Holy crap. I can’t believe more than a month has already passed since I received my first shipment of PocketDerm Anti-Aging prescription tretinoin. During that month, I finished off my first prescription, and PocketDerm became Curology, merging the anti-aging and acne offerings into one seamless prescription skincare service.
I don’t have progress pictures to share just yet (I’ll be doing those in two-month intervals so that the improvements are more obvious) but I wanted to provide an update and mini-review of my experience with Curology/PocketDerm so far.
So far, my experience with the service has been extremely positive. In fact, I’m beyond impressed. In the first place, my provider (who remains the same now that the service has been rebranded) is amazingly responsive. No matter what question I ask her through the site’s built-in messaging system (or how many questions I ask her, har har), she responds quickly, thoughtfully, and in detail. That’s more than I’ve come to expect from a lot of traditional, in-person medical professionals. Also impressive is how open she is to my wishes. When we were first discussing my initial prescription, I told her I was worried about tretinoin’s notorious side effects. I wasn’t sure I could deal with flaking and peeling and molting for months in order to eventually experience some skin improvement. I wanted a very low dose of tret to start. And she actually obliged.
Turns out that that was the best way to go. None of my fears about flaking or purging or extreme dryness came true. In fact, the only side effect I experienced was a wee tiny little bit of increased dryness. Nothing I couldn’t handle, and my vast arsenal of hydrating and moisturizing skincare products addresses it perfectly. I even introduced acids back into my routine much sooner than planned, with no adverse effects. Score.
My provider’s responsiveness wasn’t just a trick to hook me during the one-month free trial, either. Near the end of the first month, I let her know that since I hadn’t had any issues with my initial dose, I’d like to bump it up. She agreed and nearly doubled my tretinoin, from 0.012% to 0.02%. That’s the one I’m using now. We’ve agreed that if that goes well, we’ll increase it again for the next shipment.
Upping a prescription isn’t unusual in itself, of course. What is, is my Curology provider’s willingness to listen to my other suggestions.
As you guys might already know, I’ve been a fan of niacinamide for a long time and have plenty of it in my routine. Between my Holy Snails Shark Sauce and Vita-Sea, I’m pretty much set for niacinamide and vitamin C. I really wanted to maximize my prescription’s effectiveness by swapping one of those ingredients out for something that I didn’t already have. I had my eye on azelaic acid, which Cat at Snow White and the Asian Pear loves and gets in her prescription. Originally, this wasn’t possible, since under the old PocketDerm model, azelaic acid could only be included in the acne formulation. But the Curology rebranding opened up all the actives, giving providers the ability to better customize their patients’ prescriptions. My awesome provider messaged me some information on azelaic acid and we decided to go with it! Since I get MAP vitamin C in my Shark Sauce and L-AA vitamin C in my Vita-Sea (and my backup C20), at some point in the future, we’ll take the MAP out of my prescription and slot azelaic acid in there instead. In the meantime, I’m satisfied with what I have, because results.
Even in the short span of a month and at my low initial dosage, I can definitely tell that the prescription I have is powerful, more so than any over the counter cosmetic skincare product I’ve tried. The remaining sun freckles on my cheekbones are fading fast, and my skin texture is overall smoother and a little bit firmer. For years, I’ve had a horizontal expression line across the bridge of my nose from scrunching it up and making faces. That line looks a little more shallow these days. The tiny but annoying and very very stubborn closed comedones that I’ve always, always, always had on my forehead are just gone–and without breaking out into any purging pimples, either. Oh! And let’s talk grits! The tret accelerates my skin’s natural resurfacing cycle, pushing deep clogs out of my pores at a crazy rate. I used to have to do my whole BHA/clay mask/oil massage pore routine to get any grits out of my skin. At this point, I get grits just spreading serums or sunscreens over my face. It’s astonishing. As you can imagine, my pores are looking clearer than ever.
The product itself comes in a sturdy, well made airless pump bottle. It has a light lotion texture, spreads easily, and dries quickly to a clear finish. I always think of the smell as “unfragranced”: it smells like something, but in a bland, undefinable way. It’s there but inoffensive and not at all perfumey or artificial.
