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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

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Curology products and your routine: The ultimate guide

Everything you need to know about starting your Curology skincare routine.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 25, 2024 • 14 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
Acne Prone Woman holding Curology Moisturizer and Custom Formula Skincare
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 25, 2024 • 14 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon, PA-C
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.

In this article

How does Curology work?

The key takeaways

  • Curology offers customized prescription-strength formulas to target common skin issues such as acne, dark spots, and signs of aging.

  • We also offer complementary products like cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreen, and more to complete your skincare routine.

  • The best skincare routines are usually simple—cleanse, moisturize, protect with SPF in the morning then cleanse, treat, and moisturize at night. 

  • Getting started is easy, just fill out a skin quiz and snap a few photos. You’ll be paired with a licensed dermatology provider who can determine if Curology is right for you.

Curology was founded in 2014 by Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist. At his practice in New Mexico, David saw patients struggle to find simple acne treatments. By teaming up with his mom, Nancy Satur (a fellow dermatologist), and his brother, Glenn (a computer wiz), they created Curology’s custom approach to skincare.

How does Curology work?

We pair you with an in-house medical provider who’s trained in dermatology and licensed to practice medicine in your state. They take a look at your skin and your medical history, and if Curology is right for you, they will prescribe a personalized formula with a mix of active ingredients for your specific skin concerns

And that’s not all: We also offer a line of dermatologist-designed skincare products. So you can get a complete skincare routine sent straight to your door.

Curology at a glance

  • Take some selfies and complete a skin quiz

  • Get matched with a licensed dermatology provider

  • Your provider prescribes your personalized formula

  • We ship your skincare box directly to you

Your Curology formula

Your Curology journey starts with your personalized prescription formula, either the Custom Formulaᴿˣ for acne or the Future Proofᴿˣ formula for anti-aging.* With Curology, your dermatology provider works with you to build your custom treatment plan. Your formula features a mix of active ingredients chosen for your skin concerns.

Your personalized prescription formula may include: 

Because your formula is tailored to your skin’s needs, we’re able to effectively treat a variety of common skin concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and signs of aging. We also make the core essential products for your skincare routine, like cleansers and moisturizers.

How to use your Curology formula

So, your new personalized prescription formula has just arrived, but how do you get started using it? Simple!

Curology is designed to work while you sleep. Each evening, after cleansing, apply a thin layer of your formula to your face (and neck, if applicable) with your fingertips. Use just enough product to cover the area to be treated. Rub it into your skin gently. 

Your personalized formula is made with a lightly moisturizing base. Depending on your skin type you may want to follow up with an additional moisturizer. If your formula includes tretinoin, we generally recommend using moisturizer once or twice a day in addition to your formula. 

Most Curology formulas should be used every night. Your dermatology provider may have you start using your formula less frequently to help minimize the potential for irritation. If you do experience any redness or irritation from your new formula, be sure to reach out to your medical provider—they can offer tips or make adjustments as needed.

What other skincare products does Curology offer?

The Cleanser

We wanted a gentle facial cleanser for all skin types, so our dermatologists designed one. The Cleanser by Curology is formulated with glycerin to lock water into the skin’s outer layer to maximize moisture levels. Additionally, anti-inflammatory oat extract leaves your face feeling clean, calm, and fresh. 

The Cleanser is part of the Curology set and a perfect companion to your personalized prescription formula and a moisturizer of your choice. 

You can find The Cleanser in our shop either as a one-time purchase or as a subscription add-on to your personalized formula. 

The Cleanser by Curology

The Acne Cleanser

Heavy-duty acne cleansers can be harsh. That’s why we formulated The Acne Cleanser with a lower level of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide (BPO) to treat and help prevent acne, while still being gentle enough for daily use.

Beyond shutting down pimples, our acne cleanser also includes glycerin and allantoin. These two ingredients help balance out the drying effects of BPO by hydrating and soothing skin. 

The Acne Cleanser is designed for all skin types. You can find it in our shop or add it to your Curology subscription.

Curology-s Acne Cleanser

The Moisturizer

Our in-house dermatologists designed The Moisturizer to be great for all skin types. Our gel formula with hyaluronic acid feels soft on the skin while maintaining hydration. The cloud-like texture won’t leave your skin feeling greasy—it will bring out your inner glow. 

This lightweight moisturizer easily works into your everyday skincare routine. So feel free to slather The Moisturizer on as often as you’d like without worrying about overdoing it.

the moisturizer curology

Cream Moisturizer

Need a moisturizer that goes the extra mile? Enter the Cream Moisturizer. Our dermatologists formulated this rich moisturizer to work extra hard. Featuring a variety of hydrating and soothing ingredients—like hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and squalane—it first adds moisture to the skin, and then it seals that moisture in. It helps your skin stay soft and protected. If your skin concerns include dryness or signs of aging, then the Cream Moisturizer is a good option for you.

Concerned about acne? We designed the Cream Moisturizer to have everything you need for hydrated skin and nothing extra. It’s formulated to be non-comedogenic so it's less likely to clog your pores.

