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Review: Curology Individualized Acne Products Could Be the Future of Acne Treatment

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Getting started with Curology is simple: just take their skin quiz, upload a makeup-free selfie, and your first Curology “superbottle” will be on its way within days. They also put you in contact with a medical professional to address any questions you might have about your superbottle, and plus they offer a cleanser and moisturizer to go along with your personalized treatment. This might sound like the ideal skin care regimen, but like all acne treatment, Curology is not without its faults. This in-depth review will address the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the Curology superbottle, including ingredients, price, and reliability.

Curology-acne bottles
The Curology superbottle is one of the frontrunners in the new world of individualized acne skin care.

Summary:

  • Because everyone’s skin and acne is different, individualized treatment is the best way to get clear skin—there is no one “cure-all” acne treatment.
  • Curology superbottles come in a wide variety of formulas, with great acne-fighting ingredients like tretinoin, azelaic acid, and zinc.
  • However, they also use some less-than-desirable ingredients as well, like clindamycin.
  • The medical professional you get matched with is not always a dermatologist and may actually have limited knowledge about the skin.
  • A Curology superbottle subscription only costs $20 per month, and it’s only $30 per month to receive the cleanser and moisturizer as well, making Curology a surprisingly affordable option.
  • If you find that your superbottle isn’t working for you, Curology offers a 30-day return policy.

First Things First: Is Curology Legit?

If you find yourself wondering “Is Curology legit??” that’s a good thing. In the skin care industry, where many companies are just trying to make a quick buck, it’s always good to be skeptical. But rest assured, Curology is a legitimate business that seems to be looking out for their customers’ wellbeing—generally.

It’s true, Curology is accredited by the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating, and they are very reliable when it comes to delivering their products. They won’t steal your information or send you obnoxious spam calls, and their products really do contain quality, acne-fighting ingredients. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into any problems with them. First, like many skin care companies that offer subscription services, it can be incredibly difficult to cancel your subscription if you decide Curology isn’t for you. Customer reviews reveal that although the site claims you can cancel at any time, it is often a long, frustrating process with lots of runaround and manipulation.

Second, the medical professional you get paired with is not always a dermatologist. This medical professional is licensed to write the prescriptions necessary for any prescription medications in your superbottle, and even if they don’t have a dermatology degree, they probably still know enough to help you. But Curology is not always very upfront about the fact that their service doesn’t necessarily pair everyone with a real, certified dermatologist, and that lack of transparency makes us a little suspicious.

However, besides these concerns, Curology does in fact seem like a good, reputable business. But do their products actually work?

Does Curology Work?

To answer the question “does Curology really work?” we looked at two main factors: ingredients and reviews. By investigating the ingredients used in Curology’s superbottles, we can estimate what the results should be, and by reading through reviews of Curology users, we can see whether or not it lives up to our estimates.

What Are the Curology Ingredients?

product-curology
One of the best ways to determine the effectiveness of any skin care product is to investigate the ingredients.

There are six active Curology ingredients used in the superbottles: clindamycin, azelaic acid, tretinoin, niacinamide, vitamin C, and zinc pyrithione. Every superbottle contains three out of these six ingredients in varying strengths, determined by your assigned medical professional. Each of these ingredients helps the skin in different ways, outlined below.

Clindamycin: Clindamycin is an antibiotic commonly prescribed for acne treatment, especially the treatment of cystic acne. It works by killing the bacteria associated with acne, specifically with pimples, cysts, and nodules.

Azelaic Acid: Azelaic acid is a chemical exfoliant that helps get rid of excess dead skin cells. This helps prevent clogged pores, which can leads to all kinds of acne, and it allows for the creation of new, healthy skin cells to take their place, resulting in more even skin tone.

Tretinoin: Tretinoin is a retinoid, meaning it works by regulating the life cycle of the skin cells. It’s a popular choice in the treatment of cystic acne because it prevents the cell damage that allows cysts to spread deep into the skin.

Niacinamide: Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, and it has been proven to decrease acne through its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the root of all acne, so it makes sense that niacinamide could help prevent acne by reducing inflammation.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is typically better suited for treating aging, dark spots, or acne scars rather than acne itself, since it functions largely by improving collagen and reducing pigmentation. However, as a note, this means it is not always the best option for skin of color.

Zinc Pyrhithione: Zinc pyrithione is primarily used for fungal acne due to its antimicrobial properties. It has not yet been proven to kill regular acne-causing bacteria, but it may help kill the fungus that causes fungal acne.

What Do the Curology Reviews Have to Say?

Based on thousands of Curology reviews left on Facebook, High Ya, Influenster, and other review sites, it appears that Curology really does work. The Curology superbottle has anywhere between a 4 and a 5 star rating on every site we could find, and the reviews were almost as glowing as the reviewers’ skin. Best of all, people reported being prescribed formulas that really were designed for their acne. For instance, those with cystic acne typically received superbottles containing clindamycin or tretinoin (or both) while those with blackheads were more likely to receive a superbottle containing azelaic acid.

The majority of people said they use their Curology superbottle along with other skin care products, and that the combination cleared away nearly all of their acne. To be fair, many people said they still don’t have completely clear skin, but their skin was the clearest it had ever been, and that was enough for them.

It appears that the medical professionals at Curology, dermatologists or not, know how to combine these ingredients to get the best results from the vast majority of their clients.

It Sounds Perfect—What’s the Catch?

Curology offers a dermatologist experience without the price and time commitment of an actual dermatologist visit, and their products seem to really, truly work—so what’s the catch? As we said at the beginning, Curology is a perfectly legitimate business offering a genuinely helpful product, but all skin care products have a flaw or two. The biggest one when it comes to Curology is their use of clindamycin.

Clindamycin is a type of antibiotic, which used to be a very popular acne treatment. However, with the rise of antibiotic resistance, antibiotics have become an outdated, ineffective treatment option. Essentially, every time you take an oral antibiotic or use a topical antibiotic (like the clindamycin used in some Curology superbottles), some bacteria have a chance to mutate and become resistant to that bacteria. If this happens, they can reproduce, create a whole colony of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and then acne becomes worse than ever.

To avoid this, antibiotics are never supposed to be prescribed for more than three months, but many dermatologists, and the professionals at Curology, ignore this rule because once someone with acne stops using an antibiotic, their acne often returns just as bad as before. Many doctors are now recommending that dermatologists avoid prescribing antibiotics in general to avoid this problem.

How Much is Curology?

piggy bank
For a prescription acne treatment, Curology is surprisingly affordable.

If you’re considering giving Curology a shot, the first thing you’re probably asking yourself is how much is Curology? We’re the exact same way. Once we know an acne treatment works and is reasonably reliable, the next thing we investigate is the price. The best acne treatment in the world isn’t really the best if it isn’t available at an accessible price. Luckily, Curology doesn’t run into that problem. True, it isn’t the cheapest product we’ve reviewed on this site, but it’s within the realm of possibility for many people.

The Curology superbottle alone costs $20 per month, with your first month free as part of a month-long trial run to see if you like it. Because most Curology users reported using other products along with their superbottle, it’s important to note that this would not be the full monthly price of your skin care, but Curology offers a sensible solution to that as well. Although they are most well-known for their superbottle, Curology also sells a facewash and moisturizer to go with it, and if you purchase them along with your superbottle, it will only cost you $30 per month.

Again, this isn’t the cheapest skin care routine out there, but it is the cheapest prescription skin care routine that we’re aware of. If your acne requires prescription care but a dermatologist visit just isn’t in the budget, Curology could be a happy compromise.

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