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Curology Reviews: Is Curology’s online, custom skincare your solution?

Find out the pros, the cons, and all the details of Curology's prescription-based online skincare products

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Curology reviews

Let’s face it: professional dermatological care can be prohibitively expensive, and yet at the same time, skin conditions are some of the most visible issues that many of us face. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, up to 50 million Americans are affected by acne annually.

Curology makes dermatology more accessible by offering online consultations with medical professionals who customize your prescription formula and deliver it to your doorstep.

While online dermatological assessments may not be ideal in everyone’s situation, for many, Curology is an affordable option that requires little more than a smartphone and wifi. Could Curology be the solution to your skincare needs? We thoroughly tested the service and will share all of the details in this review.

Review Summary

Pros

  • Free 30-day trial ($4.95 for shipping/handling) allows you to try out the product before committing to a subscription
  • You’ll be partnered with a medical team, helmed by licensed dermatologists, to custom-develop a formula based on your skincare needs
  • All Curology products are cruelty-free
  • Unlike off-the-shelf cosmetics, Curology’s products contain prescription-grade ingredients
  • Each ingredient is FDA-approved
  • Curology provides a comprehensive resource of skin health information on their website
  • An active online community makes it easy to share experiences and ask questions

Cons

  • Not yet available in every U.S. state and unavailable internationally
  • Curology can’t prescribe isotretinoin (Accutane, a popular choice for treatment-resistant acne) because that requires in-person care
  • Before treatment begins to improve skin, some patients experience a “purge” involving breakouts

Bottom line

You are unlikely to find a more convenient solution to prescription-level skincare than the service offered by Curology. At Innerbody Research, we’re impressed by Curology’s commitment to making skincare more accessible and affordable to those who may not have the option to go to in-person visits with a licensed prescriber for their needs. If you are looking to give your skin more attention but don’t feel like you need in-person care or have the time to visit doctor’s offices, Curology could have the solution tailor-made for you.

Why you should trust us

Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.

We extensively test each health service we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health services, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate the service based on our adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?

Additionally, this review of Curology, like all health-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.

What does Curology do?

Founded in 2014, Curology is a San Francisco-based company that aims to make effective and affordable skincare accessible to everyone. Their services offer personalized skincare to address a number of skin concerns.

Curology’s platform is personalized. You are matched with a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who is highly trained in dermatology and overseen by a licensed dermatologist. You’ll discuss your skin goals with this medical team member. Under the guidance of the dermatologist, you’ll be prescribed a custom skincare formula to address your needs.

Although Curology initially focused on acne, today their formulas can help treat a range of skin concerns including hormonal acne, cystic acne, blackheads, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, fine lines, dry skin, loss of skin elasticity, and blotchiness. Many of their active ingredients are not available over-the-counter, so you would not ordinarily be able to use these products outside of prescribed medication from your doctor.

How does it work?

When you sign up on the Curology website, you’ll fill out a comprehensive questionnaire detailing your skin issues, medical history, allergies, and products used. Based on this information, photos of your skin, and an online assessment with a medical professional, Curology will prescribe you a custom formula with the best combination of active ingredients to help you address your skin concerns. Curology delivers this custom formula to you on a subscription basis, along with any additional products you might wish to purchase.

You can also chat with your skincare provider at any time to share concerns or questions you may have, and they will respond quickly (within 48 hours). The platform also enables you to track your skin journey through pictures and journals on your progress page.

How does it work?

When you sign up on the Curology website, you’ll fill out a comprehensive questionnaire detailing your skin issues, medical history, allergies, and products used. Based on this information, photos of your skin, and an online assessment with a medical professional, Curology will prescribe you a custom formula with the best combination of active ingredients to help you address your skin concerns. Curology delivers this custom formula to you on a subscription basis, along with any additional products you might wish to purchase.

You can also chat with your skincare provider at any time to share concerns or questions you may have, and they will respond quickly (within 48 hours). The platform also enables you to track your skin journey through pictures and journals on your progress page.

Privacy considerations

Curology fully respects your privacy and security, abiding by HIPAA law. The photos you upload are required for medical diagnosis only and will not be shared elsewhere without your explicit consent. The same is true for any personal or medical information you share.

Curology's products

Custom Formula

Curology’s medical team formulates a skincare treatment specifically for your needs. The custom formula that Curology recommends will contain a personalized combination of active and accessory ingredients to suit your skin needs. For example, common active ingredients include clindamycin, azelaic acid, tretinoin, and niacinamide. You apply your custom formula at night before bed.

The Dark Spot Formula

Curology’s dark spot formula contains two active ingredients (hydroquinone and desonide) and a selection of inactive ingredients that fade dark spots without irritating the skin. This product is applied twice a day – morning and night.

The Cleanser & Moisturizers

Curology’s gentle cleanser aims to clean your face without clogging your pores or irritating your skin. The company offers two moisturizer formulas, both of which contain the active ingredient hyaluronic acid. They have a standard formula and a rich formula, which contains additional ingredients to lock moisture into your skin.

The Acne Body Wash

The key ingredient in Curology’s acne body wash is salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant which is great for clearing dead skin cells and sebum from your pores. It does so without irritating the skin and can even decrease inflammation.

Spot patches

Curology also offers semi-transparent hydrocolloid bandages, which are small, circle-shaped stickers you place on top of a sudden and unexpected spot. It is an absorbent material that draws out oil and pus and encourages healing.

Oral medications

Some individuals might also be prescribed oral medication. If Curology prescribes you this type of medication, your prescription will be sent to your local pharmacy.

How much does Curology cost?

Curology offers a 30-day free trial of their service (excluding $4.95 for shipping and handling costs). This is an excellent opportunity for new customers to see if the service works without making a large commitment.

The small custom formula ships and bills monthly, and costs $19.95 per month (plus $4.95 for shipping). The large custom formula ships and bills every two months at a price of $39.90 per shipment (with free shipping).

Adding the cleanser and moisturizer set to your subscription box costs $20 more per shipment. Meanwhile, adding the acne body wash costs an additional $18 per shipment. The spot patches (in a pack of twenty) cost an additional $4.95.

Getting started with Curology

Getting started is easy. You simply go to the Curology website, using your smartphone or laptop, and follow these steps:

  1. Fill out the Curology questionnaire with detailed information about your medical history, skin health, and concerns you may have.

  2. Upload photos of your skin so that your provider may perform a skin assessment.

  3. You will be contacted by a member of Curology’s medical team to review your information and finalize the customization of your prescription.

  4. Curology prescribes and then ships your custom treatment directly to your door. You decide how often you want the products to be delivered.

HSA, FSA, and health insurance

Curology’s prescriptions for oral medications are covered under most insurance plans. However, they are unable to accept insurance as payment for their products. For HSA and FSA plans, Curology acne treatments may qualify as a deductible health expense.

In support of their mission to make healthcare more accessible, Curology also runs the Curology Access Program, which provides a free subscription to those who need financial assistance. This free subscription could last for up to two years.

How we evaluate health services and products

At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. For health-related products and services, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:

Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) and product(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telehealth services, is the quality of the service and/or product high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not?

User-friendly: How intuitive and user-friendly is the service? Does the device/program/app/website achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?

Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?

Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure?

Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service ideal for you?