back to article Rubbing an iPhone on your face won't cure acne - FTC

The Federal Trade Commission has fined two developers who claimed their mobile apps could cure acne with flashing colour, but there's still plenty of snake-oil on sale. Colour therapy for acne does have medical credentials, but the FTC's ruling is clear that the frequencies generated by a smartphone screen aren't even close to …


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  1. Jedit
    IT Angle

    Social surveying at its finest

    Both Android and iPhone users fell for the scams, but more than three times as many iPhone users got scammed for twice as much.

    (The IT angle? You can't spell "zit" without "IT".)

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      no different to any other app

      one of the problems with Android is getting people to buy stuff. The purchasing experience just isn't as easy on android, especially as a lot of apple users have iTunes accounts that they can buy from in a single click. Also Android is often seen as the cheap option, for those who can't afford an iPhone. If you're too tight/poor/clever to buy an iPhone then you probably don't have as much cash to spend on apps.

      So rather than "ha ha, look how stupid iPhone users are" this seems to be more a case of "Android users don't like to buy apps"....

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        "but while it would be great to attribute that to the gullibility of Apple users"

        Well, they do seem to beleive everything that the church of jobs tells them...

        Now that I have got that out of my system, odd that Android is often seen as the cheap option, the 32GB iFad is cheaper that the 32GB Galaxey Tab (well on the 'local' on-line sites anyway).

      2. Jedit

        Fanboi logic. It does not resemble our Earth logic.

        So, if I can afford an iPhone but am clever enough to buy Android, that means I have *less* money to spend? Really? Surely if I can afford an iPhone but buy something cheaper instead, then I have more money to spend. Even if I'm shopping within my budget, I'm still just as liquid as the iPhone user who can just about afford one - if not more so, as many Android apps are cheaper. Your entire assertion is thus based on the presumption that iPhone owners earn considerably more than Android owners. I can disabuse you of this notion by spending an hour on a city bus route.

        Also, I can buy apps from the market with a single click, using an account that works in just the same way as an iTunes account. (And Apple move the litigation drive to sue factor 7.)

        1. sabroni Silver badge


          >>if I can afford an iPhone but am clever enough to buy Android, that means I have *less* money to spend<<

          No, that's not what I said. I said that android was a cheaper option than iphone, which it is (the boy's san Francisco was a hundred quid) and that people with less money to spend on phones have less money to spend on apps.

          Fanboi logic not like earth logic indeed....

      3. Marcelo Rodrigues

        Isn´t easy to purchase on Android?

        How easier can it gets?

        1) Choose the app. Ok, here we may complain about the search method, but isn´t terrible too. Just a matter of choosing what You want.

        2) Click on "buy" or "download".

        3) If it is a free app, it´s over. Your mobile does the download for You, and install the app too.

        4) If it´s NOT a free app... well, you have to type your credit card info. If I remember correctly, just for the first time. After that your info is remembered.

        I don´t know how easier (or harder) is with the Apple Store - but to say is hard to buy on the droid market...

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          @Marcelo Rodrigues

          downloading a free app isn't purchasing, so that's not really relevant. Typing in your credit card details, as opposed to not typing them in, is more effort. But yeah, the android purchase experience isn't hideous (if you like giving your credit card details out), but it's not the iTunes integrated experience. If I'm an apple fan and I have iTunes set up on my mac and my iPhone shares that account (which is probably the case for many iPhone users) then the experience on iPhone is better.

      4. sisk

        Re: no different to any other app

        "The purchasing experience just isn't as easy on android"

        I've never bought an app on on iPhone, but I find it hard to believe that it's easier than on my Android. The hardest part of buying an Android app is having to type in my credit card number (which is actually quite easy), and I only have to do that much because I don't trust Google with my real credit card (I wouldn't trust Apple with it either) and the prepaid cards I use for 90% of my online purchases are non-reloadable. Other than that it's the same click and confirm as any other online store. I can't imagine Apple decided to eliminate the confirm step, though it would explain why the iPhone seems to sell so many more apps than Android.

        Really though I think it comes down to the average iPhone user being more easily parted with his money than the average Android user. Depending on your point of view this could be because the iPhone user is frivolous and the Android user is frugal or it could be that the Android user is just a tightwad. Personally I think that just owning an iPhone proves that you part with your money easier than most people, but that's just my opinion.

        Either way you'll not convince too many people that the guy with the expensive smartphone and accompanying expensive data plan is poor regardless of what model that phone is. And make no mistake: they're all expensive.

