Ask Curology: Why is my skin red and itchy?

Red, itchy skin can happen with prescription skincare — here’s what you can do

Allison Buckley Avatar

Allison Buckley, NP
Feb 26, 2020 · 3 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Welcome to Ask Curology, a series on the Curology blog where one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers answers your questions about all things skincare. This week on the blog: whether you call ’em blotches or splotches, red face irritation can happen to anyone — and it can be a side effect of your Curology custom cream. Here’s how to soothe red, itchy skin on your face.

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Dear Curology,

Help! My face is burning and red and dry! I’m prone to dry skin, but why is my face red now that I’ve started my trial of Curology? And more importantly, how can I get rid of the redness on my face?!


A Curology Newbie

Dear Newbie,

Ack! I’m sorry you’re dealing with face redness — thankfully, home remedies are relatively simple, whether your irritation is due to a strong prescription ingredient or you’re prone to super dry skin. It sounds like you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to experience both — I feel you on this, and you’re certainly not alone. In your case, it’s important to know that when starting any new topical prescription medication like your Curology custom cream, it’s not unusual to experience temporary dryness, flaking, redness, mild itching, or stinging.

We understand that these symptoms can be worrisome and may seem like a setback, but they can actually be a sign that your medication is working! Your skin may be more sensitive and dry because of increased skin cell turnover, which helps to unclog pores and smooth the skin’s surface.

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As dermatology providers, we see it all the time — here are my tips to help you cope while your skin adjusts! Use a gentle cleanser. Try a hydrating facial cleanser that’s free of harsh alcohols (like your Curology cleanser) and wash with your fingers — washcloths, scrubs, or devices like rotating brushes might create microtears in your skin.

If your skin is red and irritated, you may want to try:

  • Apply your moisturizer before your Curology medication. The medication will work just as well over or under your moisturizer. I recommend using a thin layer of a heavier moisturizer such as our Curology rich moisturizer.

  • Run a humidifier if you can — they’re a good investment for anyone hoping to ward off skin dryness (especially in the winter). Run it in your office or while you sleep — anywhere you spend a lot of time.

Close-up of a pair of hands squeezing some Curology moisturizer onto their fingertips.

If your skin is red and irritated, you may want to avoid:

  • Rushing through your routine. Wait at least 10–20 minutes after washing your face before applying your medicated cream. If applied too soon after washing, your skin absorbs the product much more quickly, which can lead to irritation.

  • Over-applying skincare. Apply your Curology medication Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. Once your skin is tolerating the medication, you can slowly increase the frequency from there.

  • Extra active ingredients. Introducing too many actives at the same time can cause skin chaos! While your skin is adjusting to your Curology medication, avoid benzoyl peroxide, retinol, salicylic acid, and alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic or lactic acid). Once your skin has adjusted, you can slowly add these back into your routine, one at a time.

It’s also important to know that there is a difference between temporary irritation and a mild allergic reaction. If you are experiencing anything much more significant than mild dryness, flaking, redness, itching and/or stinging, reach out to your Curology provider as soon as possible for advice and further recommendations.


Allison Buckley, NP-C

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

Allison Buckley Avatar

Allison Buckley, NP

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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