Atolla’s custom serums (and the at-home tests that help formulate them) were devised by two MIT grads and a dermatologist.

When I first opened the at-home skincare test kit, I felt like some sort of scientist in a laboratory. I was placing testing strips on my cheeks and forehead, dipping them into mystery-science solutions to determine my pH balance, and—most importantly—actually learning about my skin. Up until this point, I’d focused a year of concerted effort to treat my skin right by bathing it in 30 Days Miracle Toner, swabbing on Drunk Elephant’s Shaba Complex Firming Eye Serum day and night, and topping it all off with not only one—but two—moisturizers: Too Cool For School’s Egg Mellow Cream and the Rules of Mastic Recovery Balm (I live in a dry climate, okay?). And even though I’d seen an improvement to my skin after actually focusing on a routine with high-quality products, I couldn’t actually tell you for certain if my skin had a healthy pH balance, was adequately moisturized, or producing an ideal amount of natural oils.

That’s where personalized skincare company Atolla comes in. Two MIT graduates and dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch founded Atolla at MIT in August 2019 with one mission: Leverage machine learning to deliver personalized skin serums using an individual’s actual skin data.

It sounds pretty techy—that’s because it is. But the actual process of using Atolla to improve your skin’s health by *learning* what your skin needs is a pretty simple one. Here’s how it works:

You sign up for an account on Atolla’s website and give a little history about your skin: what medications you’re taking, which products you’re currently using, and what you currently love about your skin and what you struggle with. Then, you request an At-Home Skin Care Test to be sent to you. It arrives a few days later—a neat little envelope holding all the tools you need to conduct four different tests on your skin. Log in to your Atolla account and the testing—which only takes about 10 minutes—begins. There are exceptionally helpful videos on Atolla’s website that make the tests as easy as a sing-along song. Information about your environment, lifestyle, diet, allergies, preferences, daily routine, and your skin measurements (oil, moisture, pH) come together in the test to create a comprehensive picture of your skin. After testing and recording your information into your account, voila!—your personalized serum appears on your doorstep in a matter of days, ready to take your skin to the next level.


So how can you get a truly personalized serum created without seeing a derm? Atolla’s algorithm works to determine which ingredients should go into your serum and continues to evaluate your skin’s needs as you provide updates on your account. Atolla then changes and adjusts your formula over time to hit the goals and outcomes that you have in mind. “By using a Netflix-like model to leverage the data on what products folks with specific skin concerns are using, and their ratings of those products in their Atolla Skin Profile, we get smarter on what are the best products and what are complementary products for different skin types,” Dr. Hirsch, dermatologist and Atolla cofounder, says. “It functions similarly to how Netflix gets smarter in its recommendations for you over time with continued use.”


“There are theoretically hundreds of thousands of combinations of ingredients that are available for our customized serums, because we calibrate the exact dosages of the active ingredients to the customer, and the base ingredients to the customer’s skin condition and absorption preferences,” Hirsch explains.After getting my skin report, it turns out my skin is hydrated (thanks, Too Cool for School!), somewhat oily, my pH is considered healthy, and my top concern is wrinkles and fine lines. My serum’s active ingredients are Ascorbic Acid Complex (1.5%), Alpha-Arbutin (1.5%), Rice Extract, Vitamin B5, and Rumex Occidentalis Extract. Together, this concoction is meant to help brighten my skin and support collagen synthesis. And after 10 days of use, my skin is noticeably less red in areas that I have struggled with in the past (around my nose especially), and lines in my forehead from teenage years spent as a lifeguard are much less noticeable. I feel like my skin is soaking up products and responding better than it ever has, and I haven’t worn makeup for five days now—because I’m seriously feeling that confident about my coloration (and lack of discoloration). And although I haven’t tested the serum for a full 30 days yet, there’s something special about putting it on in the morning and evening and feeling like I have a secret special magic glow sauce made just for me. 


The serums come on a subscription basis and cost $45 a month. Ready to check Atolla out for yourself? Click here and save $25 by using the code TRIAL20.