DIY health kits on trial: Experts give their verdicts on the at-home devices promising to remove everything from ear wax and skin tags to dental plaque and even MOLES – but should you be self-treating anyway?
DIY kits are available for removing everything from ear wax to skin tags. But which products are worth trying — and should you really be self-treating anyway? ADRIAN MONTI asked experts to assess a range of kits; we then rated them.
Qimic Wireless Intelligent Visual Ear Cleaning Rod, £19.99, amazon.co.uk
CLAIM: The size of an electric toothbrush, this has a thin probe with a flexible silicone ear spoon on the tip which scoops out wax.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘You naturally produce wax, an anti-bacterial substance, to prevent infections and hydrate the skin,’ says Mark Edgar, an audiologist at Hear Me London clinic.
‘You should not put anything into your ear that could push wax farther inside or damage the eardrum. This includes cotton wool buds, but also something like this probe.
‘If you have a build-up of wax, see an ear specialist to have it treated properly. I would not recommend this to anyone.’ 0/10
DIY kits are available for removing everything from ear wax to skin tags. But which products are worth trying — and should you really be self-treating anyway?
WARTS AND VERRUCAS
Scholl verruca and wart complete treatment pen, £14.99, boots.com
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Warts and verrucas — a wart on the sole of the foot — are caused by the human papillomavirus’ 5/10
CLAIM: A pen-shaped applicator dispenses a gel with blue colouring (so it’s not applied to healthy skin in error). The gel causes the skin to thicken and peel off, taking the wart or verruca with it.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Warts and verrucas — a wart on the sole of the foot — are caused by the human papillomavirus,’ says Dr Faisal Ali, a consultant dermatologist at Spire Manchester and Regency hospitals.
‘It’s a good idea to remove them to prevent transmission to other areas — from your foot to your hand, for example — and spreading them to family members. This pen uses trichloroacetic acid to burn the outer layers of the skin, killing the wart or verruca.
‘UK guidelines recommend salicylic acid, as there is more evidence supporting its use.
‘To my knowledge, trichloroacetic acid has not been compared with salicylic acid, so it’s not clear which is more effective.’ 5/10
Bazuka Sub-Zero, £15.99, superdrug.com
CLAIM: After soaking the foot in warm water, drying and filing the infected area, hold the applicator to the wart or verruca and press to activate a freezing agent. The maker says treatment ‘starts working from the first application’.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘If left, a verruca will eventually drop off, but people mostly want them treated because they rub on shoes,’ says Matthew Fitzpatrick, a consultant podiatrist at North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust.
‘Studies show freezing [which causes a reaction in the cells of the verruca or wart, damaging its growth] has a cure rate of up to 70 per cent after three or four treatments, so this is worth trying.’ 8/10
Excilor skin tag removal patch, £17.49, lloydspharmacy.com
CLAIM: A lipstick-sized applicator places a sticky patch over the skin tag, cutting off the blood supply. In six days it ‘withers and drops off inside the plaster’, says the maker.
It shouldn’t be used on skin tags bigger than 5mm in height or 3mm in diameter.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Skin tags are generally a benign overgrowth of skin which are more common as we age, in those who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes,’ says Dr Ali.
‘This product could be effective — the principle of restricting blood flow makes sense. But to my knowledge, it has not undergone rigorous trials. My worry is treating a lesion that is actually skin cancer.’5/10
Ultrasonic Tooth Cleaner, £22, smileboutiques.co.uk
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘The best way to remove tartar is to see a trained hygienist, who will use an ultrasonic cleaner with double or triple the vibrations per minute’ 0/10
CLAIM: This is described as ‘using advanced vibration technology to deeply cleanse teeth, removing any plaque, stains or tartar in minutes’.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘The best way to remove tartar is to see a trained hygienist, who will use an ultrasonic cleaner with double or triple the vibrations per minute than this device uses,’ says Mayur Pandya, a dentist at Together Dental.
‘For someone untrained, using this is close to madness because of the damage it could cause, including broken fillings and cuts to the tongue, cheeks and gum.’ 0/10
Mole Remover Pen Kit, £23.99, amazon.co.uk
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘If you’re over 35 and notice a new mole or lesion, or if an existing one changes in shape or colour whatever your age, you should get it reviewed by a dermatologist or GP’ 0/10
CLAIM: This hand-held rechargeable device says it can remove moles, freckles, spots and warts with a needle held against the skin. It uses ‘carbon-ionisation technology with low temperature and high frequency’ to do this.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘If you’re over 35 and notice a new mole or lesion, or if an existing one changes in shape or colour whatever your age, you should get it reviewed by a dermatologist or GP,’ says Dr Hayley Leeman, a consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic in London.
‘This device does not explain what carbon-ionisation is and there is no safety data to support its use. It is likely to be painful and there is also a high risk of burns.’0/10
Oravix Tonsil Stone Remover Kit, £12.99, oravix.com
CLAIM: Tonsil stones are a build-up of debris including bacteria, cells and food in the crevices of the tonsils. The three-tool kit ‘removes tonsil stones easily and efficiently’.
EXPERT VERDICT: Mayur Pandya says: ‘Tonsil stones mostly go unnoticed and work their way out themselves. They are more common in people who have repeated tonsillitis.
‘I would not recommend using this. It’s madness to poke around in the soft tissue at the back of your throat where there are lots of blood vessels. A slip of the scoop or syringe could tear the tissue. Speak to your dentist if you’re concerned.’ 1/10
LloydsPharmacy Corn & Callous Safety Knife, £2, lloydspharmacy.com
CLAIM: A contoured knife for the ‘immediate removal of corns and hard skin’. Washable and reusable.
EXPERT VERDICT: Matthew Fitzpatrick says: ‘The build-up of hard skin, leading to the formation of corns is quite common. It’s the body’s way of protecting the underlying tissues from damage.
‘I’m not a fan of using a knife like this as you can cause damage if you go in too deep, leaving you susceptible to infections. Try using a foot file and creams to stop hard skin developing in the first place.’ 4/10