Phone app seeks to bust acne using selfies and algorithms

Israel’s MDacne application for smartphones allows users to get a real-time image analysis of their skin and suggestions for treatment

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

The MDacne app analyzes photos of users to diagnose their acne and recommend treatment. (YouTube screenshot)
The MDacne app analyzes photos of users to diagnose their acne and recommend treatment. (YouTube screenshot)


Herzliya, Israel-based MDAlgorithms says it has found a solution to acne, the pimply skin condition that affects 500 million people around the world.

Its MDacne application for mobile phones allows users to get a real-time image analysis of their skin by filling in a questionnaire and taking a selfie. An algorithm created based on data from hundreds of acne patients then processes the info within the phone, and a customized plan is offered to the user including food and hygiene tips and recommended medications. The app also offers a monitoring system — or a “selfie tracker” — to check progress.

“Using algorithms and computer vision we want to disrupt the way Acne is treated with our mobile health platform,” said MDAlgorithms CEO Oded Harth in a phone interview. “We have built the world’s first app to provide mobile acne analysis with customized treatment plans. Since we held our soft launch four months ago the app has attracted a lot of interest, reaching the number 1 Acne app spot in the US Appstore.”

A screenshot of the MDacne app. (Courtesy)
A screenshot of the MDacne app. (Courtesy)

The user can download the app for free and is able to get an analysis on the severity of the acne and receive a customized and free acne management plan, in addition to a variety of acne treatment options. MDacne also offers an optional paid premium subscription plan that gives users more features, including dermatologist video tutorials, daily treatment reminders, tips and checkups to monitor and maintain treatment commitment. The subscription options cost $2.99 for a week to $17.99 for three months.

Harth, an ex-Israeli army serviceman from the mythological Unit 8200 that is known for spawning Israeli high-tech entrepreneurs, teamed up with his father, Israeli dermatologist Yoram Harth, who invented the phototherapy blue light treatment for acne vulgaris. “He came to me with the idea and the problem,” said Oded Harth. “I used the knowledge I gained on algorithms in 8200 and set up the tech side of the application.”

The products that the company recommends are generally over-the-counter products that can be found on Amazon, Harth said. “What we suggest are products we know are good from experience. We don’t have any affiliation with any particular company,” he said.

The app works with all skin types and colors, he said. “We release a new version every 2 to three weeks and we keep on working to make the product perfect,” he said.

Markets such as China and India are attractive as well, and the app would have to be adapted to supply those users with the appropriate products available locally, he said.

“There are 100 million people in China with acne,” Harth said. “It is a huge market.”

In the US alone, people with acne-prone skin spend $6 billion a year trying solutions, Harth said. Acne is just the first skin problem the company is looking at, Harth said. The same technology could be used for hair or other skin problems, he said.

The company is self-funded at the moment and is looking to raise its first external investing rounds by the third quarter of the year, he said, without revealing how much the company will be looking for. “It depends on the kind of partners we find,” Harth said. The company is also in talks for collaborations with “several multinational large companies” he said, in the US and Europe.

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