Taking care of your skin health is an important but often overlooked part of general wellness. Using skin care products is one way to manage common skin conditions — like acne, which affects up to 50 million Americans annually.
However, finding the right products to use can be challenging. Licensed dermatologists are a great resource to get a personalized skincare regimen for your skin type and concerns.
But a visit to the dermatologist’s office can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you don’t have insurance or can’t find a doctor in your network.
If you’re looking for professional help with your skin, but don’t have the time or budget to see a dermatologist in person, online services, like Curology, could have the solution for you.
Curology pros and cons
- Products are made with active ingredients, prescribed for your skin. This means that as your skin changes, you can update your plan to reflect this.
- The brand offers a free 30-day trial. After your trial ends, you can log in to your account to adjust your plan.
- You choose your shipment frequency. Curology offers shipments every 30 or 60 days.
- There’s a strong member community. When you sign up, you can join a members-only community.
- There are positive reviews. Many users find that there’s a visible difference to their skin after using Curology.
- You can push back shipments or cancel whenever. Simply head to your shipment page and adjust or postpone your next scheduled shipment.
- You receive consultation credits. Consultation credits work as a point system every time a shipment is sent to you. You earn one credit with every shipment. A consultation credit allows you to message a provider from Curology with any medical or skin care-related questions.
- Your Curology provider is not a licensed dermatologist. Curology’s providers are board-certified physicians, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners.
- Curology doesn’t accept health insurance. The company does accept some health savings account (HSA) and flexible savings account (FSA) cards, but only on a case-by-case basis.
- There are limited subscription shipping options. Curology only offers to ship for custom formulas every 30 or 60 days.
- There’s no face-to-face interaction. Although Curology provides each subscriber with a real provider, every interaction with a provider is done virtually. The skin care assessment is also not as personalized as an in-person appointment, as it’s conducted via the Curology platform.
- The products offered are lower strength than prescription topical treatments. Prescription topicals can be creams, gels, or lotions such as tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A), adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Tazorac), and others.
- Not necessarily best for severe acne. Curology’s providers can’t prescribe isotretinoin (Accutane), which requires in-person care.
What is Curology?
Curology started in 2014 with the mission to simplify skin care.
Founded by Dr. David Lortscher, a licensed dermatologist from New Mexico, Curology sought to make luxury skin care products accessible to everyone.
In response to the shortage of dermatologists in the United States, and inspired by the effectiveness of telemedicine services, Lortscher created the first-ever online dermatology practice with his brother and mother.
All that Curology has to offer can be accessed online. By filling out a brief skin assessment, you can communicate your skin concerns to a professional, whom Curology calls a provider. Based on your unique skin needs, the provider will prescribe you a custom skin care formula.
Though Curology has a special focus on clearing acne-prone skin, the service can help treat a range of skin concerns and conditions, including:
- cystic acne
- dry skin
- dark spots
- fine lines
How does Curology work?
Signing up for Curology is easy. First, you’ll be prompted to see if Curology is available in your area. You’ll also enter some basic information, such as your birthday and email address.
Once you create a free account, it’s time to fill out a brief questionnaire about your skin, medical history, allergies, and other relevant information. The company will also ask for a few selfies of your face to see your skin.
This is key for your provider to better understand your skin goals, so the medical team can choose the appropriate active ingredients for your custom routine.
After the checkout process, you’ll be matched with a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who is overseen by a licensed dermatologist and trained in dermatology. They’ll review your skin assessment and prescribe a custom skin care formula.
The formula is a custom mix of three ingredients made specifically for your skin from the information and pictures obtained from your questionnaire.
Next, sit back and wait for your customized skin care regimen to arrive. Your shipment should ship out within 1 to 3 business days.
Since Curology is a subscription service, you’ll continue to receive skin care products on a monthly basis.
Your first order is usually a free trial (just pay for shipping and handling). Additional orders are charged at the standard rate.
Who should use Curology?
