Acne is one of the world’s most common skin conditions. But whether it’s just a few whiteheads or a breakout of deep painful cysts, its emotional impact can be devastating. French skincare brand La Roche-Posay’s new Spotscan tool is aiming to democratise the acne-controlling process by making diagnosis and treatment a whole lot easier.
What exactly is Spotscan? Spotscan is a free device that can identify just how severe a breakout actually is and recommend a treatment plan to soothe it to suit any individual. All it requires in order to successfully utilise is three photos of an individuals face taken in good lighting and without any makeup on. From there, the artificial intelligence tool then uses an algorithm to compare your skin with dermatologist-reviewed images of more than 6,000 other people. At the end, you will receive a grade between zero and 4+. The grade is based on the number of blackheads, pimples, and acne-related marks detected by Spotscan. If you are scored a three or above, you will be advised to visit a doctor or dermatologist. But users will also be offered a personalised skincare regime. Of course, it’s not impartial as the only products it will recommend are from La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar range, but it could be useful in finding a formula that works for your particular skin type.
Another feature from the app includes allowing individuals to also track how their skin changes over the weeks and months, giving them a deeper insight and understanding into what could be causing your acne breakouts and allowing you to see if your skincare products are making a positive difference.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, the brand’s international senior product manager, Martin Foret, explained the importance of Spotscan. “Despite 40 percent of adults and up to 80 percent of teenagers being affected by acne, currently only 2 percent of the UK has access to a dermatologist,” he said. “We built Spotscan to help these men and women with acne-prone skin understand the condition better and identify their recommended skincare routine.”
Some experts are cautious of the technology. “I think that any tool that helps consumers gain confidence in managing breakouts is an asset,” cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Sam Bunting told Harper’s Bazaar. But she noted that some conditions like rosacea “have some features in common with acne” yet require different treatments. “So I think that there still needs to be a trained eye involved in diagnosis in many instances,” she concluded.
While apps like Spotscan may be of beneficial to many people with mild acne who may or may not easily access face-to-face help or treatments. Those with moderate or severe acne should always visit a GP or skin specialist as they may need prescription medication, advises the NHS.
Another mobile health startup MD Algorithms built a similar app which was co-founded by dermatologist Dr. Yoram Harth and led by CEO Oded Harth, who developed the MDacne app. MDacne starts with a questionnaire about the users skin condition and users submit selfies for image analysis. The aim is to develop a customised skin care plan using a combination of over-the-counter medication, daily tips and reminders, guides and a “selfie tracker” so users can see how their skin is changing. By sticking to the area of acne, the founders believe they can have the biggest impact and avoid getting mired in the complexities and controversy of the melanoma detection side of tele-dermatology.
“We started one year ago with 100 acne patients. We worked with them to take photos and on image analysis,” said Yoram. It also uses a 10-grade acne chart that dermatologists use to assess severity of acne and treatment regimens. The app is available for iPhone users and, like most Israeli startups, have their eyes fixed on the U.S. market. Oded said since its soft launch in December last year with iTunes app store, it has amassed 10,000 users — the majority of them in the U.S.