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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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Your first weeks on Curology

What to expect as your skin adjusts to your custom mix—and how to deal.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jun 3, 2024 • 9 min read
Glasses resting on bed with Curology set on nightstand in background
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jun 3, 2024 • 9 min read
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 your Curology journey. In 6 to 8 weeks from now, odds are your skin will be significantly clearer than it is today.

How long does it take for Curology to work?

Some members see results in the first few weeks, while others don’t notice changes for up to 6 weeks, or go through growing pains as they adjust to their medication (such as dryness, mild irritation, or temporarily worsened breakouts). The process of adjusting to a prescription acne medication is as personal as your custom mix. It’s all totally normal.

This guide will walk you through your first 6+ weeks using your Curology Custom Formula, complete with tips and tricks for how to make the most of it—no matter what your skin is going through.

The big picture? Give your skin time to adjust and keep the rest of your skincare routine simple. Your skin will thank you.

Week 1: Start your new skincare routine

As you begin your new skincare routine, less really is more. Your custom formula packs more power than over-the-counter products because it combines prescription ingredients that target different root causes of your acne. Additional products — besides a recommended cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen — may do more harm than good by irritating, drying, clogging, or otherwise making a mess of your pores.

We recommend you follow your personalized routine, based on what’s in your box—check it out from your account dashboard any time! 

 Here’s what we typically recommend for a daily skincare routine.

Closeup of the lower left side of a face, wet and lathered with cleanser.

Morning Routine — 2 minutes

You have our dermatologists’ permission to be lazy! We recommend a simple 3-step morning routine that takes just a few minutes:

  1. Wash your face with water or a recommended cleanser.

  2. Apply a recommended moisturizer (SPF 30 or greater).

  3. Apply a sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater).

That’s it! Need help finding the right cleanser and moisturizer for your skin? Check out our dermatology team’s guide to cleansers, our guide to moisturizers, or our 3-step Curology set, which includes our cleanser, moisturizer, and custom formula. If you're looking for a sunscreen recommendation, the sunscreen by Curology is a no-clog, grease-free, mineral based formula that was designed by dermatologists for acne-prone skin.

Night Time Routine — 5 minutes or less

A 10-step skincare routine before bed? We’d rather be snuggled up in our PJs watching Netflix. Our dermatologists recommend a short-and-sweet evening routine. It’s better for your skin and your schedule.

  1. Wash your face with water or a recommended cleanser, and allow your skin to dry completely.

  2. Apply a thin layer of cream onto acne-prone areas of your face/neck, and rub in. (Sorry, bod — Curology is face-only.)

  3. Craving extra moisture? Apply a recommended moisturizer.

Then get into bed! Curology busts breakouts while you get your beauty rest.

Close-up of a woman's face. She is laying on a blue towel with cucumbers resting on her eyes.

Dryness, irritation, or new breakouts?

In the first few weeks of adjusting to topical acne prescription, it’s normal to get temporary dryness, increased breakouts, flaking, redness, mild itching, or stinging — especially if your formula contains tretinoin. Your formula is hard at work clearing out dead cells and other debris, which is great news, but may cause some irritation or new breakouts (purging) along the way.

Here are a few pro tips for how to minimize irritation and purging:

  1. Ease into your routine. Try applying your formula every other day, like Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to start. Slowly increase the frequency as your skin adjusts.

  2. Wait at least 10–20 minutes after washing your face before applying your formula. Wet skin absorbs the medication more quickly, sometimes causing irritation. Once your skin has adjusted, the wait probably won’t be necessary.

  3. Try applying your moisturizer first, then your Curology medication. You can also try diluting the medication by mixing it with some moisturizer in the palm of your hand before applying it.

  4. Be gentle on your skin. Try cutting out benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA, such as glycolic acid or lactic acid), or beta hydroxy acid (BHA, i.e., salicylic acid). These products can be gradually reintroduced after your skin has adjusted to Curology.

  5. Stay hydrated. If the air is dry, running a humidifier can help immensely.

  6. We repeat, be gentle. Try applying your cleanser with your fingertips, and avoid using a washcloth or physical exfoliators.

And remember: we’ve got your back. If at any point you experience something more significant than the reactions described above, you can always chat with your provider.

Photograph of a bathtub corner. The Curology set is on the left. An overgrown houseplant is on the right.

Week 2: Build new habits for healthy skin

Remember that your skin is a mini ecosystem, like a garden — alive with millions of tiny organisms and natural processes. In your skin, breakouts strike when this natural balance is thrown off. Perhaps by overzealous bacteria, too much oil, an overload of stress hormones, or products in your skincare routine.

Your Curology Custom Formula is designed to target imbalances and restore order to your skin’s ecosystem. This is no small task, and it won’t happen overnight. You can help by minimizing potential acne triggers in your diet and lifestyle while you give your formula time to work.

Habit 1: Put your skincare products on trial

All those little bottles on your sink are guilty until proven innocent. You can check the acne-causing potential of the products you use on Sound like a lot of work? You can always check our quick lists of recommended cleansersmoisturizers, and sunscreens as a starting point.