Curology is heavily targeted toward people with acne-prone skin. Curology may be worth a shot if you experience:
- cystic acne
- breakouts of any kind
If you’re also someone who has gone to dermatologists or skin experts throughout your life, then Curology could suit you.
Considering that some ingredients in your custom formula might not be sold over the counter, Curology could be an affordable alternative to try a product that is dermatologist recommended.
Curology can also be beneficial for people who want professional help with their skin, but don’t have the time and financial commitment for an in-person dermatologist visit.
Since Curology users get paired with a medical team member, it’s an opportunity to get professional advice without leaving your home.
- Price: $19.95 a month, billed every 2 months at $39.90
- Based on the information you input in your skin assessment, Curology’s medical team will put together a custom skin care treatment for your needs.
- The custom formula usually contains a combination of active ingredients, such as:
- Clindamycin. This is an antibiotic usually prescribed to treat bacterial infections. It’s considered a common treatment option for acne.
- Azelaic acid. This is a naturally occurring acid found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye. Because of its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s used to treat skin conditions, like acne and rosacea, and it can be used to prevent future outbreaks.
- Tretinoin. This is the generic name for synthetic vitamin A and aims to treat acne and sun-damaged skin. It’s used trusted Source to decrease inflammation and turn skin cells over faster.
- Niacinamide. A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is a helpful ingredient for skin conditions, such as acne and rosacea. It’s an anti-inflammatory ingredient that can help decrease redness in acne, pigmentation, and oil production.
- Zinc pyrithione. With antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, zinc pyrithione is used to treat dandruff, scalp psoriasis, and acne.
- Tranexamic acid. This is most commonly used to treat heavy menstrual periods. However, in skin care, it can help with hyperpigmentation and the appearance of dark spots.
- Metronidazole. This is an antibiotic that may help manage rosacea.
- Topical ivermectin. This is a generic medication that has anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic effects and is beneficial for treatingTrusted Source rosacea.
Since the custom formula may contain ingredients that are sensitive to sunlight, Curology recommends applying this product in the evening.
Dark Spot Formula
- Price: $39.90 billed every 2 months
- Active ingredients: hydroquinone, hydrocortisone, ascorbic acid, kojic acid, azelaic acid
The Curology Dark Spot Formula is formulated with prescription ingredients, like hydroquinone, to fade areas of darkened skin and hyperpigmentation.
This is applied daily for a limited time of 3 months before giving your skin a 2-month break. It’s not applied all over the face. Rather, it’s made to be used as a short-term spot treatment for affected areas.
Cleanser and Moisturizer Set
- Price: $20 billed every 2 months
The Curology Cleanser is gentle, so it’s safe for sensitive skin. It’s also non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and more.
It aims to gently cleanse away impurities without stripping the skin of its natural moisture or causing dryness, tightness, or irritation.
The Cleanser is formulated with plant sugars that lock in moisture and oat extract to soothe inflamed skin.
The Cleanser comes with your choice of two Curology moisturizers: The Moisturizer and The Rich Moisturizer. They can’t be purchased separately, and they can only be purchased as an add-on to your order.
You can choose which one you want when you pick your subscription box. If you’re an existing member, you can go into your account to choose which one you’d like to add to your subscription.
The Moisturizer is suitable for normal and oily skin. The Moisturizer’s lightweight gel texture is buildable, so you can apply as little or as much as you’d like.
The star ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin retain water.
The Rich Moisturizer
The Rich Moisturizer is tailored to dry or aging skin.
It has a creamy texture that first hydrates the skin and then locks in moisture with a blend of six hydrating ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and shea butter.
Acne Body Wash
- Price: $12 billed every 2 months
- Active ingredients: 2% salicylic acid
The Curology Acne Body Wash is formulated with 2 percent salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant that helps unclog pores, treat acne, and prevent acne all over the body.
For people who have acne on the chest and back, this foaming body wash may help. Though it’s tough on acne, it’s gentle enough for daily use.
