Curology Review - Does It Really Work?

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff
Updated on: Nov 27, 2019

What Is Curology?

Curology is an online skincare company that promises to give you a personalized skincare service that is comparable to visiting a dermatologist.

Once you sign up and identify your main skincare problems and goals, the company will send you three products, including a “Superbottle” formulated with three active ingredients meant to reduce your acne, hydrate your skin, minimize hyperpigmentation and more, depending on your specifications.

Dr. David Lortscher, a dermatologist practicing in New Mexico, founded Curology in 2013 after seeking ways to create effective acne solutions that could be accessible to everyone, regardless of cost. Today, Curology’s products are backed by a medical team with more than 135 years of combined experience.

The company’s goal is to make prescription-strength skincare products accessible for more people. If you’ve been struggling with problems that drugstore products don’t seem to fix, then Curology may offer a convenient way to deal with precisely what’s bothering you without the costly and time-consuming process of making in-person appointments at the dermatologist.

In this Curology review, we'll discuss the ingredients and how effective their ingredients are to help you determine whether or not your skin can benefit from the products.

How Curology Works

Curology claims its customized, prescription-strength formulas will work for 88% of people.

Once you start to sign up, Curology prompts you to identify your skincare goals. These include fighting breakouts, treating clogged pores, fading dark spots, boosting firmness, improving skin texture, and fighting wrinkles. You can select as many as are applicable.

Next, you’ll specify whether you break out on your face, neck, shoulders/chest/back, or all three, and whether your skin type best qualifies as very dry, very oily, or something in between. After a few more skin-related questions, you’ll share basic facts about your health history and medication use.

At this point, Curology will share a free trial offer with you. If you enroll, you’ll get your first month of products free, so long as you pay $4.95 shipping and handling.

Looking Closer at Curology’s Main Products

Here’s a summary of the three products included in every Curology order.

1. Light Hydrating Cleanser

This cleanser is designed for daily use and works to remove dirt and build up and preps your skin for your custom product. It’s designed to create a barrier effect that keeps your skin moisturized without irritating it.

To use, massage the cleanser onto damp skin for up to two minutes before rinsing thoroughly and patting your skin dry.

2. Personalized Superbottle

This nightly serum is customized specifically for your skin based on the answers in your questionnaire.

You can’t tell during the ordering process what’s included in yours when signing up for a free trial, but you can find this information on your Treatment Page after you officially commit to a subscription.

It’s best to use it in the evening once your skin is dry after using the cleanser. If your skin becomes irritated, cut back its use to every other day.

3. Gentle Clog-Free Moisturizer

This final part of your skincare routine is designed to keep your skin hydrated.

Following the quiz, you will choose between a standard moisturizer or a richer formula designed for dry, aging skin, and then decide if you want to complete the Curology signup.

You can apply it to your skin in the morning after it’s been gently washed and padded dry. It’s also possible to reapply the moisturizer at night after using the cleanser and custom product if your skin needs it.

The company states that most people will need to use these products daily for six to eight weeks for their acne to clear up, and that they can continue using them as needed after this point.

If your skin doesn’t improve, the Curology suggests reaching out with your concerns so that you can try a new formulation with different active ingredients.

Curology Active Ingredients

Your personalized Curology Superbottle will contain a custom mix of three of the following ingredients. We’ve shared the key benefits of each, as reported by Consumer Lab, the Mayo Clinic, or WebMD.

Clindamycin

This common antibiotic is used to treat bacterial infections. Though it’s often taken orally, it can also be used as a skincare ingredient to kill off the acne that gets trapped in clogged pores and lead to inflammation.

One double-blind study from 1981 found that people with acne who used clindamycin experienced more significant improvements for their skin than those using a placebo.

While topical clindamycin won’t cure your acne, it can help you keep it from flaring up, especially if you use it regularly. Keep in mind that your symptoms may return if you stop its use.

Some people experience side effects from using clindamycin like heartburn, joint pain, and yellowing skin. These kinds of symptoms are most common when the compound is taken orally.

Azelaic acid

This gentle, versatile ingredient works to fight acne, reduce acne scars and hyperpigmentation, and combat other side effects of inflammation. It works as an exfoliant to unclog pores and refine the skin’s surface for a better complexion.