Curology inactive ingredients (taken from the old PocketDerm site, but I’m fairly sure nothing has changed about the product base): Water, glycerin, aloe vera leaf juice, PEG-100 myristate, sweet almond seed oil, xanthan gum, methylparaben, propylparaben, tocopheryl acetate
It’s moderately moisturizing and, at my low tretinoin percentage, didn’t tingle, burn, sting, or irritate my skin at all. I also found it easy to integrate into my routine. When I use it with my acids, I apply it after my vitamin C, AHA, and BHA steps, at least half an hour after I’ve finished cleansing. When I use it without any other actives, I just wait half an hour to forty-five minutes after cleansing, then apply it. I always then wait another half an hour before applying any more skincare steps, so that the product has time to penetrate undisturbed.
I only experienced one issue during my first month with the product: running out too fast. As directed by the instructions pamphlet included in my shipment, I used two pumps of product every night. The amount seemed just right for my face and neck, but resulted in me running out exactly three weeks from my start date (which I know to the day, of course, because of my skincare log). I didn’t expect to finish the 10ml so soon and had to reschedule my next shipment in a panic. Unfortunately, I rescheduled right when PocketDerm was transitioning to Curology, hit a couple of little snags caused by the changeover, and ended up going a solid two weeks without it (during which a couple of those damn forehead CCs came back).
On the plus side, those two weeks gave me a chance to see that the prescription really had done something for my skin (and gave me a chance to test out an AHA that I probably would have had to put off for a few more weeks otherwise). And I know now that it takes me exactly three weeks to go through 10ml, so nine weeks for the 30ml full size bottles that I have now. So if I reschedule my next shipment for about eight weeks out from when I started this bottle, I’ll have my replacement delivered and ready to go just in time. Believe me, I won’t be missing any more days of Curology if I can help it.
Totally separate from the fantastic experiences I’ve had with both my Curology provider and prescription is the fantastic experience I’ve had with Curology’s customer support team. During the PocketDerm era, I sent them a couple of inquiries via the customer service chat system on the site and always got a fast, friendly, and obliging response. Again, that’s something I’ve learned not to expect from doctors’ offices (and I have really good insurance!). It’s like being in Bizarro Doctor World, where doctors still pay attention to you and their support staff actually care and seem happy to do their jobs. Crazy. Seriously.
The craziest thing of all is how affordable Curology’s service is. With the Curology rebranding, the company simplified their billing structure. Everything that I’ve described above is included for $19.95 a month. That means that for significantly less than the price of many 30ml bottles of fancy OTC anti-aging serums, you get:
- Your own dermatology specialist to pester with skincare questions
- A 30ml bottle of weapons-grade, prescription-strength, custom-formulated, freshly blended anti-acne or anti-aging (or combo anti-acne and anti-aging really, since tret addresses both issues) treatment
- Free shipping
- The occasional freebie in your box (so far I’ve gotten an SPF lip balm)
As an extra bonus, Curology has a referral program. You get a personalized referral link (mine will be at the end of this post); every time someone uses your link to sign up for the free month trial, a $10 referral bonus will be credited to your account and applied to your next payment. It’s genius, because with the kind of improvements the product can deliver, you’ll probably be answering a lot of questions from interested coworkers and friends and family!
There are really only two limitations that I can think of to the product and the service. The first is availability. Because Curology provides a legit medical service, the company has to meet state licensing requirements and other regulatory hurdles. It isn’t available in every state (yet). The list of states in which they have licensed providers is here.
The second is more to do with usage. If you want to get prescription tretinoin, whether it’s for acne or anti-aging, you absolutely 100% for real need to be using sunscreen and you need to be using it every day, in the recommended amounts. Tret and unprotected UV exposure are a recipe for accelerated sun damage disaster. So get your sun protection game on point before you sign up.
At this point, I can’t rave enough about Curology. I’m so impressed with the service, the product, and the pricing–they’re all so great that it seems unreal. I’ve seen (and used) weak-ass OTC drugstore retinol products with undisclosed (and probably super low) retinol concentrations that cost more than this. I’m ready to go in for the long term.
I’ll post my next check-in and first set of progress pictures in about a month. In the meantime, if you want to start a one-month free trial of Curology, you can use this referral link to sign up here.
Do you use any prescription topical skincare medications? How are they working out for you?
This post contains a referral link. Using the link to register with Curology gives Fiddy a referral credit that helps to fund Fiddy’s further skincare adventures. Full disclosures can be found here.
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