Updated: Jul 22
Skincare is hard when you’re struggling with acne-prone and sensitive skin. It’s harder when you think you know how to help your skin and then your body decides: “Nope.” So when I suddenly found myself staring at a cluster of pimples that spread like a rash from my chin to my cheeks, I knew my current skincare products weren’t helping. That’s when I took the plunge and tried Curology. This is my review after using it for seven months (that’s about 212 days)!
As a disclaimer, Beauty Within has recently been sponsored by Curology, but this review is 100% honest and reflects my personal experience with the brand. I also paid for the subscription with my own money.
Edit: Curology has provided us with a link to get your own free trial here!
Here’s Some Exposition
As the title suggests, I have oily, acne-prone, sensitive, and occasionally dehydrated skin (I blame it on the coffee). For most of my life, my acne flared up in the weeks leading up to my period. That’s when I could anticipate a few random pustules or pimples emerging around my chin or nose.
But back in December of last year, my skin took a strange turn for the worse. The pimples that usually emerged in the same areas didn’t go away — no matter how many pimple patches I stuck on. Then I noticed a cluster of pustules crawling up from my chin to one side of my cheek. That never happened before. But I didn’t think too much of it and slathered on more of the COSRX Centella Blemish Cream to calm the inflammation.
Another week went by and the “rash” now decided to spread to the other side of my cheek. At the time, I thought my skin barrier was compromised. So I focused on resetting my skincare routine to incorporate more skin barrier–friendly products. But I could tell my skin needed something more.
How I Found Curology
You know how Asian parents are always quick to point out something different about you? Yeah. They noticed my skin.
“Your skin broke out because you put so many products on!”
Thanks mom. (Love you, though!)
I was feeling discouraged because my breakouts were actually starting to hurt. Despite the safe pimple popping (guilty!), pimple patch sticking, and CC cream/concealer covering, the redness and inflammation didn’t go away. And by the way, why do small things hurt so bad?!
After bringing my woes up to a few of my colleagues (not to mention, I stopped putting on makeup completely and decided to bare it all to let my skin breathe), three of them mentioned Curology. All of their experiences were very similar to mine: they had acne-prone skin that eventually went away after using Curology’s prescribed formula for a few months. Their responses were so positive that they honestly thought it could help my skin if I were to use it. So I followed their advice and on January 2, 2020, I signed up for a free trial.
I have to admit, they were very convincing colleagues.
Here is my face before I started Curology:
Taken December 2019
(Same month; different days – different lighting)
Using Curology – My Prescription
If you’re reading this review, I assume you know or heard about Curology and what it does. But if you haven’t, I’ll run you through a brief explanation.
Curology is a custom prescription cream that targets your individual skin concerns and needs. You start by completing a short online questionnaire on your skin type and sending in pictures of your face. Afterwards, an assigned licensed dermatology provider analyzes the pictures you send in and creates a prescription. This prescription then becomes a treatment cream that you apply every night before heading to bed. The whole process itself is super simple, quick, and only cost $5 for the first month. A few days after I received news from my provider for the prescription, the cream was already made, shipped out, and headed straight to me. Kudos for the speedy service!
I also found it pleasant to see trial size versions of the brand’s cleanser and moisturizer included along with the custom cream. For the cleanser and moisturizer, you could technically opt-out if you want to, but for the sake of the trial size, I might as well try them out as well.
I can’t remember exactly what I filled in for my questionnaire, but I know my skin concerns were acne, hyperpigmentation, and skin texture.
I was really impressed with the ingredients they formulated for me. They were azelaic acid, clindamycin, and zinc pyrithione. Here’s a small breakdown of what these ingredients do:
Azelaic acid: This is a multi-tasking ingredient that targets acne-causing bacteria while calming down inflammation. It also has a hand in helping to fade hyperpigmentation due to its ability to stop the skin from overproducing melanin. Azelaic acid can be found in a few skincare products but higher percentages are only available in prescriptions.
Clindamycin: This is an antibiotic that kills P.Acnes, which is the bacteria responsible for causing acne.
Zinc Pyrithione: This is an essential mineral that also works to kill acne-causing bacteria and fungi on your skin.
