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BEAUTY

The 2.5% Solution

Let others sell acne treatments via star power. Acne.org founder Dan Kern takes another approach.

January 27, 2008|Serena Kim | Special to The Times

THERE'S Jessica Simpson and Proactiv. Dr. Perricone and his $75 "Nutritional Support." Sonya Dakar and her $50-an-ounce "Drying Potion."

And then there's Dan Kern -- the man who's taking the strange glamour out of acne treatment, and winning thousands of followers in the process.

Kern, 35, is the founder of Acne.org, a no-frills website built on a few simple concepts for clear skin. He isn't a celebrity or even a doctor. But he is out to change the way the world thinks about clogged pores or -- as he states with characteristic zeal on his home page -- to use "the power of the Internet to pool the intelligence and experience of people around the world to end the struggle of acne as we now know it."

In a little more than 10 years, Acne.org has gained 62,000 registered members and 20,000 unique visitors a day. The site is also a virtual town hall where sufferers commiserate, swap stories and solutions about bad skin, and keep message boards buzzing with makeup and grooming tips, product ratings, new research and scar treatment solutions.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, February 05, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Acne.org: A Jan. 27 Image article about Acne.org founder Dan Kern identified Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal as an adjunct clinical professor with the department of dermatology at Stanford University. Badreshia-Bansal is a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and is not associated with Stanford.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, February 10, 2008 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Acne.org: A Jan. 27 Image article about Acne.org founder Dan Kern identified Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal as an adjunct clinical professor with the department of dermatology at Stanford University. Badreshia-Bansal is a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and is not associated with Stanford University.

"I'm looking for a gentle cleanser that doesn't have sodium laureth sulfate," writes deadbeat007. "Any suggestions?"

Acne_battle responds, "I've been using CeraVe cleanser and a Clinique cleanser also. Don't take my advice though; my face looks like crap."

One success story -- from Marie in Los Angeles -- reads, "My doctor had actually prescribed a 4% Brevoxyl Creamy Wash about three months prior, but I was using it all wrong . . . way too little for way too short of time. Using your method within two weeks, I saw a MAJOR improvement."

Kern's program is simple. He recommends washing with a mild cleanser, such as Basis Sensitive Skin bar or Acne.org's Gentle Cleanser. Allow the skin to completely dry. Then apply a dime-sized amount of benzoyl peroxide to the problem areas until all of the product has been absorbed. In time, this amount will increase to nearly a tablespoon. Allow it to completely dry, then follow with a fragrance-free moisturizer.

After about two weeks, the treated areas will start to peel and flake. Chances are they will turn red and itchy and burn, but, according to Kern, after the affected areas peel off and the skin becomes accustomed to the treatments, clearer skin will emerge.

"Follow the steps . . . precisely as outlined," he warns on his website. "I cannot make this point strongly enough. Maybe even print out this page or the checklist and take it into the bathroom with you."

Such passion is to be expected from someone who can talk endlessly about bacteria, skin irritation and specific dilutions of benzoyl peroxide. Kern also is quick to invoke the lessons of his mentors, self-help gurus such as Deepak Chopra. "Helping people is not about what I can get in return," Kern says, riffing on Chopra.

Born and raised in Westchester, Penn., Kern struggled with acne since he was 11. "I remember my first zit," he says. "It was right between my eyes. And I was obsessed right from the beginning."

When over-the-counter drugstore medications didn't work, he visited a dermatologist. Treatments such as Retin-A and antibiotics showed few results or worsened his acne. By the time Kern was in college, his condition was so severe that he would keep the light off in the bathroom to avoid seeing his face in the mirror. Eventually he developed a daily cleansing and treatment regimen with a mild benzoyl peroxide formula that worked. He thought it a fluke, but "what astonished me," he says, "was that it stayed clear."

Then in 1995, he was working as an office manager for a video game company in the Bay Area. He was reading Chopra's "The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success" and thinking about how he could help others. The answer seems obvious: "I should tell people how I cleared up my skin."

Kern took an Internet class and made a simple Web page that described his skin-care regimen. Word spread, and e-mails started coming in from people who, it could be said, had been converted. Kern knew he had to buy the domain name Acne.org.

Kern's regimen, according to Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, an adjunct clinical professor with the department of dermatology at Stanford University, would be useful for a person with mild acne. "However, in more severe cases," she says, "a combination approach using prescription medications will be required, and the regimen will need to be altered."

Dr. Ron Moy, director of dermatology for the California Health and Longevity Institute in Westlake Village, agrees. "Benzoyl peroxide is a fine ingredient. It hits bacteria," Moy says. "Some studies show it may be as effective as any of the topical or oral antibiotics. It's sort of the over-the-counter, cheap way for treating acne."

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