Your Smartphone Can’t Replace a Dermatologist

Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images

Last month, I wrote about how the FDA is trying to figure out how to regulate medical apps and devices for smartphones. This week, the FTC entered the octagon, settling with two companies that claimed their apps could treat acne. In a statement, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz couldn’t resist the easy joke: “Smartphones make our lives easier in countless ways, but unfortunately when it comes to curing acne, there’s no app for that.”

The two apps in question were Acne Pwner, which sold for 99 cents on the Android store, and AcneApp, a $1.99 program sold through iTunes. Acne Pwner was downloaded more than 3,000 times, AcneApp more than 11,000 times. Andrew Finkel, the Acne Pwner developer, told the website IT World that he thinks the “whole ordeal” “has been blown way out of proportion.”

Acne sufferers were instructed to hold their smartphones by their skin each day, so that blue and red lights could treat their blemishes. Though light therapy may help skin problems, the FTC statement says that the apps’ curative claims were “baseless.”

On the website Android Zoom, Acne Pwner reviewers gave the app an average of four stars. There were definite naysayers, including one who called it a “waste of 99 cents” and another who put it bluntly: “Stupid dont buy i used for 60+ minutes! Now it wont refund my money! What the hell? This crap sucks do not buy ppl dont buy!” But there were also plenty of testimonials from people who claims that the app gave them “smoother skin” and vanquished “two big zits.” Leaving aside the possibility of fake reviews, it seems pretty clear what happened to the happy customers: Their zits probably would have cleared up on their own.

Read more on IT World. Hat-tip: Boing Boing.