Opinion: There’s an app for that?


I subscribe to several health publications, and most of them offer some advice on avoiding medical scams. A few years ago, a dermatologist in Southern California avoided jail time by the skin of his teeth. He had been marketing an app for smartphones that emitted a bluish light, which he claimed would cure acne. Dr. Smith sold about 20,000 of these. Now, ironically, he has a blotch on his once-unblemished medical record.

Most of the experts agreed that these lights can’t hurt you, but if a kid is holding his Android or iPhone against his pimply nose while driving, he’s likely to back the Volvo into a mailbox. No instructions were provided with the app, so one of the difficulties was knowing exactly how far from the problem area to hold the device. Some of Dr. Smith’s accomplices — I mean, associates — are now thinking of adding a GPS, a global pimple searcher, that will automatically zero in on any facial imperfections.

Nine out of 10 teenagers with zits will believe anything you tell them if they think it will clear up their faces. That is why I spent most of the ninth grade with lemon wedges and a heating pad on my forehead at night. Another researcher was equally concerned, noting, “I am worried about this because bacteria on the phone could lead to other skin infections.” Wait! There are germs on cellphones? That’s the last time I’ll hold my iPhone between my teeth while I make a U-turn.

The app emitted 660 nanometers of light, which anyone with a post-doctoral degree in laser technology knows can’t hold a candle to a good glob of Clearasil. If you are one of those people who paid five bucks for this cyber rip-off, it still might not be a bad idea to rub the smartphone across your forehead. Maybe the smart part will rub off on you.

Even the people at Apple were concerned about the legitimacy of this application, warning customers that it’s “for entertainment purposes only.” Yes, this warning comes from the same people who now offer an app to notify you if you’re going to have a bad hair day, or one that tells you the best time to hit the john during a movie so you don’t miss any plot development, which I have used with great success.

Dr. Smith claimed if he had gone to jail, he would have taken the punishment like a man. He’s been directed by his PR people to say, “Breaking out is not an option.”

His wife was worried that even a short prison sentence would jeopardize their marriage. Dr. Smith confirmed their love. “She’s my main squeeze,” the dermatologist told everyone. Which is not something his PR agency wanted him to say.


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