I have what you’d call commitment issues when it comes to my skin care routine. With access to so many products that promise to be the next best thing, I’m constantly getting distracted or busy cocktailing new products together. I know all the ingredients that are supposed to give you a perfect complexion: Retinol for soothing fine lines and breakouts, vitamin C for brightening, glycolic acid for exfoliation, and hyaluronic acid for hydration. The problem? My combinations are never quite right.
I’ll use too much retinol too fast and dry out my skin, or add too much moisture and break out. Then, I’ll stop everything for two weeks and eventually revisit my routine a month later. The results never came. But somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon Curology, a dermatologist-founded brand of custom skin care that packages all those ingredients into one single night cream, taking out the trial and error, the guesswork, and even the trip to the derm.
Here’s the basic gist of how it works: The brand has an on-site staff of dermatologists, physicians assistants, and nurse practitioners that work with you one-on-one to design a moisturizer that’s catered entirely to your specific needs. You start by filling out a questionnaire online, and once you’re done, someone from the staff DMs you to talk over your options. Then for $20 plus shipping (or more, depending on the ingredients you use), it arrives at your doorstep every month. No trip to the pharmacy for a retinol prescription or trying to pair serums together required.
The company was founded two years ago by dermatologist David Lortscher, M.D., who realized it was real struggle for his patients to get accessible skin care in rural New Mexico. Many had to travel forever to get to his office, and then after their appointment, they’d end up not getting their prescriptions filled at the drugstore because of how expensive it cost. And so, Curology was born.
After creating an account and completing the quick questionnaire, I described my skin’s needs to a physician’s assistant over DM and sent her a few photos of my bare skin. She recommended a few combinations of ingredients, which we talked through together until landing on a mix that sounded best for me: a mixture of tretinoin (a retinoid for overall acne and wrinkles), azelaic acid (for brightening and pore-clearing), and niacinamide (to reduce inflammation and redness). A few weeks later, I got my bottle in the mail.
I began using it immediately by slathering on a thin layer before bed every night. Because my skin is sensitive, I experienced some dryness in the first two weeks, so I switched to using it every other night at first. Eventually, my skin got used to it—but in case it didn’t, my designated medical provider checked in with me to see how I was liking the treatment. If I needed more or less of a certain ingredient, she’d adjust the percentages for my next bottle—easy as that.
“Some members come to us with acne and start out with a certain acne-fighting formula,” says Jadey Chow, Curology’s VP of branding. “But if your acne clears or your skin just changes, we have other ingredients, like tretinoin, that help with maintenance and fine lines. So we can alter your formula to grow with your skin’s needs over time.”
A quick search online will show just how effective their strategy really is. Before-and-after images illustrate mind-blowing transformations, and according to Chow, their membership tripled last year, and has increased by five times in the past 12 months. The brand has since expanded to making custom cleanser and a lightweight moisturizer too.
As for me, about four months in, my skin has never looked or felt better. It’s soft, clear, and never irritated. And now I only have to apply one product at night, instead of my usual three or four, a regimen I was never able to maintain. I guess you could say I’m officially committed.
Curology The Moisturizer, starting at $20, curology.com