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New App and Regimen Aim to Improve Acne Treatment

Sixty million people suffer from acne, but many don’t get the treatment they need. A new company hopes to personalize the process.

With the theory a picture is worth a thousand words, a new acne treatment combines an app to shoot selfies to analyze skin issues.

Dr. Yoram Harth, a cofounder of the new system, called MDacne, not only plans for it to become one of the top acne products on the market but also envisions expanding the app to a full menu of skin maladies.

“We expect to be the number-one acne treatment in the next couple of years,” said Harth. “We are democratizing acne treatment and bringing effective treatment right to patient’s door.” Proactiv is the largest acne treatment with sales estimated in the $600 million to $700 million range. Neutrogena is the biggest mass market brand with volume tracked by IRI hitting more than $170 million.

Acne, said Harth, serves up big opportunities. Sixty million people — of all ages — experience acne, but only 10 percent visit a dermatologist. The rest rely on medicines purchased online or at drugstores. Three out of every 10 people looking to treat their condition opt for the over-the-counter topicals. Fifty percent of those who get a prescription leave them unfilled because of high price tags, he said.

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Myriad reasons impact the hesitancy to seek out the expertise of physicians, including cost and even embarrassment. “But a one-size-fits-all solution from a drugstore doesn’t always work for acne,” said Harth, who has been a practicing dermatologist for more than 25 years. “Those products aren’t personalized. Sometimes they are too strong and irritate the skin, or others are mild or natural and don’t do anything. The most important thing in acne is to fit the medication to the person’s unique skin.”

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Borrowing a page from tele-medicine, Harth and his son Oded, who serves as chief executive officer, created an app and a line of FDA-cleared antiacne topical medications targeting clients’ specific needs. Users download the app, answer some questions about their skin and take a selfie. They receive an analysis of their skin type and acne condition free of charge. If they wish to continue, they pay $29.95 for a subscription available at www.mdacne.com and receive a personalized regimen, including medicated acne cleanser, antiacne medication and a special moisturizer. Improvements in the quality of cell phone cameras cleared the path for the introduction, Harth said. “Using our proprietary computer vision technology, it is possible now to make a very good analysis through the mobile [phone].”

The subscription model also allows for ongoing 24/7 monitoring providing users the ability to track skin progress and chat with a dermatologist. MDacne can adjust the recommended medications based on changing skin conditions. “And having it delivered privately helps with usage,” said Oded Harth. The app tracks skin improvement, nudging people to keep at it, and there are also reminders built into the app to use the products.

Despite the high number of people with acne, sales of classic acne remedies are stalled, a fact several retailers attribute to disappointing results. IRI data through the end of May showed acne sales down just a little shy of 1 percent. “People are frustrated with what’s available,” Harth said. “There has been little innovation.”

The active ingredients in MDacne include specially formulated micronized versions of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. The formulas also have treatment boosters including vitamins and plant extracts that add anti-inflammatory effects to reduce redness, antioxidation to reduce skin damage and ingredients to help fade post-acne brown spots. Each patient gets a regimen specially tweaked for their needs, be it their skin type (dry, combination, oily, sensitive), acne severity, age or gender.

The company has a vision for international expansion, especially into markets where there are few dermatologists.

Eleven percent of people with acne suffer from depression, said Harth. Last month, which was Acne Awareness Month, MDacne offered a 30-percent-off discount code and also donated 10 percent of all proceeds to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.