When added to skin creams, azelaic acid treats pimples and acne-induced swelling by killing the bacteria that infect your pores. A 1989 clinical study found that a topical product with 20% azelaic acid significantly reduced the number of acne lesions and led to significant overall improvements.

Azelaic acid is safe to use up to twice a day, though those with sensitive skin may need to restrict their use to a few times a week.

Tretinoin

Also called retinoic acid, tretinoin is related to vitamin A and is considered useful for reducing the appearance of fine wrinkles, sun damage, and discoloration.

Tretinoin is considered an anti-aging product when used topically, and it affects the production of skin oils in ways that make it difficult for pimples to develop. One 2009 study found that participants who were treated with varying strengths of tretinoin experienced more acne reduction than control groups.

You’ll likely need to use products that contain the compound for several months before you notice improvements.

Niacinamide

As another name for vitamin B3, niacinamide has shown promise in clinical studies for improving the appearance and elasticity of aging skin. It’s a popular topical ingredient for dry skin.

The compound works with the natural substances on your skin to improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, dullness, and fine lines and wrinkles. It also improves your skin’s moisture barrier to reduce the effects of environmental damage.

Zinc Pyrithione

While commonly used to treat dandruff, this cosmetic ingredient also cleanses the skin and inhibits the growth of microorganisms. This makes it useful for treating psoriasis, eczema, and other skin irritations that can cause dry, flakey skin.

Tranexamic acid

As a synthetic version of the amino acid lysine, tranexamic acid applied topically works to fade dark spots, acne scars and other signs of skin discoloration. The benefits are compounded when you use it with other skin-repairing compounds like vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid.

Ideally, you should apply it twice a day, though those with sensitive skin should use it every few days.

We couldn’t find any published studies for topical tranexamic acid, though Wayne State University currently has one in progress.

Metronidazole

This antibiotic is an effective treatment for rosacea (a type of adult acne), though it’s often used to treat infections in the liver, vagina, stomach, and joints, as well as other skin conditions. You should expect it to take three weeks or longer before you start noticing any benefits.

Other Ingredients

Curology also contains a range of inactive ingredients. The company states that they will vary by formulation, but that they are fragrance-free, non-pore-clogging and create a pH between 4-5 (slight acidity). These ingredients include the following:

Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, C13-14 isoparaffin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, water, laureth-7, maltodextrin, phenoxyethanol, polyacrylamide, tocopheryl acetate, triethylene glycol.

Superbottles that include tretinoin also contain the antioxidant BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene).

Key Takeaways: Curology products contain a mix of ingredients, most of which show clinical evidence for reducing acne, shrinking pores, fading hyperpigmentation, and keeping your skin moisturized and healthy.

You should feel confident that there’s a good chance the ingredients chosen for your personalized skincare product will produce the desired results.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Our research didn’t bring up any dangerous side effects associated with Curology ingredients, though some users reported unpleasant reactions like skin irritation, redness, and dryness.

In most cases, these side effects seemed to be temporary and faded away after a few weeks when the user’s skin adjusted to the formula. We couldn’t find any information to show that certain people should avoid Curology ingredients.

We couldn’t find any information about those If you have naturally sensitive skin, you may want to limit your product use to a few times a week.

What Do Customer Reviews Say?

More than 300 HighYa reviewers have rated Curology, for an average score of 4.3 stars. 81% of users say they would recommend the brand to their friends. Below, we broke down their comments into some key takeaways.

Great Skincare Solution for Many

Dozens of reviewers raved about how Curology products transformed their hair. Some wrote that they had tried lots of other products, including Proactiv, Neutrogena, and prescription-strength ointments from their dermatologist before realizing they got the best results from the Curology line.

These users claimed that Curology cleared up their acne, gave them glowing skin, and improved their skin’s texture, and reduced the appearance of redness and irritation. Some also reported that they had used the products happily for several years.

Didn’t Work As Described for Some

Not all reviewers noticed a change from using Curology products. Some wrote that they didn’t feel good on their face and that the products themselves felt cheap and hard to apply. A few also noted that they experienced more acne, often in new places, after starting to use the Curology.

