My first experience with customized skincare was with Activist Skincare a few years ago, and since then more brands began offering bespoke products. One that I’ve been trying for the past 3 months? Atolla.
What sets Atolla apart from other customized skincare brands:
- They focus on serums only.
- It’s a subscription based service where they’ll update your formula each month based on your test results.
- A testing kit is included with each serum so you can measure your skin’s moisture, oil, and even pH levels from home!
- If you enter in your current routine, Atolla will warn you if the serum conflicts with any existing products.
- They are vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and gluten-free.
The customization experience
Atolla starts with a questionnaire covering areas like skin goals, current skin conditions, allergies, lifestyle and products you’re using. It’s one of the most thorough questionnaires I’ve seen yet – they’ve even asked for the last day of my menstrual cycle!
IMO, the more questions, the more customized the product, so I was definitely impressed. They’ll then formulate a “starter” serum based on your results:
Once you’ve used the serum for a month, you’ll then analyze your skin conditions in depth using their test kit. Once their system gets these results, they can fine-tune the serum to really fit your skin needs!
Atolla Serum Usage Experience
Serum #1 – June 17th, 2020
- 2% Hyaluronic Acid (humectant) + Irish Moss Extract (skin smoothing + moisturizing) + Tamarind Seed (skin smoothing + moisturizing) + Panthenol (humectant + soothing) + Green Tea Leaf Extract (antioxidant)
- Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate Facial Serum – also contains HA and tamarind seed, plus aloe leaf and cucumber extracts.
Stratia Rewind – contains HA and tamarind seed, plus niacinamide, licorice root, and centella asiatica extract.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum – contains HA, green tea extract, and panthenol, plus peptides and colloidal oatmeal.
Activist Skincare Active Hydration Serum – contains HA and panthenol, plus vitamin c and amino acids.
Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum – contains HA plus licorice root extract, centella asiatica extract, and amino acids.
I thought it was weird that despite choosing anti-aging/fine lines as my main concern, Atolla sent me a hydrating serum. However fine lines can often be due to dry/dehydrated skin, plus I could always use a gentle serum like this in my routine.
Texture wise it was a viscous gel, but not sticky at all and absorbed well. Layers nicely under products without pilling.
To be honest I didn’t see much of a difference after using this for a month. But when I checked my skin health with their super easy kit, my skin’s moisture and oil levels were actually decent.
Serum #2 – July 17th, 2020
- 3% Hyaluronic Acid (humectant) + Irish Moss Extract (skin smoothing + moisturizing) + Tamarind Seed (skin smoothing + moisturizing) + Panthenol (humectant + soothing) + Green Tea Leaf Extract (antioxidant)
- See Serum #1 above
Maybe the extra 1% was key, but my skin felt more plump and smooth with this new formula! Usually I don’t use a dedicated hydrating serum in my routine daily (again, my goal is mainly anti-aging, second goal is brightening), but I genuinely enjoyed using this one!
Despite the extra hyaluronic acid, this serum didn’t feel any stickier. In fact the texture was identical as far as I could tell.
While I did notice the hydrating benefits, I didn’t notice any changes in my smile lines or fine lines near my eyes with this.
Serum #3 – August 15th, 2020
- 1.5% Ascorbic Acid Complex (antioxidant + brightening) + 1.5% Alpha-Arbutin (brightening) + Rice Extract (skin softening) + Panthenol (humectant + soothing) + Rumex Occidentalis Extract (brightening)
- The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% – much higher % actives but no soothing ingredients as buffer.
Good (Skin) Days C’s The Day Serum – contains 10% ascorbic acid and arbutin, plus niacinamide and a bunch of botanical extracts.
Missha Vita C Plus Spot Correcting & Firming Ampoule – contains ascorbic acid, arbutin, and panthenol, plus ceramides, niacinamide, and peptides.
Wanting to go into a different direction, I opted to have Atolla give me a new formula focusing on brightening instead. However I was quite disappointed when I got serum:
- 1.5% ascorbic acid is really low. Ideally you want 5-20% to get the best results.
- It’s not even 1.5% ascorbic acid but an AA complex. That means 1.5% of AA + something else, so the true % of ascorbic acid is even lower.
- Ascorbic Acid is known for it’s instability, yet this serum arrived in a clear bottle and didn’t contain the usual stabilizing ingredients (vitamin e and ferulic acid). When I got it the color was already a light gold.
Also my skin is notoriously uncooperative when it comes to vitamin c, so surprise surprise, I saw no brightening results with this after a month. On the bright side (pun unintended), this might be the gentlest ascorbic acid serum I’ve tried!
This serum felt noticeably lighter than the previous 2 and of course it absorbed and layered just as well. I’m really impressed with the elegance of Atolla serums’ textures!
Atolla vs Curology
Between the 2, I personally prefer Curology for the price and efficacy. The formula is not nearly as elegant and I need to take the initiative if I want to tweak it, but these are small setbacks considering the great results.
Pros & Cons of Atolla
I like the concept. I think for many people the vast amount of product options out there can be overwhelming, but Atolla takes the guesswork out with their extensive questionnaire and convenient test kits.
I also liked how they stick to research-proven ingredients and don’t try to fill up the serum with a bunch of woo-woo extracts. This minimizes chances for any irritations and ensures your skin is getting only what it needs.
However they aren’t without flaws. $45/month isn’t exactly cheap, especially when you have great budget brands like The Ordinary, The Inkey List, or Good Molecules (reviewed here). Even at $45/bottle price range you can find plenty of products that will last you at least 1-2 months.
The other flaw is that they don’t really have an anti-aging formula, mainly because peptides and retinoids are not part of their available ingredients. However a little birdie told me that those ingredients might be coming soon!
If you already have products/brands you love, I'm not sure you'll get much out of Atolla, especially if anti-aging is your main concern. But for those who are struggling to find something that works, Atolla could be worth trying out.
Personally I will not be continuing my subscription with their current formula, but I would be interested in exploring them again once they expand their ingredient options.