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Do Facial Appearance Apps Actually Work?


Dr. Zoe Draelos discusses the role of consumer-targeted facial appearance apps, how they work and how they can be manipulated.

In an article for Dermatology Times, Zoe Draelos, M.D., High Point, NC, explains how facial appearance apps work.

Consumers download and use the app for free, upload their own images to a database and answer questions that generally include age, sex, ethnicity, skin color, eye color and sun exposure history.

This information is used by developers to construct a database that is then used to create overall health assessments, including targeted assessments of wrinkles and skin aging, by creating numerical scores that are compared to other consumers of the same or varying ages. The more consumers who use the app and upload their information, the more improved the analysis capabilities of the database.

However, these results can be misleading, as apps don’t account for things like variation in lighting, which can affect the appearance of the skin. Based on a study that Dr. Draelos performed on how lighting affects phone app results, she found that patients looked three years younger under incandescent lighting compared to fluorescent or LED lighting. This is because LED lights highlight edges and accentuate the look of fine lines and wrinkles, while incandescent light has a yellow hue and softens edges.

Dr. Draelos notes that the use of these apps should not be to provide an accurate assessment of age, but rather to function as a targeted portal for cosmetic and skincare product sales.

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