Many of these reviewers reported that they had to cancel their subscription because they couldn’t use up all the products they received the first time around.

Points for Prescription-Strength Ingredients

Some reviewers liked how Curology products let them access prescription-strength ingredients without having to go to the dermatologist.

As one example, a reviewer noted that she appreciated the emollient properties in tretinoin because it kept her skin feeling moist and supple for less money than it would cost to make an office call.

Miracle Product for Acne

Some reviewers wrote that they had long suffered from acne before finally finding success with Curology.

These products purportedly controlled their whiteheads and red patches better than any other “miracle” product they had tried. Many users wrote that their friends and family immediately noticed the improvements and complimented them on their skin.

Billing and Subscription Problems

Some Curology users weren’t happy with their customer service experience. Some wrote that they struggled to cancel their subscription and were still billed and received products after they put them on hold. Others wrote that they never received their orders and struggled to get customer service to fix the issue.

Key Takeaways: Overall, Curology users seem to think these products are worth it for their skin. Though they don’t work for everyone, many people noted that they improved their complexion, smoothed out their skin, and reduced the signs of acne.

Just keep in mind you might have some problems canceling your account if the products aren’t right for you.

What Does Curology Cost?

At the time of writing, Curology members are charged varying rates depending on which plan they choose.

You can try a 30-day free trial for the cost of shipping – $4.95 – and any applicable sales tax. A 30-day supply will cost you $19.95, and a 60-day supply is $39.90. The two-month plan has free shipping, while the monthly plan will charge shipping and handling.

If you want to subscribe to the full Curology routine (Superbottle, cleanser, and moisturizer), you’ll pay $59.90 per 60-day supply plus any taxes when applicable.

That means that the total cost of a Curology membership is around $240 - $480 per year. As The Law Dictionary reports that the average price for a dermatologist appointment in the United States is between $100-$200 per visit (not counting products), you are likely to save money going the Curology route instead.

However, most insurance plans cover general dermatology procedures, so you need to factor in these savings in your personal cost analysis.

Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, an MD Board-certified Dermatologist based in Kansas City, agrees that Curology makes sense for people who want a little more from their skincare products than what’s available at the drug store, but don’t want to visit the dermatologist.

The concept of Curology is excellent, and it does make sense,” she told us. “[However], the vast majority of people with acne would benefit from just over the counter acne treatments.”

Dr. Tonkovic-Capin clarified that Curology seems to do an excellent job of bridging the gap between drugstore products and the top-of-the-line products only available from a dermatologist. “[I believe] Curology is very well positioned in between over the counter acne treatments and seeing a dermatologist in person.”

Curology’s Refund Policy

There is no minimum commitment when signing up for Curology, meaning that you can cancel at any time.

If you’re not satisfied with your Curology formula, the company promises to refund 100 percent of your charge within the first 30 days if you aren’t satisfied. To request a refund, email customer service at support@curology.com for further instructions.

Curology does not accept health insurance to cover the cost of your membership. However, if you have a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account, your consultation may qualify as a deductible expense—check with your provider to be sure.

Bottom Line: Should You Sign Up for Curology?

Curology products have high reviews on HighYa, which indicates that the majority of customers are happy with their purchase.

Likewise, the active ingredients in Curology products show clinical evidence for reducing acne, smoothing out rough patches, and minimizing the appearance of acne scars, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Considering the out-of-pocket cost of seeing a dermatologist, Curology’s low-fee membership plan is definitely appealing to those who have basic medical coverage or aren’t covered at all.

However, even when you have insurance, seeing a dermatologist can sometimes take months—whereas Curology promises that their dermatology providers will get back to you within 24-48 hours.

Our bottom line? If you struggle with mild to moderate acne or anti-aging concerns, Curology’s relatively low cost and impressive customer reviews means that there’s minimal risk in trying out Curology’s custom skincare formulas. We recommend planning to commit for at least eight weeks so that you can determine whether the products really work.


