Well, here I go again…tripping merrily into “Too Much Information” land, so that I can tell you all about a product which most females over 21 wouldn’t want to admit needing, much less using. It’s okay though, I don’t embarrass easily. So the deal is that I occasionally get painful pimples which can best be described as “cystic”. They aren’t whiteheads because they don’t get that distinctive white tip common to that type acne, and they aren’t blackheads either. They consist of a raised red bump which is tender when touched; and if I were to be so impulsive as to squeeze one, nothing would come out but clear fluid…puss, okay?! Are you familiar with the type pimple I’m talking about? If so, then you know that once squeezed all hell breaks loose. Not only will the area become inflamed, it will also inevitably become an ugly, scabbed, purple tinged mess. Yeah, I bet some of you know what I am talking about; and those that do, know that it is no fun.
So what causes these blemishes and what can be done about them? Let’s take a look at an online primer which covers how pimples form, located at the ThermaClear site. Some highlights include…
“Pimples start out innocently enough. They’re conceived in hair follicles about two to three weeks before you ever see them on your skin. You have the power to stop them before they begin, with a good preventative skin care regimen.” (By the way, I have been using Proactiv for over a year, and I am not really happy with it. If any of you have another regimen that you recommend, let me know.)
“As this excess sebum travels through the follicle, it may pick up debris such as small dirt particles and dead skin cells. As this mix of sebum and material reach the surface, the debris may collect and block the opening, clogging the follicle.”
“Once the follicle is clogged, the bacteria that causes acne, P. acnes, enters the picture. These bacteria normally live harmlessly on your skin, but in the anaerobic environment of a clogged follicle, they grow and thrive.”
“Blackheads and whiteheads may form. These lesions typically stay below the surface of the skin, and are known as non-inflammatory acne.”
“If bacteria infect a whitehead, papules or pustules (i.e. “pimples”) may form. This is known as inflammatory acne. When it is mild to moderate in nature, this is the type of acne best treated with ThermaClear.”
Well there you go…and obviously the ThermaClear device is what I’ll be covering in today’s review.
So here’s some more background: In 2006 I purchased and reviewed the Zeno, an acne treatment device which applies a two and a half minute round of heat therapy on each pimple in order to treat the inflammation. My results with the device were quite positive because I found that using it really did cut down on the time a typical pimple would last, and I have continued to use it ever since. In April 2007 I was contacted about reviewing ThermaClear, another heat-based acne treatment, and I thought that if nothing else it would be nice to be able to compare the two devices.
First we have the outer box…
…and then the inner.
Opening the inner box reveals a foam lined compartment which holds the ThermaClear device, two AA batteries (Duracells are included), a user’s guide, and a quick start guide.
Due to the nature of the two devices, comparisons between the ThermaClear and the Zeno are going to naturally occur. The first comparison will be size and appearance, and let me tell you…the ThermaClear is a chunky fellow when compared to the Zeno.
Try to remember that the ThermaClear is brand new and the Zeno has been kept in a makeup bag for over a year
Measuring approximately 5″ long x 2″ wide x 1″ thick and weighs 4.4 ounces, the ThermaClear is composed primarily of matte silver plastic with glossy white inserts. A clear plastic cap covers the treatment tip, and there are friction bumps at the base of the device for easy removal of the battery tray. Just under the clear cap are two buttons sandwiching two LEDs. The first button is the on/off/mode button which does the obvious, but which also transfers the setting from low to high; we’ll talk more about that later. The two LEDs indicate the level setting, one will glow for low and two will glow for high. The large round button is the Pulse button. There are no other buttons or switches on the device; and as you will soon learn, the device is very easy to operate.
While we’re looking, here’s a shot of the back.
This is the ThermaClear with its battery tray opened…
…which holds the two included AAs. You are not supposed to use rechargeable or non-alkaline batteries in the device.
Assuming you have the right type of pimple (remember – not a white or blackhead), you’ll want to attack it with the ThermaClear as soon as you notice it erupting. As soon as you notice one coming in, “cleanse the pimple, and treat with ThermaClear. Try to cleanse and treat each new pimple again within 1 – 4 hours.”