A hand holding Curology Cream Moisturizer product

The Sunscreen

Finally, a sunscreen designed to defend your skin from sun damage without causing breakouts.** The Sunscreen by Curology is a broad-spectrum SPF 30 designed by dermatologists for acne-prone skin—and great for all skin types. It’s a no-clog, grease-free mineral formula with zinc oxide (9.4%) that absorbs quickly and gives skin a fresh finish so you can face the day confidently. 

Keep your skin moisturized and protected by picking up The Sunscreen from Curology’s shop or adding it to your subscription.

Curology Sunscreen SPF 30

The Micellar Makeup Remover

Waterproof makeup, meet your match. Our Micellar Makeup Remover cares for your skin while you wipe away the day. It has a silky, gel-water texture for all skin types that gently removes makeup, cleans skin, and lightly moisturizes. For a double-cleanse experience, pair it with your Curology cleanser. 

You’ll find The Micellar Makeup Remover in Curology’s shop or as an add-on to your Curology subscription. Pair your new makeup remover with our reusable 100% bamboo cotton rounds for an eco-friendly experience.

Curology Micellar

Acne Body Wash

Body breakouts? We’ve got your back: meet the Curology Acne Body Wash. Our body wash’s key ingredient, salicylic acid, works by exfoliating the skin to clear away dead skin cells and excess oil. That means it can penetrate deep into your pores to help prevent and treat breakouts. The best part? It targets breakouts at the source while being gentle enough to use every day.

So wave goodbye to unwanted body acne and hello to clearer skin on your back, arms, and chest with the Acne Body Wash.

Acne Body Wash

Emergency Spot Patch

Sudden spot? Curology’s Emergency Spot Patch is a hydrocolloid bandage that absorbs pus and oil, offering fast-acting support for sudden breakouts. It’s thin enough to layer under makeup—you may forget you’re wearing it! While your personalized prescription formula is the bedrock of your long-term acne treatment plan, spot patches are ideal for when you need to help heal sudden spots. 

Grab these Emergency Spot Patches in Curology’s shop so you’ll be ready to conceal and heal unwanted spots. Have a small group of pimples? Try Curology’s Emergency Spot Patch Clusters for the same benefits as patches in an expanded size.

Emergency Spot Patches

The Lip Balm

Curology’s lip balm locks in moisture and effortlessly nourishes dry, sensitive lips with a special blend of plant-based butters and oils—just what you need to help stop moisture loss and soothe dry, cracked lips. Our unique applicator allows you to apply our lip balm with one hand. No more digging around for that exploded tube of chapstick in your backpack! Plus, it comes in five options: mint, vanilla, passion fruit, SPF 30, and unflavored original. 

Pick up one (or three!) lip balms today from the Curology shop or subscribe and save by adding one to your Curology subscription.

Curology Lip Balms

The Liquid Pore Exfoliant

This unique formula blends good-for-your-skin exfoliating acids and moisturizing ingredients to unclog pores and improve your skin’s texture. A mix of salicylic acid, lactic acid, and gluconolactone helps clear away dead skin cells. Zinc PCA helps reduce oil production and minimize the appearance of pores. Then glycerin helps draw water into the skin and lock it in, while allantoin moisturizes and soothes skin.

You can find the Liquid Pore Exfoliant in Curology’s shop.


The Barrier Balm

We love our moisturizers, but sometimes really dry, sensitive skin needs a product that goes above and beyond. This skin protectant has a silky, acne-friendly formula you can layer on after your moisturizer to lock in hydration. This balm promotes a healthy skin barrier using the three keys to moisturized skin—humectants, emollients, and occlusives.

The Barrier Balm can be used on your face, hands, elbows, or anywhere else that needs a little more protection. You can place a one-time order in the Curology shop or add it to your Curology subscription so you never run out!

 Barrier Balm by Curology

The Dark Spot Serum

Visibly brighten your skin and smooth out an uneven skin tone with this gentle, fast-absorbing, milky serum. Featuring a unique blend of acids and antioxidants, this serum can help reduce the appearance of discoloration, stubborn spots, and post-acne marks with a combination of glycolic acid, tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and licorice root extract.

Pick up the Dark Spot Serum in Curology’s shop for a one-time purchase or subscribe and save by adding it to your Curology subscription.

Dark Spot Serum by Curology

In what order should I use the products in my Curology routine?

We’re big fans of the classic 3-step skincare routine

  • Step 1: Cleanse with your Curology cleanser

  • Step 2: Treat with your personalized prescription formula

  • Step 3: Moisturize with the Curology moisturizer of your choice

Even if your skincare routine has more than three steps, the “3-step routine” can help you remember how to order your skincare products. Always start with products that clean and prep your skin for your treatment and end with products that hydrate and reinforce your skin’s moisture barrier. 

If you have additional toners, serums, or face oils, we recommend applying your products in order of consistency, starting from thinnest to thickest.

Not sure how much of each of your skincare products to use? Check out our handy guide below.

How long does it take for Curology to start working?

It’s natural to feel a little excited and impatient when you first start using your custom formula. However, it’s also important to be realistic about your expectations. 