Customer Reviews

Start your review of Curology:
  • 317 Customer Reviews
  • 81% Recommend This Company
4.3 out of 5
5 star: 77% 4 star: 3% 3 star: 1% 2 star: 3% 1 star: 14%

 Our Promise to You

To safeguard you and ensure helpfulness and relevance, our compliance team manually assess every customer review before it goes live.

We have a zero-tolerance policy for fake reviews, and companies cannot control or alter any reviews at any time.

Sort reviews by:

  • Amazing

    • By Genesis,
    • Pecos, TX,
    • Jan 5, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I got my Curology within eight days. Perfect.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • I can't say enough

    • By Sophia,
    • Jan 21, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I have dry and sensitive skin (but also oily at the same time), and my acne was terrible. Everything I tried made it worse and I truly thought nothing would ever fix me. My friend has completely different skin than I do but this worked for her, so I gave it a try.

    I was BLOWN AWAY by how fast I saw results. Seriously, within three days. I've been using Curology now for two months, and I've got maybe one pimple in that entire time. I love, love, love the nurse practitioner that they set me up with, and I have no idea what I'd do without my formulation.

    Ten stars.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • So far, so good!

    • By Sheena,
    • Virginia,
    • Jan 24, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I am four days into using the prescription medication from Curology, so it hasn't been quite long enough to see any results in my skin. It did seem to be a bit brighter today but, to remain subjective, I may also just be too eager for improvements at this point.

    As far as the company is concerned, I am very impressed thus far. My assigned physician, Anna Ballard, PA-C, has been delightful and given me a ton of interesting, relevant, and helpful information. I've dealt with dermatologists and done my own personal research into acne for over 15 years now (I am 27 years old and have had bouts of cystic acne off and on since I was 11), so I am fairly well-informed. Based on my history I think the prescription combo I was given is appropriate, and I'm excited to see how my skin responds and how we can adjust the script as necessary.

    The site itself is very well-done and easy to navigate. I appreciate that I can message Anna whenever I have questions or to update her on any skin reactions. After reading thoroughly through their help section and speaking with Anna, I can honestly say that I feel the people behind Curology are here to genuinely help and not just take our money. The entire program is centered around making physician-powered skincare accessible and customizable to each of us individually, which is subsequently very empowering. I believe it will be worth every penny.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Powerful personalized skincare

    Overall Experience:

    I love, love Curology. You will have an on-call dermatologist in your pocket to answer questions about all your skincare concerns and build a personalized plan for you.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Best thing ever

    • By Julie P.,
    • Troy, Michigan,
    • Apr 19, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I have struggled with acne since I was an early teenager. I went on Accutane at 16, and while I didn't even complete my entire cycle, it was amazing. My skin stayed clear for almost ten years. At 25 I had my first child, and along with my pregnancy came acne. It went up and down for another ten years. This time, however, I wasn't willing to go through the side effects of Accutane (horrible dry skin, cracked lips, insane mood swings, and dry eyes, which means no contacts, stomachaches, blood draws, etc., it was not a fun experience for me!) again as an adult/mom.

    Just as the cystic acne started creeping back into my life, I came across Cureology during one of my million late night internet searches for SOMETHING new to try (I've tried everything. Literally). I started it in mid to late June, and by August my skin was noticeably better. No cysts. No massive cluster breakouts.

    I still had these weird little bumps, so I messaged my Curology NP, and she said to stick with the same formulation since I was seeing improvement. By September the bumps were gone. I've been on it almost a year, and my skin looks great. I still get a pimple here and there on occasion, but no cysts, and it's the most consistent it has been since my pre-baby/post-Accutane days.

    I noticed it was a little drying in the winter, so I did go to every other night. In the beginning, I tried to amp up the effectiveness by using it two times a day, instead of the recommended one time per day, and I think that had I not done that my skin would have cleared up faster. I HIGHLY recommend this.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Super happy I took a chance!

    Overall Experience:

    I began to notice that I was developing adult acne, so I developed a skin regimen. Though it helped some with the basic "zits," I was also developing what is called "cystic acne." Then I happen to come across the Curology ad on Instagram and thought "eh, what the heck, might as well try it." Thank God I did! Within the first month (after a bit of purging, which the website clarified prior to me purchasing), I noticed that my skin was truly getting rid of the bigger cystic acne.

