Whether you're ordering contact lenses, streamlining your birth control prescription, or even receiving therapy via apps, the accessibility of an affordable online telehealth service truly can’t be beat. These days, skincare is no different. Despite my hormonal and stress-induced skincare concerns, the money and time needed for regular visits to the dermatologist have held me back in the past. Enter Curology, which has blazed the trail for teledermatology as one of the first services to offer prescription acne medication online. With Curology, it’s as easy as answering a few questions and snapping some selfies to receive a custom skincare formula without ever leaving your couch.
Founded: In 2014, by Dr. David Lortscher, Dr. Nancy Satur, and Glenn Lortscher.
Based in: San Francisco, CA
Best known for: Bringing effective, customized skincare, including prescription formulas, straight to your doorstep.
Most popular product: The Custom Formula, a prescription topical treatment formulated to suit your personal skin needs.
Fun Fact: Curology is a family business. The brand was founded by a mother-and-sons trio.
Other Brands You’ll Love: Function of Beauty, Proven, Dermatica
Curology was founded in 2014 by licensed dermatologists Dr. David Lortscher and Dr. Nancy Satur, as well as tech aficionado Glenn Lortscher. The family had one goal in mind: accessible, simple, and effective skincare for all.
“Visiting an in-person dermatologist can be incredibly beneficial, but unfortunately, this is not an accessible option for a large part of the population,” Dr. Lortscher explains. “Before we founded Curology, I worked as a board-certified dermatologist in New Mexico. I saw patients who had to wait months for an appointment, spend hundreds of dollars on copayments, and struggle with significant skin irritations. I didn’t set out to sell products that were the same as everything else out there… our convenience, customization, and dedicated team of dermatology providers continue to set us apart.”
So how exactly does Curology match you with a custom formula? You fill out a quick questionnaire and send in clear, bare-faced photos of both sides of your face for evaluation. “Each formula contains three research-backed active ingredients of varying percentages based on your medical history, skin concerns, and goals,” Dr. Lortscher says. You then receive a prescription and treatment plan with detailed instructions from your assigned provider, who you are free to message at any time. Because your provider stays in touch to track your progress, the formula can be modified regularly to ensure that you always have the best treatment for you.
And while skincare can never be one-size-fits-all, the Curology line also includes basics such as a cleanser, moisturizers, and makeup remover designed to work for all skin types in tandem with your custom formula. Curology has effectively helped me streamline my routine, omitting steps that the skincare industry had me believing that I needed (like toner and retinol)—a huge upgrade for a lazy girl like me. Curology’s products are clean, simple. and have my face feeling light without extra layers weighing me down.
The best part of Curology may be the price point: The Custom Formula on its own clocks in at $40 for a two-month supply, or $20 a month, and all add-ons are less than $10 each. So even with every add-on, the subscription won’t break the bank.
Exploring whether this custom skincare service is right for you? Below, you’ll find a complete rundown on Curology’s product collection.
The Custom Formula
Ready to target all your acne or anti-aging needs, the Custom Formula is a prescription topical medication created just for you. Along with a base of non-comedogenic and fragrance-free inactive ingredients, the formula will include up to three of the following research-backed active ingredients:
- Tretinoin: Dr. Lortscher calls this the “gold standard in topical acne treatment.”
- Azelaic Acid: This is a treatment for acne, rosacea, melasma, and hyperpigmentation.
- Clindamycin: This antibiotic fights bacteria that cause acne and swelling.
- Niacinamide: This form of vitamin B3 has a variety of benefits, such as reducing sensitivity and improving skin elasticity.
- Tranexamic Acid: This can be an effective solution for melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Metronidazole: This ingredient is often used as a treatment for rosacea and periorificial dermatitis.
- Ivermectin: This antimicrobial tackles Demodex mites, a possible cause of rosacea.
- Zinc Pyrithione: This helps with acne vulgaris and breakouts caused by pityrosporum (malassezia), a common skin fungus.
While non-customized prescription products require mixing and matching to find the right combination, Curology does the work for you by including ingredients at varying percentages tailored to your individual needs.
The Micellar Makeup Remover
Like other micellar products, the Micellar Makeup Remover attracts dirt, oil, and makeup to ensure that your cleanser directly penetrates your skin. While micellar water is nothing new, Curology’s formula has a full texture to it that makes it super effective on even my most pesky liquid liners—or liquid lippies that I’ve used as liquid liner, because I still have yet to find a reliable red. It’s also come in handy when I’ve had to wipe away eyeshadow fallout or clean up lipstick lines. The Micellar Makeup Remover is also ophthalmologist-tested and feels perfectly gentle on my sensitive eyes.
The Cleanser and Moisturizer Set
Shopping around for a cleanser can be a pain, so Curology’s no-frills Cleanser, made to suit all skin types, is a great product to keep on your bathroom shelf. You’ll especially love this one if you have sensitive skin: It’s fragrance-free, and its creamy texture is gentle on the skin, ensuring you don't strip too many of the oils that are actually good for you. The product comes as part of a set with one of Curology's two moisturizers:
- The basic Moisturizer is designed for normal to oily skin. Its light gel texture is buildable and won’t clog your pores, and it makes a great base for layering. While I started with the Rich Moisturizer, I’ve since switched to this one: It’s light enough that your skin absorbs it almost instantly, making it perfect for the summer months when you don’t want to feel weighed down by products.
- The Rich Moisturizer is formulated with hyaluronic acid and shea butter, making it best suited for dry or aging skin. As my dermatologist warned, I experienced notable dryness while adjusting to my Custom Formula, including some peeling around my nose. The deeply hydrating effects of the Rich Moisturizer helped restore balance.
Emergency Spot Patch
Wake up with a fresh new zit? Emergency Spot Patches should do the trick. Surely you’ve seen hydrocolloid patches come in many forms—stars, smiley faces, little hearts—but Curology’s Emergency Spot Patches are simple, semi-transparent dots. While exciting shapes can make having a new pimple a bit more fun, I like that I can wear the Curology ones out all day long without drawing attention to the spot. For the pimple-popping-video enthusiasts, since these are clear, you can actually see them do their job.
Acne Body Wash
If you have stubborn acne on your back or chest, you’ll love Curology’s dermatologist-designed Acne Body Wash. It not only treats breakouts, but it also helps prevent new acne from forming. The active ingredient is 2% salicylic acid—just enough to be effective on acne, but not too harsh to use every day.
The Lip Balm
Like all products in Curology’s product line, even the Lip Balm is medical expert-formulated and approved. Made with non-comedogenic butters and oils, this nourishing vegan formula comes in four different flavors (including an unflavored version for sensitive skin) and is packaged in a nifty one-hand applicator.