Text-based image says "CosDNA. Look under the 'Acne' & 'Irritant' columns. 2 or lower [means] safe for acne prone skin. 3 or higher [means] stop using these products."

Habit 2: Don’t let stress get under your skin (literally)

You’ve heard it before. Stressing out accomplishes nothing…except (we might add) more breakouts. Keep those acne-causing stress hormones at bay by making time for yoga, meditation, exercise, or even just making sure to get enough sleep.

Habit 3: Avoid acne’s favorite foods

There is no magic-bullet diet that works for everyone’s skin — but if you want to experiment with your diet, cutting back on simple carbs, high-sugar foods, and/or dairy is a good place to start.

It’s easy to eat a lot of simple carbs and high-sugar foods without really noticing. Think: bagels, chips, white bread, sweets, sodas, and juices. Mmmm, says acne. These foods spike your blood sugar and insulin, causing changes that can lead to acne. Research tells us that dairy (all that yummy cheese, milk, and ice cream) can also mess with your hormones — and your skin. So why not try going light on some of acne’s favorite foods? Learn more in our guide to foods that cause acne.

• • •
A set of hands with a purple manicure hovers in a bathroom sink, pumping Curology cream onto fingers.

Week 3: Keep using your custom formula

You may start wondering around now: so… what should my skin look like? What’s considered normal at this point?

All of this: improvement, no change, mild redness, peeling, dryness and irritation, and purging (increased breakouts). Your journey will look a little different from the next person’s because everyone’s skin is unique.

Increased breakouts?

Purging isn’t fun, but it’s totally normal. Up to 25% of patients may see their breakouts get worse before they get better, beginning in the first 1–4 weeks, and lasting through weeks 2–8. Remember — after the (zit) storm, comes the calm. Most patients see significant improvement following soon after purging. You can always cut down on how often you apply your formula—try every other—to minimize your reaction. (And see the tips above for reducing irritation!)


Mild irritation is totally normal, and shouldn’t be cause for concern—unless it continues for more than 2 weeks after you’ve already followed our tips for reducing irritation (see week 1). If you’re still experiencing irritation 2 weeks later, reach out to your provider. Some new selfies are always helpful!

No improvement?

When it comes to topical acne prescriptions, good skin comes to those who wait. Many patients don’t see improvement until weeks 6–8. So don’t take the wait as a sign your medication isn’t working! If you don’t notice a difference by week 6, we recommend sending your provider new photos to see what’s up — but before then, sit tight. Know you’ve got 3 powerful, acne-busting ingredients on the case.

• • •
Photograph of a smartphone. On the smartphone's screen is photo of the left side of a woman's face.

4 weeks: Track your journey

At the 1 month mark, it’s about time to take your first before and after photo! Even if you haven’t seen much progress yet, you’ll thank yourself later for tracking your journey. While many members do start seeing progress around now, many won’t for another 2–4 more weeks. So stay the course! You’re getting close.

Whether you’re still purging, or you’re thrilled to see those stubborn T-zone finally packing up, other Curology members have been there, too. You can always share your progress with our members-only community, or cheer on others as they fight their own battles.

8 weeks: Your skin just keeps getting better

Right about now would be a good time for that victory dance.

There may be some rough patches along the way, but by 8 weeks, 88% of members see improvement in their acne— and it just keeps getting better from here. Time is the best healer. Your skin should continue to improve if you stick to your routine. And if, at any point, you’re less than thrilled with your results, you can always chat with your provider and explore other options.

Will my skin be 100% clear?

No medical provider can promise that. We do, however, promise to stick by you all the way. If you haven’t seen improvement in your acne by now, your provider will work with you to perfect your formula until you’re happy with your results. You can always reach out to see if a formula change is right for you, and don’t forget to include photos of your skin.

When can I expect improvement in redness and hyperpigmentation?

While most patients see improvement in their acne by now, other skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, redness, and texture will take longer to clear up. You can expect redness to start clearing up at around 3 months, and hyperpigmentation by 6 months — but again, everyone’s skin is unique so there is no one-size-fits-all timeline.

Can I stop using Curology if my skin is clear?

As much as we wish there were, there’s no magic, guaranteed one-time cure that will clear your skin. Once you find something that works — stick to it. Unfortunately, many members find that if they stop using Curology once their skin clears up, their old acne will start sneaking back in. Don’t let it!

Keeping your skin healthy is like going to the gym. You’ll need to keep up the habit in order to maintain the positive changes in your body.

• • •
Two hands grip each other. On the back of one hand is a smear of Curology cream.

What’s next?

If you’re more than 8 weeks into treatment, odds are that you’ve found a formula that works for you, and your skin is clearing up (yay!). But it gets even better. Even after your acne has mostly cleared up, you can always talk to your provider about updating your formula to target new skin concerns — like fine lines, wrinkles, texture, and beyond.

Remember, your provider is here to help you achieve your skin goals — even as those goals change over time. We’re with you all the way.

• • •
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.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

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