    Now I am a female, and let's all be honest that no matter what, I am going to have those "monthly breakouts" but believe me they are more like teeny tiny ones that are in no way comparison to the cystic ones, and they heal quicker and aren't as many!

    Now as for convenience, you get your own dermatologist on hand that you can ask all your questions to (without having to go to a Dr's office, like come on, how great is that?). You get your OWN formalized acne prescription, and they ship it to you. You just send in your picture of your problem area, and your dermatologist gets to work. Bam! Simple as that.

    Best of all you have a Curology community of people struggling with the same problem as you, if not worse, so the support is a plus. I truly enjoy seeing the before/after or even in process pictures of the rest of the Curology members, so again, you know you are not alone!

    There is a monthly fee, which is not even that much and frankly, even if it was a bit more, you have to ask yourself is my skin worth it? Yes, because it affects your self-image, which is why you'd be looking for a great acne product like Curology in the first place. Take a chance like I did and give it a shot, you'll be happy you did.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • It lives up to the hype.

    Overall Experience:

    I was dealing with horrible hormonal acne around my cheeks, and nothing was working! I had annoying zits that would sometimes hurt, and I would have to cover them up all the time. I purchased Curology after reading good reviews online. They base your formula off of simple questions and photos of your skin which is great.

    I have been using it for about three months now, and it has been a game changer! Nothing has worked like this before. I say this with full honesty; I never break out anymore unless it's around that time of the month. And when that happens, it is an occasional small zit that only I notice and it goes away before it has a chance to get worse. I will keep using this stuff as long as I can; it has really raised my confidence level.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • The best results!

    • By Megan Dean,
    • Bellingham, WA,
    • May 23, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I went through so many different products, from numerous home remedies to dermatologist study participations, and nothing quite got rid of these little bumps on my forehead. I decided to give Curology a try, and I can honestly say nothing has ever been as effective on my skin. My provider looked at my photos, understood my description, and personally formulated something that ACTUALLY got the bumps to go down for the first time in three years. Months later, I'm canceling my subscription because I have enough supply to last me for many more months and my skin does not need the everyday application any longer!

    I am extremely satisfied with my experience. I would recommend anybody to give this method a shot, especially if you feel that your acne has not been treated with any other over-the-counter options! It's worth the shot.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Great!

    • By Paige Dickrell,
    • Wauwatosa, Wisconsin,
    • Jun 1, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    Curology is a magical product. I was struggling to keep my skin acne free, and I couldn't find any working products until my sister found Curology. They helped me cure my acne spots, help fix my oily skin, and help me build confidence! Love you Curology.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Amazing

    Overall Experience:

    If you have ever wanted clean and clear skin, Curology is the product for you. Curology was/is the only product I have ever used that actually worked. I have been living with acne since puberty, and I am currently 24 years old. I have never had severe acne but had constant breakouts that would leave dark marks on my face. The only cure was to stop breaking out so dark marks would stop forming.

    Everything I tried, from all natural to popular products on the market never worked. I saw a Curology commercial and was never interested in the monthly subscriptions, kind of like Proactiv. But I was tired of having a face full of pimples, so I gave it a try.

    I have never been happier with my skin or more confident. I can go out without foundation and love the way I look. I am still super oily, that is just how my skin is, but the oil no longer clogs my pores and gives me instant breakouts by the end of the day. I have to say Curology is the best thing my skin has ever had.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • It works!

    Overall Experience:

    I have been suffering from acne for about five years now. I can't even count how many products I have tried to get rid of my acne. But one day on, yet another search for an acne remedy, I came across Curology and thought, "why not try another thing?" I honestly thought it wouldn't work but decided to try it out of desperation.

    To my surprise, it worked. After about three months I have noticed a tremendous difference. I have fewer breakouts every week, and I wear less and less makeup because I am starting to regain my self-esteem back. I still have some hyperpigmentation and scarring, but even that has gone down a lot. I am very thankful for this product and don't see myself not using this product.

    I highly recommend this product to anyone who is suffering from acne. It may sound cheesy, but it has truly changed my life. Thank you Curology!

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


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