Emergency Spot Patches
- Price: $4.95 billed every 2 months
The Emergency Spot Patches look like little stickers, but they’re actually hydrocolloid bandages.
Hydrocolloid bandages, or dressings, provide a moist and insulating healing environment that protects uninfected wounds while allowing the body’s own enzymes to help heal the wounds.
These hydrocolloid bandages are smaller and are pimple patches that can be used for any major zits on your face.
These are convenient for emergency situations to calm breakouts, but they’re not designed as a long-term solution for treating acne.
Curology doesn’t provide oral medications, but some treatment plans may require them.
If your provider recommends an oral medication, the prescription will be sent to your local pharmacy for pickup.
Depending on your skincare concerns, Curology may prescribe medications, like doxycycline, an oral antibiotic that can treat rosacea and adult acne. However, prescriptions are provided on a case-by-case basis.
Pricing and Insurance
If you like free trials, you’ll enjoy getting started with Curology. New users are eligible for a free 30-day trial. Just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling.
After the trial period, Curology pricing starts at $19.95 per shipment. Shipments are delivered once per month or every 2 months, depending on your selection.
Some products include free shipping while others incur an additional $4.95 shipping fee.
Each shipment includes a 1-month supply or a 2-month supply of your custom formula. The smaller bottle is priced at $19.95 per month plus shipping, while the larger bottle is $39.90 for a 2-month period with free shipping.
You also have the option to add other products to your monthly subscription, including the Cleanser and Moisturizer Set for $20 per shipment, the Acne Body Wash for $18 per shipment, and the Emergency Spot Patches for $4.95 per shipment.
Curology doesn’t accept health insurance. If you’re prescribed oral medication, it may be covered by your health insurance plan, but it’s not fulfilled through Curology.
Based on your insurance network, your prescription may also be cheaper or completely covered.
Privacy and reputation
Curology is a HIPAA-compliant company.
All of your information, including photos of your skin, is used for medical diagnosis purposes only and will not be shared without your explicit consent.
According to reviews, Curology is well-received by customers. Real Curology users have uploaded before and after photos showing their results. Along with clearer skin, Curology customers report increased confidence.
Curology claims to never incentivize users to leave positive reviews in an effort of transparency.
One common complaint about Curology is the purge period. This is when your skin appears to break out more often at the beginning of a new skincare routine.
Curology has addressed this with the explanation that skin purging is common and expected when introducing prescription acne ingredients for the first time. This simply means that the ingredients are doing their job to bring breakouts to the surface to get rid of them.
Curology also has a strong community. The members-only community is used to uplift one another. The Curology community is also strong on social media.
How to get started with Curology
Curology makes it easy to get started. Most customers begin with the free trial period before choosing to continue with regular shipments on a monthly basis or every other month.
To get started, go to the Curology website.
All you’ll need is an internet connection, a smart device, such as a cellphone or computer, and a few minutes of your time. You’ll also need to enter your payment information to finish the sign-up process.
Frequently asked questions
Does Curology work?
Based on a survey of 856 Curology users, 93 percent said the skin care products were effective.
The access to healthcare professionals and prescription-strength ingredients make Curology an effective skin care solution for many. However, one solution doesn’t work for everyone.
Should I avoid other products while using Curology?
To avoid any potential irritation or dryness, Curology recommends avoiding:
- physical exfoliants
- chemical exfoliants
- vitamin C
- benzoyl peroxide
- other over-the-counter acne products
What are Curology consultation credits?
Each shipment includes a consultation credit that can be used to message your healthcare professional.
Consultation credits work as a point system every time a shipment is sent to you. You earn one credit with every shipment, and a consultation credit allows you to message a Curology provider with any medical or skin care-related questions.
Curology’s mission is to simplify skincare and make prescription products affordable and accessible. According to consumer reviews, Curology does a good job at that.
While online dermatology might not be for everyone, Curology is a worthwhile option for those who have concerns related to acne and skin aging.