Musely is a prescription skincare brand that allows consumers to order custom formulations online. They sell a variety of different treatments, from anti-aging to dark spot removal to body creams. The brand claims that it "makes the science of youth accessible, affordable, and convenient," and brands their prescription skincare as "FaceRx."
But what is prescription skincare anyway and is it really more effective than over-the-counter (OTC) products for aging? Do Musely's products contain ingredients proven in clinical studies to be effective? And how does the cost compare to other leading skincare brands?
In this article we'll answer these questions and more as we review the ingredients in some of Musely's most popular products: their Spot Cream (for dark spot correction) and their Anti-Aging Night Cream. We'll share real user reviews of these products, explain whether prescription skincare is truly more effective, and highlight some ethical issues we have with Musely's ingredient lists.
Is Prescription Skincare Really More Effective?
Most skincare products are available OTC, which means that consumers can purchase them from a retail store or online without a prescription.
Musely's branding centers on the fact that their products are "prescription skincare," which suggests that they contain more potent ingredients than OTC formulations.
Just because a skincare product requires a prescription does not mean it necessarily is more effective. Some of the most well-studied skincare ingredients do not require a prescription. Hyaluronic acid was described as a "skin rejuvenating biomedicine" in a 2018 medical review, due to its ability to significantly reduce the appearance of wrinkles and nasolabial folds. This ingredient does not require a prescription, and we consider it to be one of the skincare ingredients with the most impressive research backing.
Skincare products often require a prescription if they have a higher risk of side effects, or if the use directions must be followed more strictly to prevent cosmetic issues.
Ultimately, whether a skincare product is effective depends on the ingredients used, not whether or not it requires a prescription. Requiring a prescription is not a sign of quality.
One of the most popular YouTube videos on the topic of prescription skincare is published by a channel called "Mixed Makeup." The creator is a dermatologist and she breaks down some of the most common prescription skincare ingredients (many of which are included in Musely products) and reviews their safety:
Musely Spot Cream Review
Musely’s Spot Cream is their most popular product, and the company claims it can reduce and correct dark spots on the skin (called hyperpigmentation) with “powerful skin brightening ingredients.” The product is available in 4 separate formulations.
The main active ingredient in 3 of the 4 Spot Cream formulations is hydroquinone, which is the standard treatment for hyperpigmentation. This is a skin lightening and bleaching agent that’s been well-studied in medical literature.
A medical review published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that hydroquinone is “one of the most effective molecules for the treatment of hyperpigmentary disorders.”
Another effective ingredient included in Musely Spot Cream is niacinamide. This is a well-studied compound that we reviewed recently in our Crépe Erase article.
Medical research has proven niacinamide to be an effective skin lightening compound. The above-linked clinical trial found that niacinamide increased measures of skin lightness in trial participants.
Of the four Spot Cream formulations, we recommend avoiding the one called “Erase,” because it contains hydrocortisone which is a corticosteroid. While steroid creams can be effective in treating a wide range of skin conditions short-term, they degrade collagen which is the core structural protein of skin.
A clinical trial found that corticosteroid use downregulated collagen synthesis in skin, and that even a 2-week period after stopping use didn’t fully normalize collagen levels. This suggests that hydrocortisone has an aging effect on skin.
Overall we consider all of Musely's Spot Cream formulations to be likely effective for reducing the appearance of dark spots on the skin. All four formulations contain research-backed ingredients. We cannot recommend them overall because the inactive ingredients list is not published (an issue we'll discuss later).
One of the most popular real user reviews of Musely Spot Cream comes from a YouTube channel called "The Lipstick Gal - Over 40 Beauty." The creator explains the issues she experienced using this product, and why she wouldn't recommend it. The video appears unsponsored:
Musely Anti-Aging Night Cream Review
Musely sells an anti-aging cream which the brand claims can reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It’s sold in three separate formulations: "Gentle," "Balanced" and "Veteran."
All three formulations contain the same dose of two active ingredients, which we’ll review later, but the active ingredient which differs in dose between the formulations is tretinoin.
