Can a computer treat my acne? A Review of MDacne

Cassandra grew up with acne and likewise struggled with bullying from others and even bullying from herself. Before Cassandra made helping others with their skin her career, she had always wondered if there was an easier way to do things than in-clinic visits. She's naturally a critic and a skeptic, but even in the past ten to fifteen years, technology has progressed a ton. Today, A.I is frequently used in dermatology clinics to identify cancerous growths and to track the skin. If someone comes in to get a mole removed or to get a scar or psoriasis patch examined, photos are taken and kept as documentation. But can A.I. or computers scan our faces to give us a better understanding of our skin and a better understanding of what products we should use?  

Photocred: Perfect corp

There are some companies doing this for acne, but Cassandra is skeptical. Her biggest concern is this: can it tell the difference between acne and other blemishes on the face? Can A.I truly customize the individual needs of each person’s skin? Through the use of an online quiz or a skin scanner, can a skincare line truly be comparable to a visit with a dermatologist? 

Well, with MDacne, you’re not just getting a skincare line. You’re getting technology that was developed by two Israeli doctors “on a mission to help clear your skin easier and faster.” (MDAlgorithms Inc, 2021). People can take a selfie, and the MDacne app automatically assesses skin type, acne severity, and provides a fully customized acne treatment kit that is delivered to the user’s doorstep. During the treatment, they also provide unlimited one-on-one chat support with our dermatologists and continually fine-tune the product formulations as the skin changes and improves” (MDAlgorithms Inc, 2021). 

Since customizable skincare brands aren't supported by dermatologists and regular check-ins with them, Cassandra is skeptical about how A.I. distinguishes acne and oily skin from other things. The founders are renowned dermatologists, research fellows at Columbia’s Department of Dermatology, and the authors of dozens of publications. One founder is even the winner of the Wall Street Journal Europe Award for innovation in acne treatment. And since the age of twelve, the other has been developing dozens of mobile apps, websites, and games. They’ve aligned to make dermatology more accessible and affordable.   

Photocred: MDAcne

Their company promises the following: 

  1. To be honest with you. 
  2. To base all of their recommendations on the American of Dermatology acne treatment guidelines.
  3. To provide the best available, clinically-proven, and FDA approved topical anti-acne ingredients

This is quite refreshing because if you’ve ever been on TikTok, pseudoscience runs rampant. It’s nice to know that they’re committed to using dermatological guidelines for their formulas and processes. 

When Cassandra first downloaded the app, she was surprised. She wasn’t immediately prompted to scan her face. Instead, she was asked to fill out a quiz. The quiz asked various questions about her skin type, her skin conditions, her skin sensitivities, as well as any medications that she's taken. However, she wonder if this quiz is easily understandable for those who aren’t professionals. The quiz mentions concerns like seborrhea, rosacea, and fungal acne, and she doesn’t necessarily think these conditions are common knowledge. She understands that there’s an option to speak with a dermatologist for a further explanation, but she believes the user experience could be improved by putting the quiz in Layman’s terms. 

After the quiz, it scanned her face. As the app scanned her face, she could see it assessing different areas of her face one by one. Once determined if there was an issue, it subsequently moved on to the next area of her face. At the end of the scan, it marked different lesions on her face with different colors, but she never figured out what the different colors meant. In some cases, it did correctly identify blemishes, but in other cases, it didn’t. After identifying the acne, it provided Cassandra with a treatment guideline and shipped her the products. The shipping took 3 – 7 days, which isn’t as fast or convenient as walking into  Sephora, but it’s more accessible than scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist and getting a prescription from a pharmacy.


Once Cassandra received the products, she analyzed the ingredients. At first, she was pretty impressed by the size of some of these products. Oftentimes, custom skincare comes in small bottles –1 or 2 fl oz. – but these products were as large as 3 fl oz. Since Cassandra has small amounts of hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation, they gave her a medicated dark spot remover. The product was 2%  hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is amazing for dark spots, and it’s prescribed by many dermatologists for patients that struggle with skin discoloration and pigmentation. However,  OTC hydroquinone has recently become illegal over-the-counter. She wonders if she was able to get hydroquinone because a dermatologist looked at her skin data? Because if so, this is a really good way to get hydroquinone without having to see a doctor in person. Cassandra thinks that’s a huge benefit. 

The hydroquinone came in a night treatment, and it was very silky. It went on to the skin very nice and smoothly. It was a moisturizer that provided a barrier. Additionally, it wasn’t a base formula. More simply, it wasn’t something that requires you to add an active (an ingredient that treats an active). Moreover, the moisturizing night treatment included green tea extract (antioxidant), licorice for dark spots and pigmentation, and vitamin C for collagen induction and dark spots. Overall, this is still a really great blend for treating acne and the symptoms of acne. 

