‘Skinfluencers’ Promote Risky Beauty Hacks on TikTok

Yarbro is seen as a no-nonsense debunker of skin care myths, as is British influencer James Welsh (@james_s_welsh), who has 128,000 followers.

Michigan aesthetician Jennifer Bauer (@bauerbeauty), with 343,000 followers) reviews products found in supermarkets and drugstores and directs viewers to her own skin care products also.

@Yayayayoung, a young, bald Asian man, (1.6 million followers) offers product tips in a comedic vein.

To Sandra Lee, MD, the popularity of people who aren’t doctors is easy to explain.

“You have to think about the fact that a lot of people can’t see dermatologists — they don’t have the money, they don’t have the time to travel there, they don’t have health insurance, or they’re scared of doctors, so they’re willing to try to find an answer. And one of the easiest ways, one of the more entertaining ways to get information, is on social media,” she says.

Lee is in private practice in Upland, CA, but is better known as “Dr. Pimple Popper,” through her television show of the same name and her social media accounts, including on TikTok, where she has 15.4 million followers.

“We’re all looking for that no-down-time, no-expense, no-lines, no-wrinkles, stay-young-forever, magic bullet,” she says.

Adam Friedman, MD, a professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington University in Washington, DC, agreed that people are looking for a quick fix. They don’t want to wait 12 weeks for an acne medication or 16 weeks for a biologic drug to work, he says. “They want something simple, easy, do-it-yourself,” and “natural.”

Laypeople are the dominant producers of dermatology content and have the most views, research shows.

Researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University looked at hashtags for the top 10 dermatologic diagnoses and procedures and analyzed the content of the first 40 TikTok videos in each category. About half the videos were produced by an individual, and 39% by a health care practitioner, according to the study, published in September in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology.

Viewership was highest for videos by laypeople, followed by those from business or industry accounts. Videos by health care professionals received only 18% of the views.

The researchers noted that the most liked and most viewed posts were related to #skincare, but that dermatologists produced only 2.5% of the #skincare videos.

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