Curology (formerly PocketDerm) Month 1 Update and Mini-Review

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.

Curology prescription tretinoin
New month, new look, more product.

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.

Curology prescription details
Month 1 was 10ml because it was a free single month’s supply; from here on out, each bottle contains 30ml of product.

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

CosDNA analysis

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.

PocketDerm and Curology prescription bottles
One down, a second started, and many many more in my future. Also, next time I’ll iron the sheet and secure it better.

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.

© 2015 unless otherwise noted (copyright and sharing policy)


42 thoughts on “Curology (formerly PocketDerm) Month 1 Update and Mini-Review

  1. I keep hearing great things about Curology. I really want to give it a try. As soon as I stop traveling so much I will. I’ve seen close friends get crazy results within 5 weeks! Glad it’s working for you Sharkus.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great to see this post! I just started on the same starting formula you had, and 2 days in am already having some flaky dryness on my normally oily skin. But if this is the worst of it, I sure won’t mind if I see results like you describe 🙂

      Right now I slot my formula in between my emulsion and sleeping pack, with plenty of time for the emulsion and curology to soak in. I am hoping this will help ‘buffer’ the formula so my skin adapts better, and I like to think it is helping to keep the dryness minimal.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You’ve pretty much sold me on Curology, Fiddy….it’s tempting too b/c *fingers crossed* I might be able to meet my future provider in my current state! I get to be with a local derm later in two months, so I’m pretty stoked to see the cosmetic part of the field. Also, how rad is that $20/month price point too….who needs those extra Starbucks visits or last minute snacks while shopping when you could have even nicer skin?? xD ❤ I am curious if their messaging system allows you to send photographs, though? Sometimes derm things are truly better seen than described and I'd really like to get a product or my specific concerns/what they actually deem necessary.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The $20/month thing is ABSOLUTELY INSANE. I really don’t understand it…they put pretty much everyone else to shame.

      Good luck with it! Please please let me know how it works out for you!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, you can send photos through the messaging system. When you first sign up you actually have to send in at least 4 high quality photos for the doctor. I used it for about 3 months and then stopped because I needed to address my rosacea. Now that all the anti aging/anti acne ingredients are open , I am back and going to try my formula with azaleic acid. Its been hard finding affordable products with that ingredient.


  3. I just finished my first month with curology as well! Sadly I didn’t see the same results you did – my initial formulation broke me out, because I have the worlds most sensitive skin – but I completely agree about the incredible service. My provider has been completely awesome, answering skincare questions that aren’t even about his product, and he was really helpful and responsive when I let him know that my initial prescription didn’t work for me. We’re dialing the strength back a step, and I can’t wait to give it a second try 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am not one that typically comments on anything (blogs, reddit, etc.) but I did want to say thanks for the great review. I’ve been debating on PocketDerm/Curology for a few months, and your post convinced me to give it a try. I signed up this morning, using your referral link. 🙂

    Thanks again, for all the quality content you produce – it really is a fantastic resource!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dang, I wish my experience has been this good. After expressing concerns about the vitamin C (which makes me break out without fail) in the tretinoin/niacinamide combo, I was told Vitamin C isn’t a problem which, okay, fine, it isn’t for most people but definitely is for me. Then I was given a list of the formulations they offer and told I could just pick one which, y’know, I thought I was getting an expert for that part of the process. :C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooooh, that’s lame! I imagine provider expertise or engagement does tend to vary, though I’ve only heard good things 😦 So you can’t do MAP, or all vitamin C?


    1. When Cat first told me about it, she said something like “that stuff shoves its fist right up your pores’ [orifice] and shows them the door” and I was immediately intrigued. I’ll be switching for MAP to azelaic acid when I hit 0.05% tret, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha, that’s an extremely potent visual metaphor. Right now, I’m planning on plateauing when I hit 0.025% tret, since I just want a maintenance dose rather than addressing any acne concerns. Maybe I’ll wait until I’ve adjusted to that level before making the azelaic switch.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Great review! Do you know if its possible to request no tret in your prescription? I’m a little wary of starting it right now, but it’s something I’m hoping to introduce into my skincare routine later down the road.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for this. I am just starting with the same formulation as your first (I have mild rosecea), and this makes me excited to see the results. I have been using OTC Retinol for a while and seen some improvement in skin texture, but am ready to take it up a notch.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hello! I just signed up for Curology and got a different formulation than you, but it hasn’t arrived yet and I’m pretty excited. How fast, on average, would you say your doctor gets back to you when you send him a message? I’m pretty impressed so far–my doctor has given me more advice and information than all of the dermatologists I’ve seen in the past couple years combined. But, I sent him a message on the 12th and have yet to hear back from him. Am I just being impatient? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My doctor has been consistently very responsive–ranges from within an hour to within 24 but always within a day. If I were you, I’d send another message, as I’ve heard their system might be having some issues lately and your doc may not have seen your last message.


  9. This post pretty much sealed the deal for me to sign up. Thank you. I used your link last Saturday to take the plunge! I used my prescription for the first time tonight. Can’t wait to see what happens

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh please keep me posted on it! I’m waiting to finish my second bottle before I do another update, but spoiler: I’m happier and happier with it the longer I use it 😍


  10. Thanks so much for your review! I’ve been an on-and-off user of Rx Retin-A in the form of Atralin brand gel. It has really knocked out all traces of acne, but I actually still have clogged pores and what I think might be sebaceous filaments. Right now I’m experimenting with adding BHA and/or AHA to my routine. For now, I am reducing the number of days I use the Atralin, because even on its own, Atralin really causes rapid renewal (and increased sensitivity). I may give Curology a try, especially since they can dial down the tretinoin concentration!

    Incidentally, the price for Atralin is astronomical, so I have used manufacturer coupons to get down to about $75-80. Considering a tube lasts a really long time, it is also a relatively good value for money.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup! I like to think of actives such as tret and chemical exfoliants as an extension of the cleansing step. Plus with wait times and all that jazz, skin can feel a bit dry after. Then toner steps in to rehydrate!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi! I know tretinoin and retinol isnt the same, but Im starting with retinol. So I can layer vit c- aha- retinol 3% this order? I’ m using hydroquinone everyday twice alternating vit c- aha- hydroquinone and vit c-retinol- hidroquinone, am I doing well?


      3. Please let that person know that it’s not at all good to use hydroquinone all over her face, if that’s what she’s doing.


      4. I’m not using hydroquinone all over my face, just on some chloasma spots I have since I was pregnat. But now in summer Im thinking on leaving it cause my medic advice.


    1. Unfortunately I don’t think you’d be able to. It’s technically dermatology service and they have to be licensed for everywhere that they practice 😦


  11. Is there a reason you wait half an hour after cleansing to apply? I’ve been using tretinoin at .05% and I usually apply it as soon as my skin is dry after cleaning. The instruction sheets says I should wait a bit, but it doesn’t say why, and I’m impatient. Would I see better effects if I waited?


    1. It’s to minimize the risk of irritation! Skin is way more permeable when it’s damp, especially right after cleansing, and that can cause the tret to be more irritating as it absorbs faster.


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