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TikTok ‘Skinfluencers’ Study Shows Bloggers Far Outpace Dermatologists

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The researchers say their findings argue for dermatologists embracing TikTok and promoting more high-quality content on it and other social media platforms.

By most accounts and tallies, TikTok is currently the fastest growing social media platform, and the short videos featured on the platform are ideal for skincare, says Shivali Devjani.

“A lot of skincare is technique driven — applying xyz cream or ointment in xyz location in xyz way,” Devjani wrote in an email to Managed Healthcare Executive. “Because of this, TikTok videos, rather than images on Instagram, are the perfect way for users to share content on the use of various products as well as comparison among products.”

Shivali Devjani, M.S.

Shivali Devjani, M.S.

Devjani, a medical student at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and a research fellow at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts, and her colleagues presented findings of a study of TikTok “skinfluencers” at the annual meeting of American Academy of Dermatology yesterday. Their results showed that only a small fraction of the most-liked posts on TikTok were by board-certified dermatologists.

More specifically, just five (5.2%) of the 97 top TikTok skincare posts in their study were posted by dermatologists compared with 61 (63%) by bloggers and 12 (12.3%) by estheticians.

Devjani said the results she and her colleagues presented are consistent with previously published research in 2020.

Misinformation and a lack of accredited information are more present than ever on TikTok, she wrote in the email interview. “Social media is a central place where patients have begun to obtain health information, and it is here stay,” Devjani said.

Many of the posts included in the study were unofficial ads for over-the-counter products without any mention of a paid partnership, noted Devjani. There isn’t much evidence supporting their efficacy and safety in the scientific literature, and they may have the potential for causing harm.

Devjani and her colleagues say their findings highlight the need for dermatologists to embrace TikTok and “promote high-quality, evidence-based information for skincare on TikTok and other social media platforms.”

They conducted their study by searching on “skincare” and “black skincare.” The top 50 posts for each search term were identified. Three of the videos were excluded, leaving 97, because the Devjani and her colleagues confined their study to English language videos and those three were not in English.

The dermatologists in their study had 555,540 total followers and 12.8 million total likes on average compared with the bloggers who had 811,641 total followers and 31,118,226 total likes on average. That works out to the bloggers’ posts having 2.4 times more likes than the board-certified dermatologists and the bloggers having 1.5 times more followers.

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