Happy 2017 everyone! These are my empties from November and December of 2016:
I’ve been using Curology, formerly known as Pocketderm, for six months now and felt I couldn’t put off doing this review any longer, so here we are!
In this post I have before and after photos for the three prescriptions I’ve gone through and some thoughts on what I think is good and bad about Curology.
What is Curology:
Curology is an internet dermatologist service that treats acne and aging. You are assigned a dermatologist and communicate with him or her purely through the built in Curology messaging service and by uploading photos. Their scope is very limited – they only deal with acne and anti-aging concerns, but where they win is accessibility. You can communicate with your doctor at any hours of the day by sending messages and, from my experience, you will receive a response quickly.
Does it Work?
PRESCRIPTION # 1
Weeks 1 – 7 // 1% clinamycin, 4% niacinamide, 4% azelaic acid
I apologize these are not the best photos – I had no plans of posting pictures of my acne-ridden face on the internet when I was taking them. Please note that picture 1 is not my skin at its worst. Months of BHA usage and AHA usage had gone a long way in getting my cystic acne under control and fade some of the worst post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
That said, I did not have a lot of luck with my first prescription. I have inflammatory acne and the main active ingredients here, niacinamide and azelaic acid, are supposed to have anti-inflammatory effects. Unfortunately, I saw little change in my skin. The hyperpigmentation I had on my face was still fading at a frustratingly slow speed and I was still getting some pretty large breakouts that resulted in even more hyperpigmentation. I kept messaging my provider and asking when I should be seeing results, and her consistent response was give it 6 weeks. After 6 weeks and I was still breaking out at my pre-Curology rate, she changed up my prescription to include tretinoin.
Weeks 8 – 12 // 1% clinamycin, 8% azelaic acid, .018% tretinoin
YES IT WORKS! The first 1-2 weeks were hard. Because tretinoin can be super irritating, I had to stop using AHAs and BHAs completely, which initially resulted in more breakouts. As the tretinoin did its work, the breakouts not only slowed, but became increasingly less common! Not only that, but the dark pigmentation I have all over my cheeks from previous breakouts were fading at a record rate! About a month after starting this new prescription, my skin was at a point where I previously did not think possible just a few weeks before.
The downside of this prescription, as mentioned earlier, is that it was extremely harsh on my skin. My skin was shedding at an insane rate, which I’ve previously talked about here. Not only that, but my skin became uncharacteristically sensitive. EVERYTHING I tried to put on my skin, from cleansers to toners to moisturizers, made it burn. After talking to my dermatologist, I decided to only use the prescription every three days. At this frequency, the cream was still as effective against my acne but it was no longer fading my pigmentation as quickly as before. I figured I would rather live with slightly slower-disappearing hyperpigmentation than constant flaking, so that is ok.
Weeks 13 – present // 4% azelaic acid, .017% tretinoin, .25% zinc pyrithione:
After a month with my second prescription, my dermatologist adjusted my prescription to have less azelaic acid and slightly less tretinoin due to the terrible flaking I was still getting. She also threw in zinc pyrithione, which is an ingredient commonly used in anti-dandruff shampoos but it also effective in reducing fungal (gross, sorry) acne. This is the prescription I am currently on! So far as I can tell, it is equal in effectiveness to prescription 2, slightly less harsh, but has a better consistency (prescription 2 had a strange texture). I use it every 2 or 3 days, depending on how sensitive my skin feels. I still get acne occassionally, but they are very shallow breakouts that clear up in a day or two.
Having a medical professional to email back and forth is really awesome! I think I sent my practitioner and email every time there was a change in my skin, just to ask if the change was normal and whether it was a good change or bad change. As someone who had previously been trying to “solve” my acne by blindly following advice I found on the internet, this was a huge step up.
Also, obviously, Curology works, or at least it does for me. My skin is still not 100%, but I am so incredibly happy with it! I can go out and buy groceries without wearing foundation or concealer, which 6 months ago I NEVER would have even thought of doing. Also, when my first prescription wasn’t giving me results, my doctor gave me a clear time line of when I could try something stronger and she stuck to that timeline. That to me demonstrates great accountability.
The Ugly and the Bad
As mentioned earlier, some of the prescriptions I received were very, very harsh on my skin. The constant skin shedding led to a few very stressful weeks at work where I was constantly ducking in and out of the bathroom to try to brush off any visible dead skin on my face. I work in a fairly formal environment and was a little surprised that no one reprimanded me for how terrible my skin looked at that time.
What was even worse than the flaking for me were the sensitivity issues. There were a few days where my skin was burning so intensely that it was almost unbearable. I couldn’t clean or moisturize my face without it burning and turning bright red. Even products designed for super sensitive skin irritated my skin and I was terrified that this was how my skin would be forever.
The other issue I had with Curology is some of the responses I received to my questions were obviously canned responses. They were relevant, very informative canned responses, so this is not a major issues at all, but just something I thought worthy of pointing out.
Should You Try Curology?
If you have acne, give Curology a try. It might not work, but I’d say odds are good and at the very least you have a medical professional on your team helping you get to the bottom of your acne.
If I could go back and change ONE thing about my experience with Curology, it would be that I wish I had signed up earlier, because not only would I be that many months ahead in my recovery, but I also would have that many months less of pigmentation issues from acne.
How to Sign Up
You can get a month of Curology for free by using a referral link. When I signed up, the free month included a 3 month (30ml) prescription, but I think its been reduced to a 1 month (10ml) prescription now. If you want to sign up, here is an entire page of stranger’s links you can use, or you can look for mine in the sidebar.
And if you do give Curology a try, please please let me know how it goes!
The Beauty Brains, which is essentially a skeptic’s approach to cosmetics is an amazing resource (but one I recommend with some caution*) from which I had compiled a shortlist of active ingredients I was after. Retinoids (forms of Vitamin A) were on top of that list but proved confusing as hell.
Summary of what I know about Retinoids
Retinoids are used to treat acne, but although I do get (very) occasional breakouts, I’m much more interested in their anti-aging super powers. Retinoids…
- Fade dark spots by reducing the contact time with pigment creating cells
- Reduce fine lines/wrinkles by stimulating synthesis of collagen and glycosaminoglycan
- May inhibit enzymes that break down collagen
- Smooth skin by modulating genes involved in epidermal cell turn-over