In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

July 14, 2016

New App Takes the Itch Out of Buying Skin Care Products

By In the Loop

Itchy805Christina Boland is not a paid spokesperson for SkinSafe but she certainly sounds like one. "It's been a godsend for me," Christina says of the online skin care database and iOS mobile app created by Mayo Clinic dermatologist James Yiannias, M.D. SkinSafe matches consumers with skin care products they can use without risk of an allergic reaction, and Christina is a big fan. "I actually bought an iPhone just so I could use the mobile app."

That's dedication, and we're guessing a worthwhile investment if it means never returning to the way things used to be. "It was miserable," Christina says of life before SkinSafe. "I spent 10 years itching nonstop all over my body. It felt like chickenpox on top of fire ants on top of poison ivy. Nothing helped." 

After buying and trying "basically every kind" of skin care product she could find and seeing numerous doctors, Christina had had enough. She scheduled an appointment at Mayo Clinic. And when she saw Dr. Yiannias, "it was like night and day," she tells us. "As soon as I was patch-tested and given the list of products I could safely use, within three days I was no longer itching. It was amazing."

Christina says she was also amazed by the number of chemicals the database determined were unsafe for her to use. "I found out I'm allergic to 20 different chemicals and/or fragrances," she says. "I knew those chemicals had cousins and kissing cousins, but I had no idea there are 2,000 — plus or minus — related chemicals that also cause me to break out."

And now thanks to SkinSafe, she can steer clear of them. "The SkinSafe app takes all of the guesswork out of buying skin care products," Christina says. "I can be out shopping, and if I see something new, all I have to do is scan it with the app's built-in barcode reader, and if it's in the database, I'll get an immediate 'Yay' or 'Nay.'"

If the product isn't in the database, Christina (and other users of the app) can snap photos of the packaging and send the pictures to the SkinSafe data team to determine the product's ingredients. "Usually within two weeks, I'll find out if I can use it or not," she says. And while Christina has no complaints about the two-week turnaround time for new products, Dr. Yiannias says it's something he and the rest of the SkinSafe team are working to reduce. "We've only had that functionality for about six months now, so we're still working on ramping up our processes to get the response time shortened up," he tells us.

Either way, Christina says the benefits she's experienced so far have been immediate. "Not only has SkinSafe saved me a ton of time and money, it's also restored my sanity," she says.

Mayo Clinic Ventures licensed the technology for SkinSafe to EmpowHER, a social health community dedicated to women's health. While Mayo Clinic and Dr. Yiannias have a financial interest in SkinSafe, any revenue Mayo receives from its use is used to support Mayo's nonprofit mission in patient care, education and research. Mayo Clinic receives no royalties on the sale of items invented at Mayo Clinic that are prescribed for Mayo Clinic patients.

For more information about SkinSafe, click here. Then let us know what you think by sharing your comments below and using the tools you find atop this page to share this story with others.


Tags: Apps, Innovation, Mayo Clinic Ventures, Patient Stories, Skin Allergies

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