        1. sabroni Silver badge


          no, they're not. the San Francisco is a hundred and four quid on pay as you go with a £10 topup. Apple store sells unlocked iPhones for £428. You can get an iPhone for a lot cheaper but not without signing up to a hefty contract that bumps the cost up massively.

          So it's you that has made a mistake, they are NOT all expensive, certainly not in relation to each other.

  2. frank ly

    I was going to make a joke...

    .. about an iApp to cure erectile dysfunction; but it got too tacky.

    (Mines the one with the Kleenex to wipe the screen.|)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The coat is tacky and childish, so -1

    2. Jedit

      All threads on El Reg have erectile dysfunction

      Or at least, none of them have been made sticky.

  3. Guido Esperanto

    A fool and their money....

    Although I'd gladly pay to watch some fool explain why they have a smartphone taped to their face.......

  4. Herby


    Just what color IS snake oil? Can I get paint chips of that color from the local home improvement store (for free) and hold them next to my face and get the same effect. Maybe they are snake oil colored, who knows.

    1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

      Google Says*...

      ...acne treatment light is about 420** nano-meters. Several manufacturers now produce LED's at this wavelength.

      The latest in stage lighting uses them in 7-color LED instruments. They are also popular in overpriced medical lamps.

      Yes, Herby, you could find violet paint chips, and make a reflector, But a filter*** would be more comfortable, and could be worn in sunlight or used over wide spectrum "actinic" lamps.

      IANAD, but the best treatment for acne is to express sebum from healthy skin and spread it on skin and lips. I often use "nose oil" as an emergency lubricant for metal and plastic.

      * By making a link to Wikipedia.

      ** Another victory for the pot lobby.

      *** You could also ingest colloidal silver until your skin turned blue. Since this is not reversible, not recommended unless you want to pursue a career appearing at Star Trek conventions.

  5. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Vetted app

    But when iApple vetted the app, they found that it worked! Either the kids^H^H^H^H employees resposible just happened to exit puberty at the same time as the test, or the code simulator had incorrect parameters entered for acne.

  6. Dave Murray Silver badge

    Surely the infamous Apple approval process should weed out these snake oil apps to protect the faithful?

  7. Elmer Phud

    Gullible's Travails

    "Around 3,300 Android users apparently shelled out 99 cents for AcnePwner, while 11,600 iPhone users had to pay twice that for AcneApp."

    Does that make iPhone owners six times more dumb than Android fanz?

    But, seriously - 'AcnePwner'?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Based on observation:


  8. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Thomas 4

      AcneApp: Homeopathic Version

      Instead of a whole screen of flashing colour, you now have a single pixel.

      1. Trevor 3


        The whole screen is white, it just has the memory of a pixel that was once not white.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Gullibility Measuring App

      They did make one. It's called AcneApp.

    3. nyelvmark

      Maybe someone should make a gullibility measuring app.?

      There are, apparently, over 400,000 apps available for download to Apple devices. I suspect that nearly all of them fulfill your requirement.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Snake Oil

    ...ironically, is an effective and traditional Chinese remedy for many skin complaints including acne. Really is - the fat makes a oily antiseptic barrier cream similar to savlon which also kills the demodex mites responsible for the more horrific forms like rosacea.

    Probably something of a marketing challenge in the west though....

    [Health Warning: Generally speaking, it is best to run screaming from traditional Chinese remedies]

  10. 1Rafayal


    I also heard that rubbing an iphone can cure you of alcoholism as well as introducing a comprehensive quantative easing process for ailing economies.

  11. Big Al

    Oh the Humanity!

    What causes me to despair is not that someone tries to make money out of such spurious apps, but that so many people were gullible enough to shell out for them..

    1. Guido Esperanto

      As Scott Adams (Dilbert Creator) once said

      "never understimate the stupidity of the general public"

    2. asiaseen

      When you are a spotty teenager

      you'll try anything.

  12. dotdavid

    Mosquito repellers

    Sounds similar to those apps that claim to repel mosquitos using ultrasound, except there's plenty of free apps for people not stupid enough to pay good money for that sort of unproven pseudo-science.

    No idea whether it worked on the mosquitos, but it certainly repelled my cats.

  13. Bakunin


    Before paying an FTC fine surely a refund should be a priority?

    Pay all earnings back to Google who have the infrastructure to push a refund to the registered card and pull the app with a message explaining why. Any money left over (because the account/card doesn't exist anymore) can be given to charity ....

    .... then fine the fraudulent developers!

  14. Greg J Preece

    Fine Apple?

    Given that all App Store kit is approved by Apple, aren't they ultimately responsible for this? They certainly profited from it @ 30% a time. Surely they're also making money off snake oil, and should be fined as such.