This ingredient is a derivative of retinol (Vitamin A), and has been extensively studied for anti-aging effects. It’s primarily used for treating photodamaged skin (skin damaged by UV rays).
An extensive medical review published in the Clinical Interventions in Aging journal examined data on all retinoids for skin aging and found tretinoin to be the most effective. Tretinoin was shown to decrease wrinkles, decrease hyperpigmentation, increase skin elasticity and increase new collagen deposition. No serious side effects were noted.
The vast majority of the studies examined utilized a tretinoin dosage of 0.05% and below, and a clinical trial found tretinoin 0.1% to be no more effective than tretinoin 0.0025% for anti-aging. The higher concentration caused more irritation, so we consider Musely Gentle (the lower-dose option) to be the best formulation of this product.
Another active ingredient in Musely’s anti-aging cream is hyaluronic acid at a concentration of 0.5%. As we referenced in our Plexaderm review article, this is a fascinating compound because it’s been proven effective for anti-aging both topically and when taken orally.
A 2021 clinical trial found improvements to the following skin categories after 6 weeks of hyaluronic acid use: skin hydration, smoothness, plumping, fine lines, wrinkles, and overall assessment.
The final active ingredient in the anti-aging cream is niacinamide, which we already established in the previous section to be an effective anti-aging ingredient.
Overall we consider Musely Anti-Aging Night Cream to be effective for the reduction of wrinkles and for skin improvements generally. All three of its active ingredients have significant clinical research backing. We cannot recommend the product overall, because of the lack of inactive ingredient disclosure, which we'll discuss in the upcoming section.
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Musely Anti-Aging Night Cream is published by a creator called "Nathalie Paris." She reviews the product and gives a live product demonstration:
Failure to Publish Full Ingredient Lists
Musely's website does not disclose the full set of ingredients used in their formulations, including inactive ingredients. We consider this to be a consumer safety issue. Most skincare formulations contain inactive ingredients like emulsifiers and fillers, and some contain additional inactive ingredients like fragrance ingredients.
Without the full list of ingredients, it's impossible for consumers to make an informed purchase decision, and to ensure that they're comfortable with, and not allergic to, all of the ingredients in a product.
Perhaps Musely cannot disclose the ingredients because of prescription skincare regulations, but we urge the brand to share information about this issue, and we recommend that consumers avoid their products until they do so.
Questionable Social Follower Numbers
The ratio of engagement to follower counts is a good indicator of whether or not a brand's followers are legitimate, in our opinion.
Musely’s Facebook page has over 760,000 followers and most of their recent posts get less than 30 likes.
Their Instagram page has over 82,000 followers and their most recent Instagram post got one comment. The previous Instagram post got 21 likes and 1 comment.
We consider these follower counts to be highly questionable and to be a red flag about the brand.
Our Skincare Recommendations
There are skincare products that contain ingredients proven in clinical trials to be effective for reducing wrinkles and improving skin quality generally.
Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum is our top skin cream pick because of its effective and clean formulation. It contains hyaluronic acid which was described as a "skin-rejuvenating biomedicine" in a medical review due to its ability to reduce wrinkles and signs of facial aging. We consider this to be the most powerful topical skincare ingredient. Most importantly, this serum is entirely free of questionable additives like preservatives or fragrance.
Interested consumers can check out Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum at this link.
HydraGlow is our top moisturizer pick. It features bakuchiol as an active ingredient which was described in a 2014 clinical trial as "clinically proven to have anti-aging effects." In the linked trial, topical bakuchiol reduced wrinkles, improved skin elasticity and firmness, and reduced photodamage (damage from UV rays). There are no questionable additive ingredients in this product.
Interested consumers can check out HydraGlow at this link.
The only oral supplement we recommend for skin quality improvement is Bulletproof Collagen Powder. Oral collagen supplementation was shown in a medical review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology to improve visible signs of skin aging as well as improve skin elasticity and skin hydration. The only ingredient in Bulletproof collagen is collagen peptides sourced from grass-fed animals. We recommend a dose of 10 grams per day.
Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Collagen Powder at this link.