Operating the ThermaClear starts by removing the clear plastic cap and disinfecting the treatment tip with alcohol. The on/off/mode button should be held for two seconds, which will cause the device’s end to light up with flashing blue LEDs and a musical trill to play. You may hear a slight crackling, similar to the sound a bug zapper makes (seriously!). After the flashing is done, the on/off/mode button can be tapped again to change the strength setting.
At the point where the clinking stops and the setting is on the correct temperature (high or low), you are supposed to place the approximately 0.5″ treatment tip directly on the pimple. Just as was the case with the Zeno, there is no reason to mash the tip into your skin; the key word here is “place”. The larger tip of the ThermaClear (0.5″ vs. 0.25″) may make it easier to get in the right spot.
Now unlike the Zeno’s tip at this point in the game, the ThermaClear’s tip will only be mildly warm…but you’re not done yet. This is when you press the large Pulse button while holding the tip to the pimple for two seconds…
It’s just two seconds compared to the two and a half minutes that must be suffered through when using the Zeno; but in the name of all things holy, the first time I used the ThermaClear I yelped in pain!
According to the quick start guide, “You will feel a mild “sting” when you press the PULSE – this is normal and means ThermaClear is working.” Okay, so I don’t know if my particular pimple was just more sensitive than usual, but the “mild sting” of the high setting – which the manual says should be used “whenever possible” – felt like an angry hornet had landed on my chin. Applying the same exact settings to the tip of my pointer finger produced just a quick burst of warmth – nothing painful, nothing shocking, so it was obviously a matter of my particular “bump’s” sensitivity at that given moment. When I again applied the ThermaClear to the same pimple (approximately six hours later), the results were much less dramatic. Perhaps the blemish was healing, or perhaps I simply knew what to expect, but this time it didn’t hurt at all.
According to the user’s manual, the ThermaClear may be used on the same pimple one to three times in a 24 hour period. The same pimple should never be treated more than once in a one hour period, and three treatments on the same pimple in a 24 hour period should not be exceeded. “Excessive treatments may delay healing or burn your skin.”
In the month’s time that I have owned the ThermaClear, this review was actually delayed because I was waiting for the right type of pimple. However, once the correct type appeared, I was pleased to find that it only took three treatments in a 24 hour period for the pimple to become noticeably smaller, and within teo days it had eventually disappeared with no picking, no scabbing, and no other visible problems.
With that said…if you are using any prescribed acne medications on your face, then you will need to check with your Dermatologist to make sure that heat will not adversely react with your prescription. People with very fair skin may experience redness from using the device, and people with facial hair may notice that the ThermaClear is not as effective. You can read the entire manual here.
So here it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…
Zeno vs. ThermaClear – it’s on!
x 1.5″ wide
x 0.5″ thick
x 2″ wide
x 1″ thick
|Weight:||3.1 ounces||4.4 ounces|
|Warm-Up Time:||Up to two minutes||Approx. ten seconds|
|Application Time:||2.5 minutes||2 seconds|
|Uses Allowed In One Session:||Up to three||Unlimited|
|Recharge Time Between Uses:||Up to 30 seconds||Up to 8 seconds|
|Recharging Time:||Up to six hours||None –
use fresh batteries
|Treatment Tip Life||90 to 150 treatments||Replace once a year
or if damaged
|Replacement Tip Price:||$35 or $50|
|MSRP:||$185 – $200||$150|
So okay…the Zeno takes up less space and it has a rechargeable battery, but in this case I don’t think either is that big of a selling point. The ThermaClear manages to accomplish the same thing that the Zeno does for less money, less hassle, and in less time. Having used heat therapy on pimples for over a year, I can definitely say that the treatment is effective; having a choice of application methods is exactly what I want as a consumer. Were I buying a zit-zapper today, I would have to go with the ThermaClear.
Read the full ThermaClear FAQ here.
The ThermaClear is available directly from the manufacturer.
What I Like: No expensive replacement tips to purchase; much quicker treatment; less expensive than the Zeno; larger treatment tip size than Zeno
What Needs Improvement: Well, it’s larger than the Zeno and the heat may be a bit intense for more sensitive users, but otherwise I think it is a better deal