Watch out for acne 'cure' scams

FTC is cracking down on companies making baseless claims

DETROIT - The Federal Trade Commissions has been cracking down on companies which have made baseless claims about curing acne.

"I don't know if they're faking it or they are putting makeup on it or something, but it makes it look worse," said 16-year-old John Calhoun.

After many failed attempts with gadgets and so-called quick fixes, Calhoun makes regular visits to Dr. Steven Grekin, a dermatologist, to help control.

Stephanie Kandas, 17, has had a similar experience. Kandas has been dealing with acne for the past five years. It wasn't until she finally turned to an expert that she found the help she needed.

"It was really difficult because you wake up in the morning and you didn't have one there before and suddenly you have 10, and you're like 'Oh my gosh, how am I going to cover this up?'" Kandas said.

Both Kandas and Calhoun made mistakes in trying to fix their condition -- costly mistakes.

"Probably about $500 or so," said Kandas.

Many people make the same mistakes because they are unaware of either products that simply are wrong for them or products that a simply a scam.

Recently, developers of a phone app were busted by the FTC after claiming light emitted from the phone could clear acne.

"Certainly we know that's not the case," said Grekin.

Grekin is an expert when it comes to dealing with acne. He sees the results of all the "quick fixes" his patients try.

"There's lots of these devices that say if you heat the area around the pimple it goes away more quickly," he said. "That really has never been proven to be true."

Calhoun tried a heating product that promised just that. He said he got no results, but it cost him more than $100. Calhoun was lucky. Other patients received a much more serious byproduct.

"They burned themselves, again, causing scaring," said Grekin.

Grekin said over-the-counter products can work if the patient's acne isn't that serious.

"They have approved two ingredients for use in solving acne," he said. "One is benzoyl peroxide -- very good drug and its available over the counter. The other is salicylic acid."

Grekin said when dealing with acne, avoid scrubbing, over drying the skin and picking the skin. Scrubs are made of sharp particles that make small tears in the skin which allow bacteria to get inside, making the acne worse, Grekin said.

Over drying the skin, such as applying alcohol, stimulates the body to make more oil which causes more plugging, causing more acne.

Lastly, picking the skin causes scarring.

"It's the old story: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," the dermatologist said.

Calhoun and Kandas said they learned their lesson.

"Go to an expert first," Kandas said.

If you plan to use any light gadgets to treat acne, keep in mind some of those devices have not been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. The FD does not designate them as medical devices.

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