  15. Paul Ireland

    Pregnancy test app joke

    That article reminds me of the joke about developing a pregnancy test app for the iphone, in order to get all the stupid people to pee on their iphone.

  16. I'm Brian and so's my wife


    As if it's not difficult enough to deal with finger smear alone!

  17. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    So what about an app that claims to create jobs by pure emission of melodious sounds from podiums followed by printing of colorful repetitive motives onto paper?

    It seems to have great success.

  18. Just Thinking

    What's the point?

    They got fined *less than they earned*. Two grand up for writing an app which makes the screen flash up different colours.

    But they missed a trick, they should have patented it. Software which makes some or all of the the pixels on a computer screen change colour...

  19. Alienrat

    Apples approval process is just to check the application follows the rules - can't see what rule this broke.

    In fact I don't understand why they were fined. If people want to pay a few quid to strap a phone to their face that changes colours in the belief that it makes their skin better, then I think they should be allowed to.

    There are quite a few homeopathy related applications on smartphones. Are they going to be removed and fined next?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that these apps, being written by amateur charlatans, made the mistake of claiming that they "will" cure acne, whereas the homeopathic apps, being written by professional charlatans, said something to the effect that they offer a 100% guarantee that their remedy will, on average, give results equivalent to what so-called 'medical science' refers to as a 'placebo'.

  20. Purlieu

    I agree with Greg

    Apple took 30% of the income, have they been fined ?

  21. Dr Insanity

    Maybe it does work, doesn't the iPhone, and higher-end Android phones, have that oil-phobic coating on the screen? Maybe rubbing it against your face forces the pimple causing grease from your pores and away from your skin... just be sure to wash after every application!

  22. yoinkster
    Thumb Up

    Reg, thank you so much for this report, it has just given me the best inspiration ever.

    I'm going to write an app to reduce the carbon footprint of your phone! Simply by running the app, black magic will happen and the world will be saved! I'm going to make a fortune off some of the stupidest and most gullible people the world has ever seen :D

    [patent pending]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      too late

      It is called a power switch. Switching off reduces the carbon footprint by one molecule or more, results may vary.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha ha!

    "Around 3,300 Android users apparently shelled out 99 cents for AcnePwner'

    I'm sure it's already been said, "And you 'Andy' owners think the iPhone mob are a bit dopey!?!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yep and you just proved the point

      You obviously got as far as the 3300 Android user part of the article and the undeserved Apple superiority complex kicked in forcing you to comment before reading any further. Here is the bit you missed:

      11,600 iPhone users had to pay twice that for AcneApp

      $1.98 for the same scam and 11600 people were willing to pay for it so yes 'the iPhone mob are a bit dopey!?!'

  24. Arctic fox

    Having read this article with growing incredulity I can only say that it...... is very clear in this context that of the two ways one can read the expression "smart phone owners" at least one of them is the grandmother of all non sequiturs.

  25. Horridbloke

    Just as well it didn't work...

    I'm imagining a pimply visage with a perfectly rectangular clear patch across one cheek.

    Or are you supposed to run it on an ipad for full-face treatment?

  26. dciso

    Perhaps they were holding it wrong

  27. cloudgazer

    While it's true that rubbing your face against an iPhone won't cure acne, if you have severe acne it's probably your best chance of intimate contact with something beautiful.

  28. n4blue


    Just searched for 'acne' in the Windows Phone 7 marketplace. It returned two apps that track menstruation and ovulation cycles... much for Bing search then.

  29. Stefan

    Peasantphone vs jesusphone

    The 3300 Android that all of them? I'm just wondering how 11600 iphone users are acne sufferers being in the upper echelons of society like myself! Must have sneaked in on a 3 contract!!

    Bring it!

  30. MrT

    Forget fingerprints...

    ...there's now a decent sample size to see just how well that oleophobic screen coating copes under *severe* duress...

  31. Framitz

    But, but, wait!

    How did this happen? Apple app Nazis should have stopped this before it even started...

    Oh, Right, Apple cares NOTHING about it as they got a cut.

  32. Graham Lockley


    >The 3300 Android that all of them?

    The level of trolling in here is getting so low even an iPhone user can spot them (as long as he/she has an app to assist in the observation process)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, an idea!

    If colour can affect acne, maybe there's another opportunity in paint and wallpaper?

    Or maybe lampshades?

  34. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    Difficult to believe

    What? No weight loss app?

  35. Thomas Allen

    Apps for Prayer

    Apps for Prayer - helping you recite and track your years reduced in Purgatory, etc. Why isn't this as much a fraud? Apps for the rosary, for instance... oh well, been going on for 2000+ years

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