Musely is a prescription skincare brand that allows consumers to order custom formulations online. The brand sells a variety of different treatments, from anti-aging to dark spot removal to body creams, and claims to deliver "Life-Changing Results."
But what is prescription skincare anyway and is it more effective than regular drugstore products for aging? Do Musely's treatments contain ingredients shown in clinical studies to be effective? Does the brand use any questionable additive ingredients? And how do real Musely customers rate and describe the effects of the treatments?
In this article we'll answer these questions and more as we share our thoughts on whether prescription skincare is really superior to drugstore skincare, or if it's just an added inconvenience at a higher price.
We'll review the ingredients in Musely Spot Cream (dark spot corrector) and Anti-Aging Night Cream based on clinical studies to give our take on whether or not these products are likely to be effective, and whether or not they're healthy.
We'll also feature unsponsored customer reviews of the brand, and share our concerns with some of the brand's marketing and ingredient disclosure practices.
Is Prescription Skincare Superior?
Most skincare products are available over-the-counter (OTC), which means that consumers can purchase them 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 necessarily mean it's 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 anti-aging 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 health or aesthetic issues.
Ultimately, whether a skincare product is likely to be effective or not depends on its formulation. Requiring a prescription does not necessarily imply superior efficacy in our opinion.
A YouTube creator and dermatologist with a channel called "MixedMakeup" has a video on prescription skincare that breaks down some of the most common prescription ingredients (many of which are included in Musely products) and discusses their safety:
Spot Cream Ingredient Analysis
The Spot Cream is a dark spot correcting cream sold by Musely, and some of its potential active ingredients are shown above.
Hydroquinone is the standard treatment for hyperpigmentation.
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.”
Niacinamide was shown in a 2002 clinical trial to be an effective skin lightening compound. In the study, niacinamide increased measures of skin lightness in trial participants.
Niacinamide is also clinically shown to have an anti-aging effect, as we discussed in our Curology reviews article on another popular personalized skincare brand.
Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid, and while steroid creams can be effective in treating a wide range of skin conditions short-term, they also degrade collagen, which is the core structural protein in skin.
A clinical trial found that corticosteroid use downregulated collagen synthesis in skin, and that even two weeks after stopping corticosteroid use, collagen synthesis levels only recovered 50%. This suggests that hydrocortisone may have an aging effect on skin.
Overall, we consider The Spot Cream likely to be effective for correcting dark spots on skin, because the brand uses research-backed active ingredients.
However, we don't currently recommend this product because the brand fails to publish the full active and inactive ingredient lists, which we'll discuss at more length in the next section of this article.
A YouTube creator named "The Lipstick Gal - Over 40 Beauty" has a review of The Spot Cream that explains some issues she experienced using this product, and why she wouldn't recommend it:
Failure to Publish Full Ingredient Lists
At the time of updating this article, 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 that may be allergenic or unhealthy.
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 all ingredients because of prescription skincare regulations, or perhaps there are no inactive ingredients in these formulations.
In either case, we urge the brand to clarify this issue, and we recommend that consumers only use skincare products (prescription or non-prescription) with clear ingredient disclosures including both active and inactive ingredients.
Anti-Aging Night Cream Ingredient Analysis
The active ingredients in Musely's The Anti-Aging Cream are shown above.
Tretinoin is a derivative of retinol (vitamin A), and has been extensively studied for its anti-aging effects. It’s primarily used for treating photodamaged skin (skin damaged by UV rays).
A 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.
Hyaluronic acid has been clinically shown to improve the following functional skin parameters after six weeks of use: skin hydration, smoothness, plumping, fine lines, wrinkles, and overall assessment.
As we documented in our Plexaderm review article, hyaluronic acid has been shown to be effective even at as low a concentration as 0.1% of the overall formula.
Niacinamide is the final active ingredient, and we explained in the previous Ingredient Analysis section why we consider this compound to have an anti-aging effect.
Overall, we consider The Anti-Aging Cream highly likely to be effective, because it contains three of the most well-studied and potent anti-aging compounds on the market.
We don't currently recommend this product due to our questions about potential inactive ingredients.
A YouTube creator named Nathalie Paris reviewed this anti-aging cream in a video with over 30,000 views that includes a live product demonstration:
Questionable Social Followers
The ratio of engagement to follower counts is a good indicator of whether or not a brand's followers are legitimate, in our opinion.
At the time of updating this article, Musely has over 790,000 followers on Facebook but has received less than 20 likes on their last four posts.
The brand's Instagram page had over 82,000 followers and their most recent Instagram post received one comment when we last updated this article.
At the time of currently updating this article, unfortunately for consumers, Instagram has restricted total like counts on posts which makes it more challenging to gauge a brand's true following in our opinion.
We consider it to be a red flag about brand quality when a company has questionable follower and engagement metrics such as those highlighted above.
Our Clean Skincare Picks
There are skincare products containing ingredients shown in clinical trials to be effective for reducing wrinkles and improving skin quality.
Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum is our top anti-aging serum.
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.
HYDRAGLOW by CLEARSTEM 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."
Interested consumers can purchase Hydraglow at the secure checkout below:
Bulletproof Collagen Powder is our top skin supplement.
Collagen supplementation was shown in a medical review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology to reduce visible signs of skin aging as well as improve skin elasticity and skin hydration.
All of the products recommended in this section are entirely free of ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy or unsafe.
Pros and Cons of Musely
Here are the pros and cons of Musely in our opinion:
- Highly potent active ingredients
- The Spot Cream should correct discoloration spots
- The Anti-Aging Cream should reverse or slow visible signs of aging
- Great product branding
- May be more potent than regular drugstore formulations
- Brand fails to clarify if inactive ingredients are used
- If inactive ingredients are used, brand fails to disclose them on product pages of website
- We haven't come across any convincing clinical evidence that prescription skincare is superior to traditional skincare in the aggregate
- Hydrocortisone may degrade new collagen formation capacity
- Proprietary formulations don't appear to be clinically tested