Some Curology members will begin to see results for their acne in the first few weeks, while others won’t start to see changes for up to 6-8 weeks. You also may experience some temporary worsening of your symptoms such as dryness, mild irritation, or temporarily worsened breakouts—known as skin purging— while your skin adjusts.

Other skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, redness, and texture will take a little longer to clear up. You can expect redness to potentially start fading at around 3 months, and hyperpigmentation by 6 months . But remember, everyone’s skin is unique so there’s no one-size-fits-all timeline.

How much does Curology cost? 

The cost of your Curology subscription depends on the type of subscription and the number of products you decide to purchase. You can read more about specific prices here.

How to start your Curology trial

Curology takes the guesswork out of finding an effective acne routine. Simply take our skin quiz and upload a few selfies to start your consultation with a dermatology provider. 

If Curology is right for your unique skin, we’ll send you a 30-day supply of your personalized prescription formula with a mix of active ingredients chosen for your skin concerns. That’s the custom cream with a mix of ingredients to treat acne, dark spots, skin texture, fine lines, and more. You can also try any of our recommended skincare products. 

Sound good? Let’s go. Start your skincare journey with Curology today.***


What products or ingredients should I avoid in my first few weeks of using Curology?

Your skin might tolerate these just fine, but using them in combination with your new Curology cream can cause dryness and irritation.

When should I use a spot patch?

When you need fast-acting healing support for sudden blemishes, apply the Emergency Spot Patch by Curology—a hydrocolloid bandage that absorbs pus and oil. Just remember to apply it before your Curology cream.

How to use our spot patch:

  1. Cleanse and dry the area

  2. Apply patch to the problem spot

  3. Wait 6-12 hours, then peel off

  4. Repeat as needed

Can I use a toner with my Curology routine?

A toner is not necessary, and we generally suggest avoiding astringent toners with alcohol in them. Another option is to use micellar water, like Curology’s Micellar Makeup Remover. Micellar waters gently cleanse and remove makeup in one step. They can also leave the skin feeling fresh and hydrated—what a plus!

Can I use serums with my Curology formula?

You can use serums while you’re first starting with Curology as long as they don’t contain potentially irritating ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Safely incorporate AHAs and BHAs, like our new Liquid Pore Exfoliant, in your skincare routine by giving your skin time to adjust.

Our new Dark Spot Serum can be a great addition to your skincare routine. We recommend you temporarily stop using this serum when starting Curology. That way, you’ll avoid potential irritation. You can gradually re-introduce the serum back into your routine in a few weeks, after your skin fully adjusts to your personalized prescription formula. 

Can I use face masks with my Custom Formula?

You can use a mask as long as it doesn’t contain strong exfoliants or other potentially irritating ingredients.

How do I check a product for potentially pore-clogging ingredients?

You can check the acne-causing potential of the products you use by making sure it doesn’t contain the potentially pore-clogging ingredients mentioned here. Sound like a lot of work? You can always check our quick lists of recommended cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreens as a starting point.

Can I use witch hazel with Curology products?

Witch hazel can be used with Curology, as long as the product is alcohol-free! However, if your skin is sensitive, witch hazel may be irritating . It’s often used to soothe minor skin irritations, itching, and dryness because of its anti-inflammatory properties.¹

If you’re not using pure witch hazel but a product that contains it, make sure it won’t clog your pores by checking it for any of the potentially pore-clogging ingredients.

Can I use tea tree oil with my skin routine?

Tea tree oil can help treat acne because of its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.² But 100% tea tree oil solution is very irritating to the skin, so make sure to dilute tea tree oil before you use it!

For spot treatment, dilute one part tea tree oil with three parts carrier oil of your choice, such as sunflower, castor, jojoba, or hemp oil (not coconut oil!).

How do you use Curology as a spot treatment?

Curology makes emergency spot patches and spot patch clusters to help heal sudden spots. These semi-transparent hydrocolloid bandage spot treatments draw out oil and pus from blemishes while promoting healing.

Can you use Curology to treat acne?

Yes! Acne is one of Curology’s specialties. Our Custom Formulaᴿˣ for acne can be customized by your dermatology provider with up to 3 active ingredients to target acne. This includes clinically proven ingredients like tretinoin, azelaic acid, clindamycin, and more. And your formula can evolve with you over time as you move towards your skincare goals.

What is the shelf life of Curology?

All skincare products expire eventually, whether they’re prescription or over-the-counter. Your prescription Curology formula has an expiration date listed on the package. Curology’s other products generally last about 2 years. Most skincare products won’t last long enough to worry about expiration dates if you’re using them frequently.

How often do you use Curology?

Your personalized prescription formula should typically be applied in the evening, as directd by your licensed dermatology provider. Most Curology formulas are used every night, but in certain cases, your provider may have you start at a slower pace. Curology cleansers and moisturizers can be used both mornings and evenings in your skincare routine.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Piazza, S., et al. Unveiling the Ability of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.) Bark Extract to Impair Keratinocyte Inflammatory Cascade Typical of Atopic Eczema. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (August 2022).

  2. Carson, C. F., et al. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. (January 2006).

Camille Dixon is a certified Physician Assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

*Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

**Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.

**Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary. Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process: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.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Curology Team

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Camille Dixon, PA-C

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