Advanced Dark Spot Remover - $59.95

Cassandra also received the Advanced Dark Spot Remover, but she doesn't think it’s as advanced as a medicated version. This product was also a moisturizer, but it was more chunky and less silky in comparison to a medicated one. The ingredients were also different. This one has aloe vera, vitamin A, vitamin E, glycolic acid, and other exfoliants. Although both moisturizers treat dark spots, the one from MDacne would likely take longer to be effective, especially since it includes alpha arbutin. While Alpha Arbutin takes time to be processed by the skin, the Advanced Dark Spot Remover from MDacne is still a great option for individuals who can not access a medicated dark spot remover moisturizer.

Thus, it’s very cool that MDacne makes things like this so accessible. Additionally, if you have questions, you can speak with a dermatologist per your request. These consultations are only online, but as Cassandra mentioned before, the accessibility is a major bonus. 

In addition to the dark spot treatments, they also had retinoid products, which is an ingredient that Cassandra loves. They’ve always been like a jackpot for acne treatment. The retinoids come in 0.7 oz. bottles, and they are meant to be a treatment rather than used all over. The advanced dark spot moisturizer is best used over it. 

Cassandra received two retinol creams that each had a different potency of retinol. She also got one that had salicylic acid and another that included sulfur. If you’re someone that suffers from fungal acne — which again isn’t really acne — the sulfur formula is super cool. Sulfur is medically proven to help “fungal acne.” 

Retinol Treatment Cream - $24.95

The products have a pleasant smell. There’s a perfume aroma present. Cassandra doesn’t know if there’s a way to remove fragrance from the formula. She did state that she does not have sensitive skin within the quiz, and that could be why the fragrance was included. As these products are dermatologist tested and formulated, Cassandra assumes there are fragrance-free options within the line. 

Of the retinol products that she received, one had retinol at 0.5% and niacinamide at 4%. The other had retinol at 0.25%  and niacinamide at 2%. Depending on your skin’s sensitivity, they’ll suggest one or the other. Both soaked into the skin quite nicely, neither balled up nor pilled. But, please keep in mind that this is not the same as Retin-A, tretinoin, or retinaldehyde. These are the more potent products on the market. 

MDacne also has moisturizers with either 2% or 4% niacinamide. They even have one without it. The one without niacinamide has ingredients like shea butter, vitamin c, and licorice. Both the niacinamide and niacinamide free moisturizers are oil-free. 

Customized Soothing Moisturizer - $29.95

The line also has a dermatologist-tested facial cleanser. It has salicylic acid at 0.5%. Cassandra doesn't see this product replacing her double cleanse or anything that’s already in her routine, but she says it’s decent. She believes that it’s easily something she could find at the drug store or in Sephora. 

The company is not limited to acne treatments. One of the products that she loves is the clarifying pink clay mask, especially because of the peppermint. Peppermint or menthol binds to certain receptors in the skin to help nullify pain. It’s an analgesic, which has been shown in medicine to aid some medical situations. The mask also has vitamin A. It was nice to see that ingredient because Vitamin A, a  retinoid, helps wick away oil. 

Ultimately, the Clarifying Pink Clay Mask and the medicated dark spot remover were probably two of her favorite products. The cleanser was her least favorite. She hasn't finished using or testing all of the products that she's received, but Cassandra has been enjoying the journey so far. This skincare line is best for people who deal with hyperpigmentation but aren’t able to see a dermatologist. It’s a great line. You can speak to a dermatologist at any time, and the app tracks your progress. When you have the MDacne app, you’re prompted to take photos of your skin as it progresses. These photos inform you and the dermatologist whether your skincare is working. The app prompts you to check in regularly, and it’s designed to encourage your regular use of the products. When something doesn’t work for you, you’ll be notified and changes will be made to your suggested products. On the other hand, when something is working, you’ll be reminded of the ingredients that suit you, and you’ll be prompted to continue using them.

Clarifying Pink Clay Mask - $39.95

While on the website, Cassandra noticed that some products have fragrance and others do not. Again, she wonders if you’ll be provided with entirely fragrance-free options when you select sensitive skin during the quiz. 

Overall, Cassandra found MDacne to be a very unique concept. Still, there’s definitely room for further study, and a few questions about A.I skincare still remains. Whether or not A.I. knows how to tailor specific questions to an individual is debatable, but nevertheless, she was truly impressed by how the program tracks the skin, allows you to see your skin concerns, and makes check-ins with a dermatologist so accessible. For someone who is struggling with acne and can’t see a dermatologist, this is a great option. Even if you don’t buy the products, Cassandra would still recommend downloading the app to track your skin. 

Stay hydrated, apply your sunscreen, and beYOUtiful both inside and out.