Updated 15 July 2014

Got acne? There's an app for that!

If you suffer from acne - and have an iphone - you can download a nifty app that shows you which foods make acne worse, and which may improve the condition.

Acne sufferers around the world are using an iPhone app created at Northwestern University in the USA to learn how certain foods affect their skin conditions.

The app, called "diet & acne," can be downloaded from the iTunes app store for free.

Read: discover the link between diet, good skin and insulin levels

It uses data from a systematic analysis of peer-reviewed research studies to show people if there is or is not scientific evidence linking acne to foods such as chocolate, fat, sugar and whey protein.

"Users may be surprised to learn that there is no conclusive evidence from large randomised controlled trials that have linked chocolate and acne," said Diana Cohen, M.D., creator of the app.

"Although one small study found that eating 100 percent cocoa could worsen acne symptoms."

Cohen designed the app when she was a student in the Master of Science in Engineering Design and Innovation program at the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern in the United States.

Read: how gadgets and apps are helping us manage illness

Research displayed in the app shows that dairy (especially skim milk), whey protein, omega-6 fatty acids and foods high in sugar have been associated with the presence of acne.

It also explains that foods rich in antioxidants and fiber have been associated with a decreased presence of acne in some studies.

Read: research shows a high GI diet and dairy are linked to acne

Details about the use of the app were published online in the March 2014 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

Over a five-month period of time, starting April 1 and ending Aug. 31, 2013, the app was downloaded to 5,507 devices in 98 different countries.

Just over 100 people responded to a survey embedded in the app, and 87 percent of respondents reported having acne for a duration of more than one year, with 37 percent reporting they had not seen a physician for their acne.

These results show that well-constructed apps, based upon peer-reviewed literature, can be a highly effective method to widely disseminate medical information to a large and diverse population.

"People all over the world are turning to mobile apps as a source of information regarding health issues, but most of the apps out there are not evidence-based, and some exist to just sell a product," Cohen said.

"This app is different because it uses evidence from a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature and puts it at a patient's fingertips."

Screenshots from the diet and acne app
acne app

Most of the people who downloaded the app found it through searches of keywords such as "acne" in the iTunes app store, but downloading such an app soon could be part of a doctor's toolkit of resources for patients.

Kundu is an associate professor in dermatology at the Feinberg School, corresponding study author and an attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"Oil production and hormones have more of an impact on acne than diet, but I don't dismiss dietary intake when I treat patients," Kundu said. "This app is a tool I can offer patients to help them make better food choices based on scientific research."

Tip: download the app here if you have an iPhone

Read more:

Visit our acne centre for all the latest news and treatments
The type of bacteria on your skin could determine whether you get acne or not
13 Great tips to manage your acne

Image: searching for a cure for acne, Shutterstock

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