Claim Check

Zit Zapper

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

The target: A budding pimple just below the bottom lip. The weapon: the $225 Zeno, a cell-phone-sized device said to kill emerging pimples with controlled heat. Made by Houston-based Tyrell Inc., and recently cleared for over-the-counter sale, the Zeno turns the heat on acne bacteria after a pimple has started to form. In company-sponsored trials, says Tyrell, 90 percent of Zeno-treated blemishes faded or disappeared within 24 hours. Zeno is marketed as an adjunct, not a replacement, to standard treatments for mild to moderate acne flare-ups; it's available, for now, only through a doctor's office or a medi-spa. The company loaned me a demo unit for a test drive.

The Attack I charged the battery and turned on the device, heating the thumbtack-size tip to 121 degrees. (Think hot bath.) Then, as instructed, I held the tip against the offending spot for 2½ minutes. (It beeped when time was up.) A red mark -- darker than the pimple -- appeared after treatment but faded quickly. By the next day my pimple began to fade, too--whether that was Zeno's or nature's doing is unclear -- so repeating the treatment as the company recommends seemed unnecessary.

Mop-Up Chevy Chase cosmetic dermatologist Tina West plans to sell the device to her patients. Instead of requesting an "emergency treatment" -- a cortisone injection -- when a nasty pimple appears, as five to 10 patients a week do, she said, they can use the Zeno. Georgetown University Hospital dermatologist Paula Bourelly is skeptical, noting that the only data supporting Zeno come from the manufacturer. She doesn't plan to recommend Zeno. For patients already being treated with oral or topical medication, she said, "breakthrough acne may indicate a need for better therapy. This is a quick fix."

--Matt McMillen

© 2005 The Washington Post Company