty packaging that I’d rather try than the medicinal-looking prescriptions you get from the derm, TB totally H.

But obviously, my approach to skincare hasn’t been working or I wouldn’t be here in my late 20s still talking about my zits. Thanks to oral prescriptions, I now have my major breakouts under control, but I still deal with the everyday pimples, blackheads, and hyperpigmentation. So basically, I was down for some help.

My curology review:

The only way to describe my relationship with Curology is to compare it to the best friend you didn’t super like at first but now you’re obsessed with. Like, sometimes first impressions aren’t great, and people (or in this case, products) need time to grow on you.

It all started with an online skin assessment. The questionnaire asked me what I was looking to improve and gave me six options to choose from: breakouts, clogged pores, dark spots, firmness, texture, wrinkles. I chose all of them (lol). It then asked about my skin type, health history, any products I’ve tried in the past, and prescriptions I’m currently taking.

My only concern? The questionnaire was a little too brief and impersonal for someone as obsessed with talking about skin as I am. I had the option to leave an additional note at the end of the assessment, which I used to write an extensive paragraph nitpicking my skin. However, for someone who has literally no idea what’s wrong with their skin or is a first-time skincare user, the process is definitely not as thorough as it would be with an in-person dermatologist appointment.

I also had to send along a few photos of my face. And, as if my skin knew I’d be taking a photo of it to blast it on the internet, it ended up looking uncharacteristically good on the day I took my “before” photo at the start of the experiment. Even still, you could see I had hyperpigmentation and congestion in my T-zone.

Anyone with with acne knows how annoying it is to wait for help, so I was pumped when it only took three days from the time I submitted my skin assessment and photos to receive my custom prescription and treatment plan in the mail. Less than 24 hours after completing the questionnaire, I was matched with a provider (hi, Sarah!) and told of my prescription my custom formula, which was made of three ingredients to help with acne and aging: .01 percent tretinoin, 2 percent azelaic acid, and 4 percent niacinamide.

As directed by my provider, I stopped using every other product of mine (even makeup, although I didn’t have to), and limited my routine to just a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, my prescription cream, and a sunscreen. I started out applying the prescription three days a week for the first two weeks, then bumped it up to every other day for another two weeks. After the first month, I started applying it every night. My skin peeled a lot in the beginning, so I found it worked best for me to mix my moisturizer with the cream before applying it to my face.

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I’ll spare you 60 days-worth of details (you can scroll through the pictures for the play-by-play), and skip to the final thoughts: Overall, lots of pros and very few cons. Did my skin clear up overnight? No. It took time and a consistent routine to get clearer skin. But what it didn’t take? A lot of money to find something that worked. As much as I love trying fun, gimmicky products, I’m much more interested in finding something that works and was designed to treat my specific skin concerns. I still have pigmentation issues that will take longer to improve, but overall, I’m much happier with my pores and skin texture.

My final thoughts:

Although Curology is a good option for those who don’t have access to a dermatologist, it doesn’t totally replace the need for seeing a dermatologist in person. I’ll still be making in-person visits for skin cancer screenings and in-office treatments, but for seeking guidance on choosing skincare ingredients that work for my specific concerns, I’ve now found my new solution, and I’m finally sticking to it.

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