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I Tried Curology for Two Months. It’s a Mixed Bag. 

Curology Products displayed in their box with a purple background

Recently, while scrolling through TikTok, I saw a video in which the creator did a “what your skincare brand says about you” round-up of popular brands. When he got to Curology, he rated it as “I have a referral code out of ten,” and I couldn’t help but laugh. 

After all, Curology is one of those skincare brands that invested early on in influencer marketing and is heavily promoted online. 

Being old enough that I should have outgrown acne (but haven’t), I try a few different skincare routines over the course of the year to see what’s going to work best with my skin. In addition to blackheads and acne, I’m a white person of a certain age, which means I should have started anti-wrinkle treatments a decade ago. 

Since my skincare concerns include both acne and fine lines, I wanted to go with something that covered both but didn’t cost an absurd amount of money. That search led me to Curology. I’ve been using it for about two months now, and this is what I think. 

What Curology Does Really Well

Custom Prescription Serum

By far, the best thing about Curology is the custom serum that they compound for you. 

My serum contains Tretinoin (0.01%), Azelaic acid (2%), and Niacinamide (4%). 

Tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, is used to treat acne, sun damage, and fine wrinkles. According to Healthline, “It may sound counterintuitive, but tretinoin works by irritating the skin. Tretinoin is able to speed up the life cycle of skin cells. It makes them divide faster and die faster, so newer, healthier cells can take their place.” 

Azelaic acid has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used to help treat acne. It can be a bit irritating and can contribute to dry skin– as can other common acne-treating agents, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid– which makes it especially important to follow the serum with the moisturizer. 

Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B-3. Used topically, it helps your skin retain moisture, even your skin tone, minimize pores, minimize fine lines and wrinkles, and even help protect against sun damage. 

Combined, these three ingredients are tailored to my concerns about my skin: aging, acne, and wrinkles.The active ingredients are prescription-only, so this isn’t something that I could get over the counter. So far, it does seem to help keep my skin feeling healthy, hydrated, and firm. 

The Curology Moisturizer

Applied after cleansing and using the serum, Curology’s moisturizer is really nice. It’s smooth and hydrating, and doesn’t sit on top of my skin in a way that makes me look and feel greasy. It’s a moisturizer that feels very soothing, and if I forget to use it after washing my face in the mornings, I can definitely tell. 

Curology routine on shower shelf

What Curology Does Decently

The Curology Facial Cleanser & Body Cleanser

Both of the cleansers– face and body– gave me a fairly meh reaction. My skin definitely feels clean and well maintained, but I haven’t noticed particularly better results from these cleansers than I have with a decent drugstore cleanser. 

The body cleanser, in particular, was a little disappointing. I’ve always struggled with breakouts on my shoulders, and I haven’t noticed a change with the Curology body cleanser. It’s really similar to body cleanswers I’ve tried by Neutrogena or Alba Botanica. 

Since they’re just as effective as drugstore brands, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing about Curology. It’s just something that didn’t wow me. 

What I Wish Was Better About Curology

The Quantities

Unless I missed something while signing up for Curology, my subscription is supposed to last me a full two months. I generally follow the usage guidelines, but needed to use more serum and moisturizer than what is specified on the packaging due to my fingers going dry and dragging across my skin rather than applying the creams. Because of this, I ran out after a month and a half (but had still been using Curology prior to that thanks to a trial, allowing me to have a full 60-days of use before writing this article!). 

Having a gap of a few weeks between deliveries can be quite inconvenient, and when I have to purchase additional products at the drug store to fill in gaps, it can really drive up the monthly cost of my skincare routine. 

I Want an Exfoliating Scrub

I generally use an exfoliating scrub 2-3 times per week on my entire face, and I use it on my beard zone before shaving. My Curology subscription does not include an exfoliating scrub. In order to help my subscription last a little logner and get the exfoliation that I want, I use Alba Botanica enzyme scrub or exfoliating scrub a few times per week (this isn’t an Alba Botanica promo… that just happens to be what I’ve been using since it works well with my skin and isn’t full of plastic microbeads). 

At this time, I don’t believe that Curology offers an exfoliating scrub. Part of that may be intentional. The ingredients in the serum are thought to contribute to chemical exfoliation, so in theory dead skin is being removed adequately already. However, after doing intense yard work or having layers of sunscreen on my face, having an exfoliating scrub just makes me feel better and does seem to get off built up grime better than a regular cleanser. 

Final Verdict: Not a Bad Choice

Ultimately, I think I’m going to stick to Curology for a little while longer. I really like the prescription serum and the moisturizer, and the whole package is really comparably priced to what I’d be getting over the counter. 

My Curology Routine Cost Breakdown

  • Large Curology Future-Proof Rx ($19.95/mo)
  • Large cleanser and moisturizer ($10/mo)
  • Large sunscreen ($7/mo)
  • Large emergency spot patches ($2.48/mo)
  • Large acne body wash ($6/mo)

Total Cost: $45.43 per month plus the supplemental Alba Botanica Scrub I purchase on top of that, which is $7 and lasts for two months (so we can call that $3.50 per month). 

Ultimately, all of my skincare needs come out to be just shy of $50 per month this way. 

My Over-the-Counter Routine Cost Breakdown

If I weren’t using Curology right now, my usual skincare routine would look like this: 

  • Alba Botanica Scrub ($3.50/mo)
  • dermaGEEK Gentle Facial Cleanser ($7.50/mo)
  • CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 ($7/mo)
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Cream Night Cream ($14/mo)
  • dermaGEEK BHA Serum ($8/mo)
  • Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Treatment Body Wash (Not the one with plastic microbeads) ($3.40/mo)

Combined, this routine comes out to $43.40, making it slightly cheaper than using Curology. 

That’s a price difference of about $7 per month, which feels fairly negligible to me. Because it contains the prescription serum, it definitely feels worth it. That said, if I continue to run out of my Curology subscription too quickly or don’t see ongoing improvements, then I could definitely see a world where I cut my subscription down to just the prescription serum and went back to my over-the-counter routine and just skipped on the BHA. 

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