I’m not joking when I say I purged for two to three months. And it was ROUGH. In addition to the strange cluster of pimples, I found additional inflamed bumps and pustules crawling up my cheeks, below my nose, and on my forehead. They weren’t huge, but they were emerging from the deeper layers of the skin and were very inflamed. I even found myself wondering if I should reach out to my provider to tell them what was happening. But then I read that the purging period can last around six to eight weeks before seeing results.
Here is a picture of my face two weeks after starting my Curology treatment. Oof — even though I went through it, it still looks so painful!
Taken January 2020
Keep in mind that not everyone will go through purging when using Curology; I just happened to be part of the purging demographic. The good news is, after sticking it out for the suggested eight weeks (about two months), I was able to see some results! Here’s some progress photos to show how it went.
January 2020 (L) & March 2020 (R)
January 2020 (L) & June 2020 (R)
During the seven months of daily use, I’m happy to say that Curology has really helped my skin. After going through purging, my skin improved so much. I’m no longer worried about getting breakouts, including during my period. My skin “rash” is almost gone now but there is still a bit of redness left. Keep in mind that I stuck to the same prescription for seven months without altering the formula.
Another great perk about using Curology is the ability to really streamline your routine. I only find the need to use max three to four products in my routine. For my day routine, it consists of only a moisturizer and sunscreen. For nighttime, I use a cleanser, the Curology custom formula, a moisturizer, and an occasional serum or facial mist for extra hydration.
As for Curology’s trial sizes of the cleanser and moisturizer, I also enjoyed them both as well. Both products had very simple formulations that were made to cleanse and moisturize, respectively. From a skincare standpoint, this is a clever move since you don’t want too many actives mixing up and potentially irritating your skin.
To sum up my experiences with Curology, I’m speechless with how much my skin improved in just a matter of months. I also love that my skincare is streamlined so I’m ready and out of the house in minutes. Despite the purging, I’m so glad I stuck to the prescription without giving up or feeling discouraged. My colleagues were right – Curology definitely worked for me.
If you’re interested in trying it out yourself, I highly recommend you do so, given that you can afford to continue the subscription past the one-month trial. Keep in mind that in order for your skin to see changes, you need to anticipate results over an extended period of time. Luckily, there are many subscription options to choose from. The lowest price is $20 for a small monthly custom bottle with shipping and the highest is $40 for a bigger bi-monthly custom bottle with free shipping. As for add-ons like the moisturizer and cleanser kit, you’ll need to pay extra in addition to the custom bottle of your choice. For me, I personally chose a bi-monthly subscription with only the custom bottle and used a simple gel moisturizer I had on hand.
Another thing to keep in mind is not to mix other products containing active ingredients during the time you use Curology’s custom formula. The reason? Your custom formula already contains active ingredients at fixed percentages to work on your skin. If you add extra actives under the guise of chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs), it’s possible that the combined effects can irritate your skin. It’s also possible for the custom formula to not work as well or react well to the extra (but unwanted) guest. So if you have an arsenal of chemical exfoliants in your shelf, take a breather and walk away whenever you use Curology. Let the product get a turn to shine!
When looking back, this whole experience helped me reflect a lot on how I perceived myself. As humans, we’re vulnerable since we tend to see so many flaws within ourselves. When I decided to forego makeup and bare my face to the world, it was a time of great inner turmoil. On the surface, it seemed all was well, but internally I struggled with my own insecurities. The thought of being judged stood out like a knee jerk reaction because I realized I was trying to maintain my own standards of perfection. And when I wasn’t able to control this notion of perfection, I felt unworthy.
But it was through this slow and gradual process that I came to let that mindset go. I thought: “If letting people see my bare face at its worst for a while can help my skin heal, then it’ll be all worth it in the end.” It did and it was.
I understand not everyone can afford Curology, a dermatologist, or a similar subscription-based service. But I think we can all relate to the same feelings of vulnerability stemming from our notions to be perfect. I get it — it’s discouraging seeing yourself in the mirror with so many blemishes. It’s heartbreaking to think you got it under control until you don’t. It’s daunting to think that the people you meet and interact with are going to judge you based on your imperfections.
At the end of the day, you’re in company with your thoughts and those thoughts can determine how you perceive yourself and your surroundings. Learn to accept yourself, including your flaws and imperfections — as cliché as it sounds. After all, most people will remember you for inner beauty more than just a pretty face.
To end this honest review, I’ll leave an inspiring quote from my fav childhood author Roald Dahl:
“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth. But if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
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