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Scan Z And The Brave New World Of Tracking Your Acne Breakouts

For better or worse, smartphone apps have become a part our daily lives. It was an inevitability that someone would create an acne app. Do you want to scan your face and get a data driven estimate on how long a pimple is going to last? Well now there is now an app for that. And no, it has nothing to do with anything like pro active.

The makers of Scan Z describe their scanner and app duo as being a helpful data driven tracking system1. A system that will assist consumers in understanding their skin better and assist them in preventing breakouts. While some may balk at the idea of a smartphone app being a genuinely useful tool in the fight against acne2, others would argue that this is a clever way to take advantage of3 the iPhone’s computing power.

Mobile App for Acne Tracking
Can an app help you figure out your skin?

Everyone’s skin is unique and understanding your skin better is often the first step in combating your acne problem. The Scan Z app and accompanying device go as far as to read and interpret the sebum levels on your face. This helps you predict when a breakout may be coming. The app also includes a dietary tracking element4, which helps consumers better understand the correlation between the food they eat and their complexion.

Better Understanding Of Your Skin – Not A Miracle Worker

Executives at Scan Z are quick to caution that this is primarily an acne tracker. It is a way to obtain helpful data and correlations to better understand how your skin works5. When questioned about the impact of Scan Z, they attempt to temper any unrealistic expectations. An app cannot possibly cure your acne. Scan Z is no doubt measured in their tone, because The US Federal Trade Commission has in the past come down very harshly on apps making over the top claims in regards to acne. In fact, two settlement claims were filed against app makers Acne Pwner and Derm App in regards to exaggerated claims.

Scan Z works as a two-piece combination with a scanning device that attaches to your phone and the app itself. To use it, you run this device over your skin. When you are done scanning, the device sends transdermal images of the surface of your skin to your phone6. It is as simple as that.

According to Chief Science Officer Djuro Koruga, the app uses Mayo Clinic algorithms that can estimate an upcoming breakout or the estimated length of a current one7. The more you use the Scan Z, the more precise the data will become. The algorithm is as sophisticated as the amount of information you feed it, and it tracks not only your diet and sebum levels but also your preferred facial cleanser. Over enough time this creates your personal and unique beauty profile, building a chart of the inputs and outputs that lead to your breakouts8.

Is It Worth It?

At $249 this device and app combo is quite an investment. Critics would point out that the skin care business has always had its share of products with questionable utility. Some might say that your money would be better spent consulting a dermatologist. Though supporters of the app point out that it is not an either/or proposition… understanding your skin better can only be helpful in the long term9.

It is worth noting that there are a great many apps that are seen as useless to most people. But for people who suffer with problem skin, there’s no doubt that there is utility in tracking your skin. If you enjoy the kind of personalization that comes from being able to track your own skin at home, then Scan Z may be for you.

References:

  1. Kim S, Cho D, Kim J, Kim M, Youn S, Jang JE, Je M, Lee DH, Lee B, Farkas DL, Hwang JY. Smartphone-based multispectral imaging: system development and potential for mobile skin diagnosis. Biomed Opt Express. 2016 Nov 28;7(12):5294-5307.
  2. Majumder S, Deen MJ. Smartphone Sensors for Health Monitoring and Diagnosis. Sensors (Basel). 2019 May 9;19(9):2164.
  3. Badawy SM, Barrera L, Sinno MG, Kaviany S, O’Dwyer LC, Kuhns LM. Text Messaging and Mobile Phone Apps as Interventions to Improve Adherence in Adolescents With Chronic Health Conditions: A Systematic Review. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2017 May 15;5(5):e66.
  4. Morze J, Przybylowicz KE, Danielewicz A, Obara-Golebiowska M. Diet in Acne Vulgaris: Open or Solved Problem? Iran J Public Health. 2017 Mar;46(3):428-430.
  5. Ettel DL, Lamanno LR, Neyra SA, Ettel WJ, Ettel GL III, Mitchell MK. Teens and Technology Transforming Acne Treatment. Perm J. 21:16-192.
  6. Do TT, Zarkhin S, Orringer JS, Nemeth S, Hamilton T, Sachs D, Voorhees JJ, Kang S. Computer-assisted alignment and tracking of acne lesions indicate that most inflammatory lesions arise from comedones and de novo. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008 Apr;58(4):603-8.
  7. Manfredini M, Bettoli V, Sacripanti G, Farnetani F, Bigi L, Puviani M, Corazza M, Pellacani G1. The evolution of healthy skin to acne lesions: a longitudinal, in vivo evaluation with reflectance confocal microscopy and optical coherence tomography. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019 Apr 26.
  8. Bergman H, Tsai KY, Seo SJ, Kvedar JC, Watson AJ. Remote assessment of acne: the use of acne grading tools to evaluate digital skin images. Telemed J E Health. 2009 Jun;15(5):426-30.
  9. Chiang A, Hafeez F, Maibach HI. Skin lesion metrics: role of photography in acne. J Dermatolog Treat. 2014 Apr;25(2):100-5.
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